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You Are The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Tweets With

On my travels around the interwebs today I stumbled across this interesting piece, “The 5 Things I’d Tell My 21 Year Old Entrepreneurial Self.” The article focuses on the lessons learned by the author over the last 12 years of his life, and how he would love to be able to share that knowledge with his younger self.

Midway through the article is an interesting quote that I want to share with you:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

The line is attributed to Jim Rohn, an American author and motivational speaker. I don’t know much about Rohn (like me you can look him up on Wikipedia), but I found his statement of enormous interest. The more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me, and I began to think about how it might apply to Twitter.

Your Twitter Inner Circle

Consider for a moment the people you most converse with on Twitter. If you follow a modest number of people this is probably fairly easy to work out. If you follow thousands, it can be trickier, and the results might surprise you. I used Twitter-Friends.com to evaluate my data and invite you to do the same. (TwitterFriends doesn’t require you to enter your Twitter password, but if you do the data is a lot more thorough. It also has a cool ‘online‘ feature that shows you which of your contacts are currently using Twitter.)

TwitterFriends scans all of your tweets from the past month and presents you with the output in a number of interesting ways. When you first see the data, the site defaults to the Statistics tab. This shows you a basic overall representation of your stats. You can see the people you reply to the most, and the people who most reply to you. I’m sure that, like me, these groups will be basically the same (although the order might be different).

This is your inner circle on Twitter, the folk you are closest to. Is it what you expected? Possibly, but there might be one or two names in there that have raised an eyebrow. How many of these people did you know before you joined Twitter? For me, it’s only three of my top ten, or thirty per cent, which means seventy per cent of my Twitter inner circle are new relationships. Three of the top-five people I engage with the most on Twitter are folk I met on the network. That’s powerful information.

(Note: if you cultivate most of your Twitter relationships off the network or even with direct messages this won’t be reflected in your stats.)

Five To One, One In Five

Indeed, it’s the non-friends that are most relevant to this analysis. Consider the top five people who you didn’t know before you joined Twitter. They can tell you a lot about your presence within the network. To paraphrase Rohn’s quote, I am the average of these five. They are both a virtual mirror of myself and also best represent my position within Twitter up to this moment in time (certainly over the last month), because these individuals are likely to represent my target audience. There’s a reason these folk are my top five, and that’s because they re-share a lot of my content and engage me in conversations about the same topics. We clearly have similar interests and likes. It makes sense to conclude that befriending more of these kinds of people on Twitter would be beneficial to my network and goals.

Digging A Little Deeper

Let’s investigate our stats a little further. Click on the @From button. This shows you all the people who’ve replied to you via the use of a cloud. The bigger (and bolder) the username, the more replies (or re-tweets) you have had from that person. Look beyond your top ten from before for the next tier of your Twitter contacts.

The @To tab reveals all the folk you most reply to (or re-tweet). Again, forget about your inner circle for now and study the next tier of contacts. (If you’re curious about some of these tweets, you can look at engagements you’ve had with any user via the @Conversations tab).

This next tier is important and quite possibly prophetic. If your current inner circle (excluding your existing friends) shows you where you are on Twitter now, then the next tier might well represent where you will be in the next thirty days. The second tier in your @To tab is likely more reflective on your intentions within Twitter, certainly if you are sending a significant number of tweets to Twitter users whose status within your niche is perhaps higher than your own, and even more so if they are engaging with you in return. Again, the Conversations tab can be useful if you want to be reminded of discussions that took place.

If You Tweet It, They Will Come

My deepest apologies to Kevin Costner, but it’s logical to assume that on Twitter opposites rarely attract. When you’re following a lot of people you don’t have time for naysayers and folk who shoot everything you say down. Hence, it’s comforting to note that if you have productive followers and continue to tweet the way you have been, you’re likely to attract the same kind of productive people to your stream. Conversely, if you’re attracting a lot of followers with which you do not connect, change the way you tweet. This is a simple and efficient way to shape your network.

Cultivate Relationships

No matter how many people you follow, there will be a small percentage that you are truly following – those folk whose tweets you never miss. You can do this very easily by setting up a stand-alone group in TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop (in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that unless you follow very few people, you cannot do this on Twitter.com. Anyone following thousands of people who only updates via the web is not actually following anybody). Often, and this is certainly true in my case, not all of these individuals will be following you back, but you follow them because they are interesting, productive and possibly of relevance to your niche. It is important to cultivate these relationships to further your own standing within the Twitter stream. Don’t beg for a follow back – that’s not only degrading you but embarrassing if it doesn’t happen (which is likely). Earn it. Re-share the content of others in your niche, even competitors, and it will be noticed. Many different Twitter accounts rank highly in my traffic statistics on this blog. It’s enormously rewarding when the relationship is legitimised and these influential users subscribe to your stream.

Remember The Ripple Effect

You don’t have to follow everybody on Twitter in order for everybody to see your stuff. Just follow, and be followed by, the right people. Thanks to the ripple effect, your potential reach on Twitter is enormous. I have a whisker under 1800 followers, but my second-order network – everybody who follows everybody who is following me – is some 15 million, and I’m ‘adding’ over 38,000 per day. Making allowances for duplicates, that’s almost the entire Twitter network. Theoretically, one of my tweets could be re-tweeted to virtually everybody. In practice, this never happens, but if you tap into just 1% of that reach, that’s 150,000 readers. Even a tenth of one per cent equates to a significant pop in traffic if you’re tweeting your own content.

Conclusion

Sites such as TwitterFriends can tell us an enormous amount about who we are. They do not offer solutions, but are a great way to gauge your presence within Twitter and can often provide you with a statistical insight that may well go against your gut feeling.

And there are many lessons to be learned about the relevance of our individual networks, and how we operate within them. Who are you talking to? Who should you be talking to? Make the effort, and then check your stats thirty days from now. If you’re proactive, you might be amazed at the changes.

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