You'd think being named as one of Twitter's few hundred suggested users would lead to mind-blowing Web site traffic, a TV gig, maybe a soft drink contract? But it turns out that being one of Twitter's Chosen Ones—a perplexing blend of celebrities, news organizations and retailers—doesn't carry much clout. In fact, revealed tech guru Anil Dash in a recent post, once you reach a certain number of followers, most of those people you think are "following" you probably aren't paying attention at all.
Dash, who we last saw accept a gig as head of the technology and government think tank Expert Labs, watched his follower count climb to almost 300,000 in a few months after being added to the list. Yet he quickly noticed a simple, hard-edged truth: Being on the list made no difference in his number of retweets, @replies or clicks on his links. So he checked out the accounts of a few others on The List: Creative Commons, the Today Show and Starbucks. Across the board, no discernable increase in follower response.
Is Twitter inflating its follower counts? No, says Dash:
Instead, Twitter accounts that have over half a million followers listed actually represent (at most) a few hundred thousand people who've chosen to become organic followers of someone, along with millions who are passively along for the ride. Some of them are inactive users, some are spammers, some just ignore the noise of the accounts that don't interest them, like spam in an email inbox. But they can't count as "followers" in any meaningful sense.
So about that highly publicized race to 1,000,000 followers between CNN and Ashton Kutcher (who is now edging past 4.2 million)? How about the fact that famously unfamous Kim Kardashian is infamously selling sponsored Tweets to her 2.7 million followers for $10,000 a pop? Doesn't matter, he says. The highest number of active, "organic" Twitter followers that Dash has been able to prove are reading (and clicking) is about 250,000, tops. Update: In an edit to the post, Dash says he's determined teen pop star Justin Bieber has an organic 800,000.
Of course, there's no real way to prove Dash's theory, or even which Twitter followers are active. But just because some followers don't click or retweet something doesn't necessarily mean they're not reading—maybe they're just shy.
What do you think? Should CNN demand a recount?