Just some initial scattered thoughts regarding Twitter – if you don’t use it, this will make little sense to you. Perhaps.
I’m noticing possible user typologies, from my admittedly small vantage point, that are proving fascinating, at least to me. (All numbers are current as of 2 December 2008.)
What follows is tongue-in-cheek, as I am not a fan of categories. I am jotting it down in response to a question from a new virtual friend. If I decide to take this seriously, I’ll look at balancing the categories; for now I’m just spewing. If someone else has already perfected the Twitter Archetypes, please accept my apology and send a link.
I (@jbordeaux) am following 262 feeds, and have somehow gained 258 who are following my feed. (Some are no doubt spammers, who follow many in hopes of opening up a channel for their wares. Twitter appears to be getting a handle on this nuisance, suspending accounts that demonstrate ‘suspicious activity.’)
For reasons unfathomable; I find myself following Brea Grant, a young actress on NBC’s Heroes. This enterprising lady blogs frequently, promoting her show and charitable causes. Ms. Grant follows 82 twitter users, and is followed by 4,282. I confess to once offering a homeopathic remedy for her insomnia, and she immediately responded that it was on her list to try that evening. This occurred while my Bride and I were watching the Heroes program. I paused the show playback to mention that the attractive young spiky-haired character on the screen had just written to me. I received a well-deserved glare in return, and quickly resumed the program.
Ms. Grant (1:52) is an Incurious Celebrity. That sounds unkind, she actually appears very curious – however she does not treat Twitter as a source of original information. I don’t know the ratio threshold, but being listened to by 4,282 people while only listening to 82 likely makes you an Incurious Celebrity. It is important to note that Ms. Grant had no problem responding to a relevant comment I made to her directly – she was gracious, and not at all impolite.
One of the magical things about Twitter is the opportunity to be contacted publicly by anyone – Ms. Grant does not follow my feed, but was alerted to my comment because I directed it to her. Private comments are also possible, but only to people who have decided to follow you. The folks at twitter paid attention during Sociology class.
Brea Grant provides value in other channels, she entertains us using Old Media. We follow her because she offers a behind-the-scenes look into, well, celebrity.
Another example is Matt Bacak (1:60) (no, I will not link to him in any way), who has 1,928 followers and only follows 32. The amusing difference here is his recent vanity press release touting his triumph as a social media genius because of the number of his followers. (Those of you who do not use Twitter are laughing at this point. So are the rest of us.) There is no discernible value associated with this gentleman, therefore no celebrity: while his ratio resembles Ms. Grant’s, he is apparently an Empty Suit. (He has been called worse.)
So the ratio is augmented with Actual Value. Need to work on quantifying that somehow.
Stephen Fry (1:1) is a Curious Celebrity. This delightful gentleman is followed by 24,387 people, and follows 23,265 in return. From his Flickr photos during a documentary shoot in Africa, to the many audio-video offerings on his eponymous website, to his quiet walks through NYC: he is a gentle treasure.
Guy Kawasaki (1:1) is another Curious Celebrity, following 31,937 and followed by 31,567. It is likely he automatically follows whoever follows him, but I can tell you from experience he also engages with them. I have no idea how he does that, but it is (sorry) insanely great.
Some souls follow at many people as possible, but are not followed in return by any appreciable number. These appear to be, um, Quiet Followers. They have little to say on their own, and their twitter feed consists almost entirely of replies to others. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Empty Suits also have little to say aside from replies to others. Another segment with similar numbers are Marketers and Spammers. In every pond, some scum will grow.
Dr. Mark Drapeau (1:8) represents another segment, perhaps the Engaged Intellectual. He follows 204, and is followed by 1,659. While that seems out of balance, consider how he appears to be limiting himself to the bounds of social group dynamics – see Dunbar’s Number. Unlike the Celebrities, he is hoping to have actual and meaningful exchanges with the people he follows. If you are followed by him, he will chime in. Unlike celebrities, he is watching. His messages are an intriguing window into the convergence of government and social media.
Me (1:1)? Well, with 262 followed, and 258 followers, I suppose I am a Balanced Invisible. I’m dangerously close to promiscuity in my following behavior, but have yet to generate much interest. While I have the same ratio as Mr. Fry, I am not – wait for it – in the same category.
There should be more thought here, but dinner beckons. What am I missing?