The obvious answer to this question is "No" since so many people blend their personal and professional lives in their participation in this social network.
But I'm talking about the relatively new movement to use Twitter not to connect with people you're interested in communicating with, in meeting or have met, but to build a huge public profile for personal branding purposes.
It makes me wonder what it now means to be "influential". It used to be judged, admittedly superficially, by number of Twitter followers but is that a reliable indicator any more? Or do we need to change what "influential" means in Social Media?
This morning, I sent an email to Twitter Grader asking them this question. Excerpts of it are below:
What do you think? Am I observing a real and significant change on Twitter or just being sentimental for the old days when there were fewer users and a traditional system of building ones' social network?
I don't know if you've noticed or not but since Oct/Nov 2008, newcomers to Twitter have grown exponentially due to TV and newspapers coverage of Twitter use by the media and celebrities and publicity of Twitter at business, tech & media conferences. Many people are using Twitter in a completely different way than before which might change (or not!) your grading system.
Past: People created Twitter accounts and began following other people...some followed them back, some didn't. But, for most people, who you followed was only roughly equal in number to those who followed you. Many people wanted to follow Twitter leaders in technology and social marketing like Kevin Rose, Mashable, Mediaphyer, Tim O'Reilly, Problogger, Ev, Fred Wilson, etc. Frequently, these popular users followed no or very few of their followers back. People accepted that not every relationship on Twitter was reciprocal and that their follower and following lists probably contained some different names.
Twitterers' follower numbers grew gradually the longer they were members on Twitter and active on it. Some people's accounts grew faster than others but unless one was a celebrity, your follower number roughly reflected your longevity and popularity on Twitter.
Now: Since Twitter has become more publicized, a new strategy of using it has emerged popularized by some people (I've seen conference notes detailing this strategy). The idea is to gain as many followers as possible in the shortest amount of time. To do this, you follow the maximum number of people Twitter initially allows (2000), drop all of the people who don't automatically follow you back, reach the maximum number again (2000), drop nonfollowers, repeat over and over again. As you gain more followers in this manner, your maximum number you can follow rises and you keep up this following/unfollowing pattern indefinitely.
The result? These new Twitterers can rack up 10,000 followers in less than a month and a dozen Tweets. But are they influential? I don't know. I'm sure if they get big enough (50K followers or more), people will pay attention to them purely because of their size. But there is no commonality linking the followed to the following because they weren't chosen because of shared interests or desire for connecting or for any reason other than they followed back. I'm not sure if any of them read the Tweets they receive other than Direct Messages or Replies to them.
I'm sure that the top 100 or 200 of the Twitter Elite list is radically different than it was 2 months ago if it is based on pure follower numbers. A lot of old timers have dropped off the list and have been replaced with people who I'm not sure can be considered "influential" as much as successful in racking up high follower numbers with a "I'll follow you if you follow me" policy.
You may or may not agree but I think this new strategic use of Twitter (to create a large personal profile rather than build a like-minded network), will test how you measure "influence". So many of these people with large accounts--5K, 10K, 20K+--came out of nowhere and have posted less than 100 Tweets in some cases.
My interest in this is the question of how we measure influence when people are gaming the old ways of building status within a community. A lot of people look to Twitter Grader as the definitive measure of influence so I wanted to just plant a seed of whether your algorithms should or can account for a new way of building social ties (influence? I think not so much).