Followers Surge Once Twitter Suggests Who You Should Follow

Last Updated Sep 7, 2010 2:31 PM EDT

There's more evidence to support my recent assertion that Twitter's "Who to Follow" feature, released in late July, is causing statistically significant rises in following activity, which is a core component of Twitter's reason for being. (The service, which works similarly to Facebook's "People You May Know" feature, suggests people you might want to follow.)

TechCrunch has a post with the details. It looks at accounts ranging from TechCrunch's own Michael Arrington and MG Siegler to Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. In every case, there's a significant spike in followers, starting in late July. Though not a hockey stick-like line, the spike is noticeable. Even though there aren't spikes across all accounts of the Twitterati -- TechCrunch trotted out @billgates and @Twitter itself as examples -- it's still obvious that actually suggesting potential people to follow on Twitter is having its impact. As I said in my earlier post, before this, you had to do a lot more work to find people you might want to follow.

Even as this feature's success is becoming clear, it's about to get more interesting. Per TechCrunch, Twitter is about to open this feature up to the myriad third parties who have built Twitter services off of the company's API, so soon many more entities will be in on the game. If that sounds like a true technicality, consider this: by some accounts, accounts for only about 20 percent of all Twitter usage and right now that's the only place where users can find this feature.

Push this out to Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and some of the other popular third-party apps and the growth of followers will probably show another spike. This will happen not only because the feature will be front and center with whole new groups of Twitter users, but also because it's possible -- likely even -- that the spikes in followers we've seen already are primarily the work of Twitter newbies. The basic evolution of Twitter usage is that people start on, before "graduating" to third-party apps with more features.

So what does this all mean in the end? It means a more vibrant, relevant Twitter community -- and probably one that more people become addicted to. As Twitter goes in search of revenue, this is a substantial step forward in making the service a viable revenue machine.