I often wonder who really follows technology reporters on Twitter. Is it just a bunch of PR folks like myself, end users and decision makers, or other journalists and analysts? Not too long ago, Denise Dubie, senior editor at Network World, brought this question to the forefront when she twittered the following.

New to me: The Followers pitch. PR saying I should cover their client’s news because my ‘followers’ need this info.

Was that accurate? Who is following Denise these days? Well, we did some research and it turns out:

  • 26% are end users, developers or enterprise decision makers
  • 25% are in a marketing role at a vendor
  • 16% are at a PR agency
  • 4% are other journalists
  • 3% are analysts
  • 17% are either spammers or other non-related organizations
  • 9% have been inactive for at least 3 months

Over the past week we researched 10 technology journalists to find out who is following them. In the end we sampled 2,262 of 14,492 followers. Thanks to straining our eyes to the point of blindness, this leaves us with a margin of error of just +/- 2 points. Our goal was to try to research 15% of followers. To accomplish this, we researched the 2nd, 6th, and 16th follower in each page of 20 followers. For those with 3,000+ followers, we thank you and so does our vision insurance provider!

Enough of the how, what did the research uncover?

Breakdown by Profile

One of the most interesting facts about this research was the insight into the progression of the type of follower. Twitter’s follower listings are in order of when they clicked the ‘follow’ button from newest to oldest. As we first started our research, we noticed an extremely high number of marketing and vendor profiles. At times these reached 70% of followers. As we hit the half-way point the follower profile shifted toward the end-user. This suggests that early followers of tech journalists were directly in IT, seeking a way to connect with peers to discuss technology related issues. As the popularity of Twitter grew, companies began to take notice and the corporate Twitter account was born. That gives me an idea – who is following corporate Twitter accounts….? Wait…they should pay for that research :-)

End User Percent

Some highlights:

  • Larry Dignan, editor-in-chief at ZDNet, and Jessica Tsai of CRM Magazine take the prize for most end-user followers at 33%, Thomas Wailgum of CIO comes in a close second at 32%
  • Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky has more press following him, 15%, than anyone else in our group
  • As a percentage, more analysts follow Mary Hayes Weier of InformationWeek, 6%, followed by Rich Tehrani of TMCNet at 4%
  • More than 50% of followers are on the corporate side, not a member of the influence audience (press, analysts, PR)
  • 22% of all followers are completely irrelevant comprising spammers, inactive accounts and some that we just can’t explain on a company-sponsored blog

Our research shows this group of technology journalists has a broad Twitter following mostly comprised of enterprise users. Does it mean the pitch to Denise was accurate and her followers do indeed need to know the information? I am not sure because it depends on many factors, the least of which are newsworthiness and relevancy. It is one thing to say 26% of her followers are end users and it is another to say 10% of her followers are end users of VMWare and are interested in virtual and remote setups (hypothetically of course). Just like in any other area of PR and press/analyst interaction, you have to know more about the audience you are pitching and explain how it is relevant.

Percent of Followers

Who we researched:

  • Adam Lashinsky, Fortune
  • Denise Dubie, Network World
  • Jessica Tsai, CRM Magazine
  • Joe McKendrick, ZDNet SOA blog
  • Larry Dignan, ZDNet
  • Larry Walsh, Channel Insider
  • Mary Hayes Weier, InformationWeek
  • Rich Tehrani, TMCNet
  • Sid Hill, Manufacturing Business Technology
  • Thomas Wailgum, CIO