A League of their Own: The Impressive Numbers Behind Twitter’s Verified Accounts

A League of their Own: The Impressive Numbers Behind Twitter’s Verified Accounts

Introduction

Previously I looked at the churn, growth and following/follower dynamics for the typical Twitter user[1][2]. In those articles I found that the month-over-month churn was 1.2±0.1% and the growth was 9.8±0.2%. I further found that 11.95±0.6% of accounts are created and abandoned within the first month, leading to large amounts of “dark” accounts on Twitter. When looking at Twitter’s followers and followings, I found that the growth rate for both was fairly consistent: 2.39±0.13 followers/month and 2.47±0.16 followings/month. The close symmetry suggests that most Twitter users are following people who are following them.

We all know that Twitter is not just populated with “average” users. One of Twitter’s big draws is access to celebrities, the people we wish to know and can feel connected to through the wonders of social media. But is the social media behaviour of celebrities different from the typical user? Are celebrities more or less likely to abandon Twitter over time? To round out this series, I repeated the same analysis on growth and churn, but this time focussed solely on celebrity accounts.

Methodology

I used Twitter’s verified account status as a proxy for celebrity. Verified accounts are highly-sought users in many key areas, including music, acting, politics and business. It is not possible to apply for a verified account; instead Twitter identifies candidates and reaches out to these users for verification. Because of this process, verified accounts tend to belong to individuals who have achieved some level of notoriety in their field: a perfect definition of celebrity, for my purpose.

Twitter maintains a list of verified accounts at www.twitter.com/verified (@verified). This special Twitter account follows verified accounts, though it is not clear whether the list of followings is a comprehensive list of all verified accounts. When I was collecting data from this account in March 2014, there were over 70,000 verified accounts in the followings list.

For each account that @verified was following, I mined the tweets posted between Jan. 1-31, 2013. There were 71,494,400 tweets from 52,129 unique verified accounts that had at least one tweet during this period. For these users I performed a 30-day windowed correlation by taking a cohort of users who actively posted in the 30-day range, and then measuring the group’s activity in successive 30-day periods.

Churn and Growth

Churn and growth is significantly less in verified accounts than for non-verified accounts (Figure 1). The average month-over-month churn was 0.49±0.05% (R2=0.91) and the average month-over-month growth was 2.57±0.04% (R2=0.99). The growth for the general Twitter population is is nearly four times greater than that for verified accounts, validating that such account holders are a select few. While some verified accounts do stop tweeting each month, the churn is ~2.5 times lower than for the general Twitter population. This could be because Twitter has already vetted a user as being dedicated to Twitter before bestowing verified status, or perhaps receiving such status encourages the recipient to stick with Twitter longer.

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Figure 1: Churn and growth of verified accounts

As seen in the general population, there is a small percentage (1.8±0.6%) of verified accounts that are created and then abandoned within the first month: over six times fewer than the general population’s “dark” accounts. I find it is surprising that verified accounts would go dark within their first month of creation. Perhaps these accounts were created as place holders for VIPs for when they eventually get around to using them?

Followers and Followings

Figure 2 shows the growth of followers and followings of verified accounts. Unlike the average Twitter users, who have relative similar rates of follower and following growth, verified accounts show a large asymmetry. Verified accounts will start following 13±1 accounts each month, but add an impressive 1,195±81 new followers on a monthly basis! It is interesting to note that the growth of verified account followings is over five times more than that of the typical Twitter user.

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Figure 2: Followers and Followings of Verified Accounts

Conclusion

This analysis shows that verified accounts — those mostly of celebrities and other Twitter VIPs — are statistically very different from the normal Twitter user. Verified accounts have much lower churn than the average Twitter account, demonstrating a greater commitment to Twitter. Verified accounts also seem to be those that attract the most followers, over 500 more followers per month than on average.

Featured “Masquerade Ball 2013 – Dove House” Image courtesy of David White View CC License

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