Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ms. Pop-u-lar

Two weeks ago, "PR professional and social media freak" Sarah Evans had a fun idea to run a survey on the polling site Survey Monkey to find out the most popular people posting on Twitter, or The Unofficial Top 50 Tweeples to Follow, as she called it.

Several measures of Twitter popularity already exist on websites like Twitterholic, a website that lists those people with the most individuals following them or the most people who they follow or the most updates/Tweets.

But Evans' poll required people—and one didn’t have to even be a Twitter user to vote—to type in the name of the person they wanted to nominate and assign them a category, not just to check a box on a predetermined list of candidates.

I’m not sure how I found out about the poll..I think someone I followed reposted Evan's original message. And when I went to the survey website to nominate those people I most devoutly follow, I found that some names came immediately to mind. They weren’t on the list of the most popular anything, they were just individuals whose Tweets I had found consistently entertaining, informative, or unique. With some categories (automotive? lawn?), I couldn’t come up with any appropriate nomination but I tried to list all of the people I regularly read, sometimes twisting the meaning of categories like “food” or “entertainment” to nominate people who talk about their dinner in mouth-watering detail or who are generally amusing.

Well, the list was released yesterday morning and I found myself ranked as #18 on a Top 50 list out of 2,500 people nominated. While flattering, it is an odd position for me to be in. I thank people who took the time to nominate me but I’m not used to being in a position of popularity (and recently I've definitely been UNpopular!). I have a mild-mannered exterior but I see myself as living on the margins, economically, politically, professionally, and intellectually.

Perhaps what caused people to like my posts was that I had absolutely nothing to gain by Tweeting, not personally, not professionally, so I was myself, for better or worse. I don’t even Tweet about my blog so I have not even been looking for new readers, I just talk about whatever is on mind at that moment.

I woke up this morning, 24 hours later, to find that I have 80 new people following me in the wake of the poll results and I’m in the odd position of not wanting to disappoint people who now might have expectations of me. I mean, if you get ranked on a poll like this, you must be at least “interesting”, right? So, do I continue to write about my cat, my insomnia, my obsession with the Olympics, my frustration with the Girls in Tech moniker, my surprise at Project Runway results, my furnace problems, or my wandering thoughts on sociological theory?

It seems like very mundane material to me. But when I look over the Tweetstreams of other people on the list, to tell you the truth, outside of a few Twitter celebrities (i.e. Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Mashable), they are also mostly personal and ordinary. Maybe it’s not glamor or power that cause someone to visit a survey website, remember, and type in someone’s name but a simple identification with the ups and downs in the life of another person, when they are honestly written and shared.

I know in the scheme of things, this list means little (except new followers) but it is always an interesting exercise to look outside yourself and consider how other people perceive you. I find I’m often wrong and surveys like this are a good reminder that we sometimes need to shake up the preconceived limitations we have placed on ourselves and reconsider who we think we are to other people.

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Kim said...

Hi Liz,

I arrived at your site through Mark Hayward's list of 97 people to follow on twitter and enjoyed this article. You made me smile - especially the part about gaining all the new followers from being on the survey and then feeling like you didn't want to disappoint them :-)

I also feel as if I live on the margins - I would not have phrased it that way but I know exactly what you meant.


Liz said...

Hi, Kim,

Glad to make you smile! Can you give me a link to Mark Hayward's list? I'd love to add some new, original, people to follow.


Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Liz, I've found you through various pathways. A question: what do you think is your most valuable learning/communication tool - your blog or Twitter?