There are several ways you can calculate your value on Twitter. The method with the most merit does not include the number of people you’re following OR the number of people who are following you. The latter seems to be the obvious way to gauge someone’s value. If people subscribe to your updates, then you must be worth listening to. Unfortunately, I think the best proof to the contrary is my own Twitter account. According to some lists, I am currently the 13th most-followed user on Twitter, where there are over 14 million registered accounts (but probably only about 1 million active users.. Wait, did I say “only”?).
Choose an adjective: funny, interesting, thoughtful, intriguing, fascinating, entertaining, etc. No matter which adjective you choose, I guarantee I am not in the top 0.000001 percentile of people. I think it is fair to say that this is reasonable evidence that the number of people following someone does not correlate to the value of the information they provide.
Robert Scoble recently wrote about the value of the number of people you follow, and how he thinks it is more important of a metric than the number of people who follow you. I definitely do not disagree with the importance of listening to many sources (I even wrote about and agree with Sean Tierney’s thoughts on people who subscribe to many RSS feeds). However, the number itself is not a metric of the value of one’s content. Anyone, especially uninteresting people, can follow thousands of users on Twitter.
The Real Metric
These numbers obviously mean very little when it comes to measuring the content of a Twitter user. There is, however, a way that I believe you can. The value of a Twitter user is in the amount, depth, and breadth of interaction with other Twitter users. Users who start global conversations and provoke discussion from others seem to have the most value. For people who need a concrete method of tallying this can start by performing searches on a given user’s Twitter name using tools like Tweet Scan.
Still, it is not as simple as counting the number of replies. For example, social media princess “iJustine” could post on Twitter that she is eating ice cream and receive dozens of replies. The replies that matter are ones that include thoughtful commentary, progression on the topic, or even redistributing the thought to one’s own followers. It is also important to see the user in question engaging in conversation with the people who are replying. When Twitter is treated like a distribution mechanism for a user to push messages to fans, the user loses value.
While quantity of interaction will definitely be on the side of the highly-followed users, it is easy for users closer to the average to carry on meaningful discussions with a diverse group of users. I personally think there are many, many users with between 100 and 1,000 followers that have much more value in their thoughts and conversations than the majority of the top 100 most-followed users.