Should You Care How Many Followers Someone Has On Twitter And StockTwits?

Last week I received a tweet from someone who was aghast that I had been publically taking issue with a rather well known “trader”.  His argument basically boiled down to this…

….he has 18K+ followers on Twitter/Stock Twits!

Well that’s it I guess? Time for me to fold up my cyber-tent and go quietly into the sunset with my paltry 608 followers (one of which is my mom, so that doesn’t even count). The masses have voted, and I have lost.

Come on, are we really playing the “quantity not quality” game here?  Is it really relevant how many followers someone has, and does that say anything about the quality of their tweets and if you should follow them?  I mean every time I tweet about how much I like my HTC EVO or about my ongoing battle with erectile dysfunction I am deluged with new follows offering me free smart phones and cut-rate Viagra.

In order to illustrate how easily someone can get twitter followers, I decided to conduct a quick experiment in the science of follower acquisition.  My goal was to see how fast I could go from zero to one hundred followers while putting in the least amount of time, effort, or quality content.

I needed to start with a name that would catch potential follower’s attention.  Things like @HardWork4Success and @10Years2LearnTrading probably would not get too much attention, so instead I chose @PornTraderChick.  I wrote up a quick bio and uploaded a photo of one of the most well-known porn stars of the past decade, Asia Carrera (a friend I know told me about that part as I would not be familiar with such things).  Stopwatch in hand, I was now ready to make my run at the century mark.

“..oh won’t somebody help me in the ways of trading?”

The first thing I did was Google “top 20 follow backs on twitter”.  I got an article entitled “Top 237 Users Who Will Follow You Back” which was already conveniently hyperlinked for easy follow access.  I was a bit surprised to see that President Obama was the number one name on that list, and thought to myself how cool it was that with his re-election campaign in full swing he took the time out to keep up with his twitter followers.  Maybe I will vote for him this time, especially since Mitt Romney only follows 235 people (what a snob).

I quickly followed the top twenty and turned my computer off and went to sleep. The whole process took me a total of two minutes and thirty-seven seconds.

The next day I had 32 followers, so I followed the new ones back and threw out a few quick tweets with hash tags such as…




Then once again I turned the computer off.  I repeated this process for a couple more days, never spending more than two minutes on it each time.  Next thing I know I had 201 followers, nine marriage proposals, and various offers to help resume my “career”.  It took me a total of five days (two of which I did absolutely nothing), about six minutes of actual work, and zero quality tweets.

” Thank you to all my new followers, the vast majority I am sure were not horney computer nerds.”

Now 201 followers may not be earth shattering, but imagine how fast I could build that number if I was putting real effort into it.  In fact, what if I hired a couple interns to do the job, I could probably get those numbers up into the thousands very quickly.  And then what if I changed my twitter name to @TradingStud, uploaded a different profile picture, and deleted my past tweets?  I could very easily assume a completely new identity, with a built-in following, and start marketing my Trading Stud pay subscription service.  I could say to people who questioned my expertise..

…hey, I have 18K+ followers on Twitter!

One of the phenomenon’s of Twitter is that people confuse the concept of “followers” with the concept of having a quality referral network.  That is something that traditionally takes years and sometimes decades to develop, and depends on individual interaction in order to deepen the quality and the value of your real world “followers”.

There is no doubt that Twitter allows you to build solid connections with quality people, and in fact can help speed that process up, but it also allows for an easy accumulation of less desirable followers whose only benefit is a numeric one.

@PornTraderChick really made the number of followers “rise”. Get it…”rise”. You get it?

StockTwits is a different story because what they do is “curate” the content of their streams.

Curate is derived from the Medieval Latin cūrātus, equivalent to the Latin cūr or to care for; but basically it means keeping the crap out of the streams.  I don’t know how they do it, but if I had to guess, I would say it is 75% algorithmic and 25% good old fashioned hard work by the editorial staff.

However it is done, it is so efficient and seamlessly that you actually forget how spam free they are.  This curating process raises the quality of content and makes it harder for someone like @PornTraderChick to build a following, since auto-follow hash tags and “hugs and kisses” would never make it into the streams.

As wacky as it may seem, on StockTwits you actually have to produce quality content to get a larger following. Go figure!

Don’t get me wrong; at the end of the day, the quality of someone’s tweets should be the number one factor in deciding if you should follow them and there are people at both ends of the follower scale who fit that bill.  But all things being equal, when selecting whom to follow, I would assign much more weight to someone who has a large following on StockTwits (relatively speaking), than to someone who has a large following on Twitter.

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82 Responses

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  4. Another good one Brian.

    FWIW, While I have made some great, high quality connections on Twitter & Stocktwits, I appreciate those who do follow me but I don’t care much about how many followers I have.

