The Follower Hockey Stick

A week or so ago, I happened to notice that my Twitter follower count had gone up by 75,000 in the span of several weeks. Since then, it’s gone up by another 15,000.

Here’s the chart from Twitter’s analytics service:

twitter follower count twitter follower count

I’ve learned over the years to be highly suspect of anything that looks like a hockey stick and so I looked at the list of recent followers to see if anything was awry.

I was expecting to see a bunch of spam accounts and maybe that’s what is going on. But a lot of the recent followers look reasonably legit.

It’s not clear to me what is going on. It’s like once I crossed 400k followers my “who to follow” score went way up.

In any case, I’m happy to have so many new followers. Sadly I’ve not been tweeting much lately since I stopped tweeting out the AVC posts every day.

Maybe this will be an impetus to tweet more often. We will see.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    Why do you think twitter went off the boil for you?Bored with product. IPO related?Increased followers being impetus to tweet implies its a chore. Tweets are being pulled out of you rather than you having a desire to push them out eagerly.

    1. William Mougayar

      I think part of it could be the time it takes to check and answer replies. I’m getting 50+ daily notifications now and it’s becoming a chore to sort through the ones to pay attention to. I can’t imagine how many notifications and pings Fred gets on Twitter. It’s probably as daunting as going through email.

      1. LIAD

        I hear that when it comes to interacting. But pinging out a few tweets a day. Not really an effort.

        1. Ayush Neupane

          You could apply the same logic to blogging. Fred would think blogging a post a day is easy, not much effort really. Checked your twitter and don’t see anything about you blogging 😉

          1. LE

            For Fred there is not only the blogging but also reading the comments.Reading the comments takes time.Plus I am sure that he might also suffer a little cognitive dissonance as a result of not being able to answer all of the comments and/or actually choose not to answer the comments for fear that it would create more comments to read and/or further cognitive dissonance.

        2. Matt Zagaja

          We’ll have to get Gary Vaynerchuk to weigh in on this ;).

        3. LE

          Sound like my Dad talking. He was always deciding that anything that he thought that I should do was well worth the time and “no big deal”. [1] All of those little things that are “not really an effort” add up. People spend time on what they are intrinsically motivated to do for one reason or another. The old “well you find the time to do x so why can’t you do y” doesn’t recognize human nature and motivation. And having to make choices that you see fit with your time based on your particular needs. The great thing about being an adult and not a kid.[1] Of course he never had time to take me to the toy store when I was a kid which was what motivated me to earn my own money so I wouldn’t have to depend on someone else for anything.

        4. Semil Shah

          Agreed. Chris Dixon does this well (as a curator) but doesn’t get too deep in the discussions there-on out, which would kill his time.

      2. Matt Zagaja

        I rarely get replies but I only have about 500 followers. To be honest I mostly use twitter as a reader. When I find cool things on twitter I usually then post then to Facebook where I get much more interaction and feedback. Right now my guess is that I’m simply just “better” at Facebook than at Twitter.

        1. Brandon G. Donnelly

          that’s one of the problems with twitter. it takes awhile (i.e. you have to have lots of followers) until you start seeing the same level of engagement that many people see on facebook with much fewer friends.

          1. Semil Shah

            Exactly. I think many people even I know in the Valley who have used Twitter for years struggle to get replies and basic interaction. It is sort of a marketplace for attention — why should one follow and interact with another, and why should that person interact back.

          2. Joe Cardillo

            That’s also a reflection of how you decide to use it – some people function as brands (which is problematic for a number of reasons) and others are simply looking to connect to humans. The few folks I know well with large followings on different networks pretty much turn off all notifications and choose to ignore the brand aspect of their presence (only occasionally tuning in to conversations w/people they don’t know. probably a lot of muting going on, too).

          3. Semil Shah

            Agree with you in theory, but I can cite many friends (that I follow) where I’m likely one of 2-3 regular repliers to their tweets. I tweet a lot, and in fact, most of those are replies, and I try to reply to friends as much as I can because I have noticed this issue. Selfishly, I want them to continue to tweet.

          4. Joe Cardillo

            That makes sense, but how are you defining friends? Are you picking out those replies from the same notifications of people that one off reply or mention you? (which I imagine is pretty regular).My observation is based more on the max on maintaining meaningful relationships, it seems like you get to have a very large swath (brand) or you can focus on a smaller, more meaningful set. Maybe I’m thinking too binary about that though.

