Rapleaf Study on Trends in Twitter Followers Between Late March and Mid-June 2009

Recently, we helped one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies identify the most influential and connected Twitter users within their customer list for word-of-mouth marketing. Since part of our analysis involved studying how profiles of their customers on Twitter changed between late March and mid-June of this year, we thought it would be interesting to study the effect of Twitter’s 60% growth during that time on these influencers. So, we analyzed follower and following counts for the company’s top 0.1%, top 1% and top 10% most-followed Twitter users, and compared how these figures changed in nine short weeks.

For this study, we analyzed over 40,000 “active” Twitter users, which were defined as users with at least five followers, five friends, or five updates.

Summary of Findings

  • The most followed users gained followers at a faster rate than less popular users, contributing to a growing “popularity gap”
  • Users in the top 0.1% have around 5x as many followers as users in the top 1% and about 40x as many followers as users in the top 10%

Now for the details:

Follower Growth for Most Popular Users

While these exact figures are specific to the company’s customer list, the relative magnitude of the changes themselves offer perspective on the effect of Twitter’s growth.

Twitter follower growth


  • The average number of followers for the top 0.1% nearly quadrupled between March and June; for the top 1% and top 10%, this figure more than doubled
  • The median number of followers, which discounts the outliers captured in averages, grew by over 59% for all groups and increased the most for the top 0.1%
  • The average followers/following ratio increased the most for the top 0.1% and the least for the top 10%
  • The median followers/following ratio experienced the last amount of change and approaches a value of 1.0 as popularity increases

Comparing the Popularity of the Top 0.1%, Top 1%, and Top 10%

The following table summarizes the magnitudes of difference between the popularity of the top 0.1%, the top 1%, and the top 10% during the month of June.

Comparing popularity of top groups



  • Users in the top 0.1% have roughly 40 times as many followers as users in the top 10%
  • A user just barely in the top 10% needs 11.4 times more followers to break into the top 1%, and nearly 55 times as many followers to enter the top 0.1%
  • Biggest difference is the followers/following ratio between the top 0.1% and top 10%, with the top 0.1% having 56.5 times as many followers per following

Concluding Remarks

Twitter’s growth over the past few months resulted in the most popular users getting even more popular, with the most-followed users experiencing the largest gains in follower count.  The disparity between the three groups is most pronounced in the average follower count and the average follower/following ratio, which nearly quadrupled for the top 0.1%, more than tripled for the top 1%, and only doubled for the top 10%. It would be interesting to see how these figures change over the next few months as Twitter continues to expand.

(Check out TechCrunch's post on this study)

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18 Responses to “Rapleaf Study on Trends in Twitter Followers Between Late March and Mid-June 2009”

  1. Dr Hypnosis September 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    The statistics are interesting, but I would be even more interested to know how the "most popular" people on Twitter became (and remain) the most popular and influential. My impression is they were already popular before joining Twitter ... for example, actors, actresses, sports figures, and other celebrities.

  2. Hypnosis Dojo August 3, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    I agree. Twitter is really one of the most popular social networking sites we have in today’s generation. Most of the celebrities and even companies are using these to get in touch with their fans or customers. Celebrities are the ones who have most outrageous number of followers around the globe.


  1. broadstuff - September 3, 2009

    Social Capitalism - measuring Heirarchies and Influence on the Soocial Net...

    Twt influence progression over time

    Two fascinating articles in the in-tray today (hat tip John Hagel and Andrew Keen)

    Firstly, a report by The Web Ecology project called The Influentials, its a study on how people influence others on Twitter. Th...

  2. Twitter’s Most Popular Users Breaking From The Pack | The Free Site Hosting | Reviews & Top Hosts - September 4, 2009

    [...] accounts of 40,000 active Twitter users over the course of a few months.  The company’s Michael Hsu then wrote today, "The most followed users gained followers at a faster rate than less popular [...]

  3. RT @rossdawson: Measuring influence on Twitter: the state of the art progresses step by step http://bit.ly/rN371 #SocialMedia #Marketing | Susan Beebe's Blog - September 4, 2009

    [...] whose CEO Auren Hoffman spoke at Future of Influence Summit, released a quite different report showing the change in the structure of the Twitter ecosystem in the period late-March to mid-June of this year, during which time Twitter usage grew 60%. [...]

  4. Terry Hoffman - September 6, 2009

    RT @digitalblade: Interesting Trends in Twitter Followers: http://bit.ly/14Yq6t Most followed are gaining a "popularity gap"

  5. Sarah R. - September 10, 2009

    The top 0.1% of Twitter users have a ratio of 'followers' to 'following' that's 56x higher than the top 10% of users (http://bit.ly/hwKbs)

  6. Davenport Group - September 10, 2009

    RT @geekstats Top 0.1% of Twitter users have a ratio of followers to following thats 56x higher than top 10% of users (http://bit.ly/hwKbs)

  7. Bruno Ribeiro - September 18, 2009

    Not exactly fresh, but this Rapleaf study on Twitter power users is useful http://bit.ly/19zOT2

  8. Ed Borasky - September 18, 2009

    Rapleaf Study on Trends in Twitter Followers http://bit.ly/psDYW via @CarriBugbee @Michael_Finberg

  9. Ed Borasky - September 18, 2009

    skeptically viewing the math in Twitter follower stats http://bit.ly/psDYW & valuations http://bit.ly/493CqO http://bit.ly/4Aoipl

  10. tweetzyme - September 18, 2009

    RT @geekstats: The top 0.1% of Twitter users have a ratio of 'followers' to 'following' that's 56x higher than the to.. http://bit.ly/hwKbs)

  11. Mike Whitmore - September 21, 2009

    Study on Trends in Twitter Followers
    #twitter (via @mparent77772)

  12. Social Media: Rapleaf Study on Trends in Twitter Followers Between Late March and Mid-June 2009 « ResourceShelf - September 21, 2009

    [...] From the Blog Post: [...]

  13. Rapleaf Study on Demographics, Online Activity of Twitter Influencers in CPG’s Customer List | Rapleaf - October 8, 2009

    [...] few weeks ago, we analyzed trends in Twitter followers within the customer list of a leading consumer packaged goods (CPG) company and found that the most [...]

  14. PeteJ - January 27, 2010

    @PatParslow @daveowhite Some follower/followee stats here http://bit.ly/14Yq6t

  15. twittes - January 27, 2010

    Rapleaf Study on Trends in Twitter Followers Between Late March and Mid-June 2009 | Rapleaf: Sin Descripción http://bit.ly/idUlv

  16. Promoting quality over quantity « Curiously Persistent - September 5, 2010

    [...] – there are power laws where people gravitate towards larger numbers. This Rapleaf study shows the distortion in distribution of Twitter followers – this trend would have been [...]

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