Twitter’s Dirty Little Secret

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Posted by: Barracuda Labs

Today, we officially launched TweetGrade™ ( — a free, online ranking system for Twitter users. TweetGrade provides a quantitative assessment of a user’s reach and influence in the Twitter community, and it helps promote safety and establish order in an increasingly popular social networking environment.

To create the intelligence that drives TweetGrade, we initially crawled more than 7 million Twitter user accounts and a sample of each account’s corresponding tweets. Then, we analyzed this data along a number of dimensions, including the frequency and content of tweets, user-to-user interactions, and each account’s overall activity level. Based on this analysis, we made a number of interesting observations about Twitter.

First, a large percentage of Twitter users abandon their accounts almost immediately after they are created:

  • 40% of Twitter users have not tweeted since their first day on Twitter (i.e., the account was most likely created and subsequently forgotten about).
  • 25% of the users are not following anyone; more than 50% of the users are following less than 5 people, and 2/3 of the users are following less than 10 people. The figure below reiterates these numbers with a cumulative distribution graph for the Twitter population’s following habits.

Twitter population's following counts

Second, Twitter is being used as a mass medium for receiving information as opposed to being used to interact with others. Basically, Twitter is more similar to an RSS feed than an email or IM system:

  • More than 1/3 of Twitter users do not have any tweets, and almost 80% of the users have less than 10 tweets.


Twitter population's tweet counts

  • 30% of the users do not have any followers; 70% of the users have less than 5 followers, and 80% of the users have less than 10 followers. These findings are clearly shown in the following cumulative distribution graph for the Twitter population’s follower counts.

Twitter population's follower counts

  • 50% of the users are following more people than they have as followers, and another 30% of the users are following the same number of people that are following them.

TweetGrade evaluates Twitter users based on their interactions in the Twitter community.  Users receive a simple letter grade that ranges from an ‘F’ to an ‘A+’ to represent their reputation on Twitter, and users can easily share these grades with the community.  In addition to promoting high-quality Twitter accounts, TweetGrades can also be used to identify malicious accounts (e.g., spammers) and abandoned accounts.  The overarching goal of TweetGrade is to help Twitter users make informed decisions about other Twitter users.

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