A few days ago the legend of tech investing Fred Wilson blogged about an observation of how followers on the SoundCloud service might be able to turn into a rough and ready basis for classifying artists on the service:

… for emerging artists, follower counts on the platform of choice for their media type might be the most important metric to asses the state of their career. It certainly sounded that way coming out of my son’s friend’s mouth. Under the radar means less than 1000 followers. Emerging means 1000 to 10,000 followers. Breaking out means 50,000 to 100,000 followers. More than 500,000 followers and you have arrived. More than 2.5mm followers and you are a superstar. Something like that.

Maybe follower counts are the new Billboard, Variety, etc of the entertainment and media business. It certainly seems that way.

It’s a very interesting observation. And one that sparked some thinking amongst staff at one of the companies I’ve been working with recently. Namely “I wonder if we could look at that for corporate social accounts?”

Drawing on some of my #socialCEO data for the FTSE100 (you can play around with it yourself here), I’ve done a bit of digging. And my conclusions are is follows:

There’s no comparison with Wilson’s SoundCloud observations.

Ultimately, whilst Soundcloud is a fairly specific service (artists sharing music) and therefore effectively acts as a brokerage for that art, Twitter is a hollow pipe. It’s an infrastructural layer that is used by different organisations and individuals to different ends.

It’s probably fair to say that business-to-consumer, or businesses manufacturing consumer products, are more likely to use Twitter than pure business-to-business firms. But even within the same sector, comparisons between firms are tortuous.

For example, in Retail, Marks & Spencer have pursued a line of having very few Twitter accounts, so occasional bits of Press & PR, corporatey-stuff goes through the same account announcing consumer competitions. Meanwhile Tescos have lots of different accounts representing their different (quite diverse) product and service lines. PR has an account of its own for Tesco, and has about 10% of the followers that M&S’s single account has attracted.

So when looking at corporate entities, the number of Twitter followers tells us about how that company has adopted and uses the social network in a similar way that finding out how many telephone lines they had would tell you about how they use the phone. It sort of sounds useful, but at the end of the day it probably isn’t.

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