What Does Your Twitter Ratio Say About You?

Inevitably, community management boils down to one ginormous (and nerdified) popularity contest – getting in with the right crowd, becoming a trendsetter, and managing your reputation. It’s high school, sans acne, but still disturbingly angst-ridden. And despite moving on to complete collegiate aspirations, comfortably settle on a retirement plan, and fall into a consistent multivitamin routine, most of us still haven’t matured beyond the locker-brimmed hallways when it comes to managing our online selves.

Klout helps us apply some science to the art, but in the brutal world of .00667-second first impressions, we’re really judged by one thing, and one thing only: the follower-following ratio.

Yes, cringe. It’s a somewhat dreaded topic, and most brands still throw up their hands at what the “right” strategy is. But let’s gain some insight through a quick foray into the ol’ yearbook, shall we?

The Nerd Who’s Friends With Everyone (Because They Feel Kinda Sorry For Him)
Followers/Following: 10,000/10,000

At the start of the school year, The Nerd almost always initiates followership. You know my name! Follow. You smiled at me! Follow. You glanced hesitantly in my direction and immediately regretted it! Awkward follow. Yet, The Nerd’s follows have a surprising success rate of being followed back. He’s just so charming, uncomplicated, and nonpartisan in his eagerness that it’s become in-crowd-chic to accept The Nerd into your social circle. The Nerd can only maintain this delicate, balanced ecosystem by being painstakingly attentive and friendly to everyone, no matter their position on the social ladder. His content needs to be consistent, but not necessarily substantial. As his following grows, so does his hours spent programming bots to auto-follow back. You don’t necessarily respect The Nerd, and you don’t feel special being friends with The Nerd, but you sure don’t mind using The Nerd for that extra follow-back.

The Varsity Quarterback Studs McGee
Followers/Following: 1,000,000/50

Studs McGee had a Verified Account before he was in diapers. Within seconds of coming onto the social scene, his following amassed quadruple digits just based on brand recognition alone. Naturally, Studs McGee keeps his inner circle small and exclusive – not because he’s a jerk, but because he saves those slots for those he knows, trusts, and values. (Namely other studs on the varsity team.) Do you care what Studs has to say? Not necessarily. Following him and seeing his beautiful face occasionally grace your tweetstream is enough for you. If he utters even a one-word acknowledgment in your general direction, you squee like a fangirl and frame the tweet for posterity. If by some unearthly miracle you are followed back by Studs, consider yourself a god among the Olympians – you have arrived.

The Antisocial Newspaper Editor Who Doesn’t Realize She’s Hot
Followers/Following: 1,000/1,500

Hot Editor may or may not have an identity crisis. She’s interested in being popular, but isn’t willing to put in the effort to achieve it. She has better things to do, like focus on many other marketing initiatives to propel her out of brand obscurity. She’ll occasionally feel a sudden need for human contact and go on a following-spree with people who aren’t necessarily relevant to her. But during her social hibernation periods, her followers taper off from sheer boredom and she’s left with…spam. If only Hot Editor knew how much potential she has, if only she let others see her true personality with consistent content and a more meaningful follower relationship – even Studs McGee would swoon.

The Foreign Exchange Student
Followers/Following: 900/8,000

Let’s be honest, here. Foreign Exchange Student just doesn’t get it, and is stuck in a blissfully ignorant nano-plastic bubble. Whatever he is selling really can’t be good for you in any capacity. Get caught even sneezing in his direction and your reputation is scathed. Foreign Exchange Student is simply on foreign land, and nothing is translating. He tries really hard by reaching out to new crowds consistently, and has recruited a few losers and some folks who were feeling extra charitable. But as soon as others see his ragamuffin crew, no one else wants to give poor Foreign Exchange Student a chance. It’s too late to save his reputation – at this school, anyway.

The Mean Girl Who Somehow Gets Voted Prom Queen
Followers/Following: 500,000/75,000

The Mean Girl’s popularity is incredibly deceptive. She lures you and hundreds of others in, makes you feel somewhat special despite having nothing in common with her (“I guess she really liked my article on pickling!”), and then she unfollows you exactly five seconds after you press the “Follow” button. Obviously, she could care less about you; she simply needs a number to take back to the client and a few slaves to disperse her incredibly irrelevant content. Wait, really? You’re that girl? I can’t even look at you right now.

Whether or not your brand falls under any of the above, it’s worth reevaluating your ratio – and its qualitative value – just to withstand the popularity politics of Twitter. Even more so than Twitter Lists, your following list could be looked at as your brand’s curated inner circle, setting precedent for the kind of personalities you’d want to be associated with. On the opposite end of the spectrum, aiming for sheer people-pleasing quantity might drag you into spammer territory and actually devalue your brand. Like any marketing strategy, keep your target audience in mind. It’s healthy to be niche. Provide utility, personality, and plenty of conversation to keep that ratio and your brand value intact.

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