    My observation is that many of those who do care about collecting followers are in the business of trying to sell something through Twitter … a trading service or some other paid site, which is fine, its just not me.

    Quality over quantity.

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  66. Sorry for the additional reply but I just noticed something interesting. Howard did that Tweet from Tweetdeck so even with the $SPY tag its my understanding that it wouldn’t be broadcast into the streams of Yahoo Finance, CNN/Money, Bloomberg, etc. because it was posted from his Twitter account and not from his Stocktwits account.

    • Hi West,

      I actually do about 98% of my tweets from Tweetdeck as well (1% from my Twitter on Android Phone, and 1% from StockTwits). The way it works is that if you sign in to StockTwits with your Twitter account, it keeps that connection alive until you terminate it. Then if you do a tweet from Tweetdeck that has the “$” tag in front of a symbol (or a stream like STUDY or OCCUPY) or the “$$” at the end of the tweet, it goes both into Twitter and StockTwits. I believe it goes Tweetdeck —>Twitter—–>Stocktwits—–> and thus out to Yahoo Finance, CNN/Money, Bloomberg, etc.

      I pretty much assume Howard has his Twitter account linked to StockTwits at all times and uses Tweetdeck to do his tweets (he was an early angel in Tweetdeck as well I believe).

      After Howard tweeted it with the $SPY symbol you could see the traffic on my site jump from hits on Yahoo Finance and CNN/Money.

      You can also tweet directly from StockTwits and have the option to send it just to StockTwits or to both StockTwits and Twitter. There is a little check box that you un-check if you don’t want it to go out to Twitter.

      • Interesting, thanks. I have no idea how you figured that one out but if you saw the traffic from those sites its definitely proof. I just remember Howard tweeting out that tweets from twitter accounts would no longer go out to the media channels and we had to all start using the Stocktwits interface. Am I the only one who wasnt aware of this workaround? Maybe a blog post is required for this :-)

        I learn something new every day.

        Thanks and have a nice weekend

  67. sorry for the cut off..these comments have a length limit. I was just saying that it would be good if Stocktwits kept enhancing the Desktop application to make it more Tweetdeck like or formed a closer partnership with Tweetdeck so it can be used with your Stocktwits Login.

  68. Evidently you care because you feel its necessary to spam the $SPY stream in Stocktwits with your tweet when this article has nothing to do with the $SPY

    • Hi West,

      That is an interesting theory, but let me walk you through my mindset so you’ll understand what I was thinking.

      When I first tweeted that blog post on StockTwits on Wed morning, I only included the $STUDY tag. However, later that day, Howard Lindzon, the founder and current CEO of StockTwits re-tweeted it and HE added the $SPY tag. The reason I suppose is that tweets with just $STUDY will stay within the StockTwits universe, but with the $SPY tag (or any other security or ETF) they then also go into the streams of Yahoo Finance, CNN/Money, Bloomberg, etc. I guess Howard felt that the post deserved to get more eyes on it. So my thought was, if the founder and current CEO of StockTwits felt is was okay to add the $SPY tag, then when I re-tweeted it today (I usually re-tweet once on Saturday the blog posts from the past week), it would be okay to add the $SPY tag.

      As far as if I care about the number of followers I have….

      I would probably have twice the amount I do, but I block followers that come from the areas I mentioned in the post.

      What are your thoughts about the content of the post?

      • Wow, thats interesting and I can see the backwards reasoning of why Howard did that. I also understand why you did it too and don’t fault you for doing it then. More and more I see people adding unrelated symbols to their general comments and I think it takes away from what Stocktwits is all about.Thank you for the explanation.

        I understand the point you make in your blog but to some extent don’t put as much values as you imply in looking at the followers on Stocktwits as a metric. Why you may ask? The answer is in just looking at the Stocktwits Suggested List Stream. Unless the folks are posting a chart from which posts it through their Stocktwits account, most of the posts come from Tweetdeck or a mobile posting platform making the posts come from Twitter and get reflected onto Stocktwits. Most I know follow the Twitter account and not the Stocktwits account and use Tweetdeck to watch the stream and not the StockTwits web interface. But to be fair I have been in the twitter stock universe for years and have never looked at follower numbers of anyone on Stocktwits so there may be value that I dont appreciate.

        application and enhanced it, or formed a better integration with Tweetdeck.

  69. The problem is even with services like klout and the ones that measure RT’s and @ replies, there is not EASY way to determine the quality of someone’s follower network. This, in my mind, is good, because for those of us who like to actually evaluate things/people based on their merits, we don’t really have much choice but to do so. Unfortunately, most people are lazy and want to know NOW (shush, Veruca).

    I posit that any reasonably intelligent person, with some patience, can tell if someone is worth following over a few dozen tweets, depending on the subject matter.

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