Like many people, I am now getting more and more news and information through twitter. I’ve always thought that facebook is socially familiar — because it is permission-based and synchronous, one gets information about people one knows. However twitter is socially aspirational — you can follow people you don’t know well and who, if you met them in real life, would probably grant you even less than 140 characters. And then there is the copious amounts of data, that Twitter is just beginning to mine.
What is also interesting to me is the variance in the twitter power law. I follow a number of venture capitalists, and the most prominent have far more followers than people they follow. However some seem to use twitter to receive information (thus following more people) as opposed to just using it as a distribution channel (following very few).
So, on a fairly random day in early December, I looked at the respective followers and following numbers for the (somewhat dated) list of 10 leading VC blogs (although I tossed out Guy Kawasaki), ranked by the number of twitter followers:
VC Followers Following Ratio
Fred Wilson 116,808 550 212:1
Dave McClure 40,475 4,309 9:1
Paul Graham 20,812 55 378:1
Mark Suster 18,321 599 31:1
Brad Feld 17,718 505 35:1
Josh Kopelman 17,178 1,209 14:1
Bill Gurley 13,196 174 76:1
Bijan Sabet 10,988 388 28:1
Mark Peter Davis 5,742 304 19:1
Jeremy Liew 1,307 91 14:1
The variation here is remarkable. Clearly at some point there is some sort of diminishing law of follower returns, but the individual choice of how many people to follow shows a high degree of difference. The insightful Matt Harris has a related post on venture blogging where he points out that most VCs are, at heart, geeks with limited social skills. It’s not clear that the skills an early-stage firm wants from an investor and board member, and the skills inherent in being a successful blogger and tweeter, are in any way aligned.
Now I don’t claim this has any deep meaning, and judging by the company, dominating twitter may not be the goal, but venture capital is an information-based business, and the way that VCs choose to both collecting and using twitter as an information platform says something about how the overall industry will continue to evolve.