Startup Thought Leaders With The Most Authentic Twitter Followers

This article previously appeared in Forbes.

Not surprisingly, the most influential startup bloggers are those with the largest number of Twitter followers. However, given the rash of accusations regarding Internet personalities purchasing bogus followers, it seems fair to ask, "Which startup bloggers have the most legitimate Twitter followers?"

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In Celebrities With The Most (Allegedly) Fake Twitter Followers, I used StatusPeople's online tool to analyze the Twitter followers of the top15 Twitter accounts, as measured by those with the most followers. I discovered that the authenticity averages of these leading Twitter personalities is abysmal,with only 29% real and active, 30% fake and the remaining 41% inactive. Other than Barack Obama, YouTube, and Twitter, all of the accounts are owned by entertainers, which has caused some media pundits to wonder if some of these celebrities (or their surrogates) performed unnatural acts to boost the appearance of their Twitter influence.

Startup Thought Leader Rankings

The high percentage of celebrities’ bogus followers caused me to wonder to what degree other leading Twitter personalities' followers were largely nonexistent.Thus, at the risk of losing some friends and making a few enemies, I applied StatusPeople's online tool to the Twitter handles of well-known startup bloggers and investors. I was relieved to learn that the percentage of fake and inactive users was far smaller than the leading Hollywood tweeters.

The following list, whichis far from exhaustive, is ordered by the total number of active and authentic Twitter followers.Eric Ries has the highest percentage of active and authentic followers at 83.5%, followed closely by Steve Blank and Seth Godin, who both averaged 83%. My apologies to anyone I inadvertently excluded from this list. However, before you angrily direct message me, you might want to first assess your authentic Twitter score.

There are a number of services that sell fake Twitter followers for the socially deficient. Prices range from $10 for 1,000 auto-generated Twitter followers to $1,350 for 1,000,000 counterfeit followers. For non-celebrities, the more common source of fake followers are spam bots which follow users in order to elicit a reciprocal follow, which then allows them to send spammy, direct messages to the tweeter.

Before you brand anyone on this list as disingenuous, there are several factors you must consider. For instance, both YouTube and Twitter have out-sized fake followings of 30% and 37% respectively, which suggests that bots are disproportionately attracted to long-standing Twitter accounts with large followings (such as Mark Cuban and Guy Kawasaki). In addition, pioneer tweeters with longstanding Twitter accounts, such as Chris Sacca and Guy Kawasaki, are more apt to have a higher percentage of inactive users. Thus, the more followers you have and the older your Twitter account, the greater extent you are a spam magnet. For instance Bill Gates, who one would assume has no reason to puff up his Twitter status has, according to StatusPeople, 41% fake and 38% inactive users out of his total 8 million followers.

It is highly unlikely that anyone on the above list purchased followers. Although I do not know all of these folks personally, I am sure they are all men of honor (I tried to find women to add to this list - if you are aware of great startup blogs authored by a women, please reference them in the comments). Unlike Hollywood celebrities who cherish and promote their social status, pragmatic startup luminaries understand that there is no value in a fake follower.

After a version of this article was published by Forbes, Mark Cuban offered the following insight:

It is also important to note that StatusPeople concedes that their results are inexact, as their algorithm only samples a portion of a Tweeter's followers and then extrapolates relative percentages across the entire dataset.

In addition, results vary when a particular Twitter handle is tested over a period of time. The above figures are an average of two tests, done approximately a week apart.There were no dramatic vagaries between the two tests, but the figures did vary slightly. For instance, my own Twitter account was shown to have 2%, 3% and 4% fake followers when I tested it on three different occasions. Small discrepancies in whole terms, but huge on a percentage basis. As such, test your own account several times and average then results to obtain a more accurate estimate of the health of your followers.

Getting Rid Of Fakesters?

Twitter's asymmetrical design makes it difficult to remove fake followers. However, after identifying Twitter accounts with generic "personal" descriptions that are following a huge number of people and have issued zero tweets, use Michael Gangi's suggestions to eliminate bot accounts, as originally published on The Gangi Blog.

Reality Checking

I did not include myself on the list of influential members of the startup community because I am not quite that shameless and because I have far fewer Twitter followers than the folks on the list, which I cut off at 20,000 active and authentic followers. However, for anyone interested, my average scores are: 3% fake, 13% inactive and 84% active.

If you are not a Twitter spam bot, you can follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I promise I will never tweet random Instagram photos or tell you about that killer burrito I just ate.

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John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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