          5. Semil Shah

            Let’s say a former coworker I want to keep in touch with. He tweets a fair amount, but rarely has interactions. I reply when I can because I know he doesn’t get much juice. And, I apply this to many others.

      3. Semil Shah

        Fred and a few others in tech are very public as a function of their role, so as Twitter’s reach grows more pervasive, anything Fred may say could be the subject of a Business Insider post, or be bombarded with 100+ replies from admiring followers who want his attention. I have been told directly the same thing by other well-known investors who have curbed their use of the product. At the same time, the folks at a16z have taken the opposite tack, and that’s worked well for them, too.

        1. William Mougayar

          You seem to be active & engaging on twittter. How much time do you spend & how do u filter your interactions?

          1. Semil Shah

            Few times a day, but when I’m in, I’m in…I pay attention and try to engage. On filtering, I use two main lists, and I focus on those. Not many people on those lists. And, I block people a lot. Lately, I’ve been blocking more people than I’ve followed new ones.

          2. William Mougayar

            So you engage exclusively from your List? That’s interesting. Then you’re people driven, instead of topical for eg.

          3. Semil Shah

            Yessir, absolutely people-driven. On one list, I call “CORE,” it’s about 90-100 people, and I never miss a single tweet from them…and the list doesn’t include @replies to those not on the list, so all signal for me.

          4. William Mougayar

            Got it. Good tact.

      4. Joe Cardillo

        Kind of a bummer isn’t it? It’s never been a issue for me and probably won’t, but it does reflect a certain problem of scale which is that you can scale how people interact but you really can’t scale the interactions themselves. Leads to some choices + comes with privilege and responsibility.

        1. William Mougayar

          I’m not sure how @pmarca does it. You need to be quick & move on.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          It simply requires a person to allot more time to those tasks. The nuanced benefit that will come from the branching will – if you are actively trying to harness the value that comes from those relationships – far outweigh the time cost.

      5. Steve_Dodd

        Rather indicative of Social Media in general, no?

        1. William Mougayar

          yes, in addition that the engagement pull could be tremendous on twitter. you get the good with the bad, and you need to sift through it.

    2. fredwilson

      I decided that using Twitter as an RSS feed wasn’t great and that I’d use it more conversationally I did the first part but havent done the second part

  2. William Mougayar

    Maybe this is a leading indicator that Twitter numbers are on the rise.I would be curious to learn about the distribution of these new followers:New Twitter users vs. Existing onesSuggested follows vs. Organic ones

    1. LE

      Check the data. Its spam from the several pages that I looked at. I am sure a more through analysis would show that as well.

    2. Rick

      Bear with me as I’m not a twitter user..I think that the whole idea behind twitting is to have others re-twitt. So you need to know how many people are re-twitting to know how *effective* it is. I also agree with you William that suggested vs organic is a good thing to know..In other words just knowing how many people have sat in front of their computer and clicked follow is of little to no value. Suggested ones are good as long as that can’t be automated. How many are actively promoting your twitts is what really counts.

    3. Semil Shah

      I would attribute this more to Fred’s name/avatar showing up more frequently on a “who to follow” list and corresponding global interest in tech and investing. Fred was the 2nd investor I followed back in ’08, had no idea who he was at the time.

  3. Mario Cantin

    What would be a classic example of a suspect / misleading hockey stick growth?

  4. Guy Lepage

    This is actually your marketing efforts paying off. You’ve recently been appearing on large public platforms for the first time. As a marketer, we try to push for these efforts as the benefits and rewards are substantial but the graphs they produce are hockey stick graphs. And lastly, the rewards from a good marketing effort do not arrive until 3-12 months out depending upon the campaign. This is super important for all startups to remember. Yes the product is important but so are your marketing efforts.

  5. rich caccappolo

    Could be the recents mentions by The Fly on

    1. pointsnfigures

      Yes, there are silos on Twitter. Sometimes people straddle them. Certainly, if you were interested in VC, Tech, etc, you’d follow Fred. If you were pure stocks and bonds, maybe not. But, as the two start to intersect with fintech, and startup valuations, startup IPOs etc, the straight trader/finance family will look to follow leaders in the tech to search for clues or information.

  6. Richard

    If in doubt correlate it to Uber. Modern version of a taxi cab drivers signaling a bubble?

  7. JimHirshfield

    Yeah, I been tellin’ my friends ’bout you.

    1. Richard

      Also see…”Lindy’s Law’.[2] In it he stated that “the future career expectations of a television comedian is proportional to the total amount of his past exposure on the medium”.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Does that account for a saturation point or assuming exponential growth of all factors?..

        1. Richard

          not sure I follow the question?

  8. Vineeth Kariappa

    register with addthis, place their api.

  9. Humberto

    The increase may be an inflection point from which traditional media start mentioning you. Eg. You personally had never appeared on a main Portuguese newspaper until a few weeks ago, when articles start quoting you and the usual suspects.. Steve Blank, Horowitz, Brad Feld, etc.We all know how important it is to have an active online voice if you work in the startup industry. But is there such a thing as too much exposure?It may seem like now the challenge for you will be the one of a superstar influencer. Your words will be quoted with no end, people will mirror your investors even more.All this reverberation is good, and bad, another challenge I suppose.

  10. LE

    What is interesting about this is how twitter apparently looks the other way when it would be fairly easy to figure out what is going on here with accounts being created for the sole purpose of some kind of twitter farming.

  11. Joe Cardillo

    Not a bad time to read Anil’s take on that… (also, he wrote something somewhere about the hockey stick, it’s likely an editorial decision or algorithmic editorial change that put you on the “people to follow” list in more categories).

  12. Matt A. Myers

    Maybe they noticed you haven’t been tweeting, yet you’re a high-value user – and they’re trying to incentivize you to post again?Start posting again and see if that stops?If not, that might be a good feature for Twitter to A/B test.

  13. johndodds

    The elusive silent type is always popular.

  14. PJ Camillieri

    https://uploads.disquscdn.c… It’s impressive to see how much many of the top Silicon Valley angels / VCs interact with each other on Twitter. For me (who is not in the Valley) it’s actually one of the characteristics of that area and you don’t see that in other, smaller tech hubs like London, Paris, etc.I think it contributes to the speed and reactivity of the SV ecosystem. I think the Game Of Angels project illustrates this well (it tries to figure out how tech influencers “influence” each other on Twitter).

  15. WA

    Market share expansion of your voice across a more diverse demographic as tech, liberal arts and the humanities begin their merge. Perhaps. Doesn’t hurt that your name is pretty common place in most business schools either these days. Will going global soon be like – going Fred? Don’t know. I’ll google it. Nice and congrats.

  16. OurielOhayon

    sounds like a heavier weight on Twitter recommendation algorythm

  17. Steve_Dodd

    Very interesting discussion in light of the recent Twitter earnings announcements, the collapse of its stock value, and that USV was an early investor. The solution to Twitter’s problem may very well be buried in these comments and other similar discussions from users, not “gurus”. Twitter has clearly lost its way trying to become something it’s not (nor ever was). I do use it and find it’s becoming very much like Myspace when it began to unravel.

  18. Amar

    There should be a way for you to click a button on your twitter profile and say “I am feeling full and I would like to redirect this follow traffic to Albert or Andy” 🙂 so you can spread the wealth around?

  19. Kirsten Lambertsen

    This year, I’ve learned to listen on Twitter instead of talk. And it’s been one of the most enlightening years of my life, so far.I followed a bunch of people who happen to be outside my normal social sphere (or so at least I thought). They experience life very differently than me. And even though I thought I had empathy and understanding for them, I learned that my ideas fell far short of the mark.I really think if more people would approach Twitter by asking themselves, “what can I learn here?” instead of “what can I say here?”, they’d be less mystified and overwhelmed by it… and greatly improved by it.

  20. Joe Marchese

    I turned sour on Twitter when I saw a stat (admittedly dated, a few years back) that said that 85% of the tweets came from 20,000 users. It had become a megaphone that some people (public enemy #1 at that time was Guy Kawasaki) used to choke the oxygen from the majority of the base, or even from other megaphone grabbers. A Follower-to-Following ratio of 500:1 is one indicator that something is off here. It occurs to me as sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  21. Aaron Klein

    Why would you stop tweeting posts?This may be why I’m so behind on reading AVC. Twitter is my content inbox.