I noticed about two weeks ago that my Twitter following had gone up by about 200 people in just a couple days. It took me a while to figure out what was happening.
I used to get about 10-20 new followers a day, depending on my activity. All of a sudden I was getting about 10 times that with no obvious explanation.
It turns out Twitter had added me to their “Suggestions” page under “Staff Picks” (at roughly 3 p.m. on January 21, 2010). That day, I had 59 new followers (8 before 3 p.m., 51 after 3 p.m.). The next day, I had 120 new followers, and another 108 the following day. Yesterday (February 12, 2010) I welcomed 171 new followers. In three weeks I’ve more than doubled my following (about 2,500 to 5,555). Thanks, Twitter!
The reason I’m bothering to mention this is because the same boost in following has happened for the museums that were added to Twitter’s suggestions in the “Art-Design” category. Jim Richardson’s roundup of museum followings on Twitter for Museum Marketing of January 2, 2010, was his last count before a big explosion in the numbers.
Key examples of Twitter’s “Suggested” museums and their increase in a month and a half:
Smithsonian up 111% (16,767 —> 35,351)
Guggenheim up 141% (13,003 —> 31,339)
Metropolitan up 111% (11,686 —> 24,629)
Whitney up 94% (11,590 —> 22,515)
Walker Art Center up 95% (9,808 —> 19,164)
SFMoMA up 115% (8,914 —> 19,194)
The Warhol Museum up a stunning 193% (7,856 —> 23,039), almost tripling their following in just over a month.
As of February 9, the British Library had no idea why they had such a big boost in following. It turns out, they’ve been listed as a recommendation in the “Books” category, and their following has gone up 187% (5,912 —>16,996).
What do we make of this? Well, the museums that aren’t listed are still having to obtain new followers the old-fashioned way; they earn them.
Let’s take a look at a few important museums that aren’t listed:
Philadelphia Museum up 9% (13,991 —>15,279)
The Women’s Museum up 7% (13,970 —> 14,942)
Holocaust Museum (DC) up 8% (7,785 —> 8,415)
Seattle Art Museum up 12% (7,040 —> 7,915)
Queens Museum up 11% (7,017 —> 7,798)
Some unlisted museums seem to be gaining significant following despite not being recommended by Twitter:
The Art Institute of Chicago is up 28% (4,188 —> 5,356)
New Museum is up 23% (4,677—> 5,744)
Compared to the staggering increases of Twitter’s suggested museums, these numbers aren’t so impressive. But are these guys working a lot harder for their followers?
Now, from the perspective of someone (a random anonymous individual who likes to nerd out in museum exhibits) with 5,000+ followers, I understand better than ever that it really is quality and not quantity. The quality of the interactions with like-minded people, or people with similar interests, is what makes Twitter enjoyable, educational, and not just a waste of time.
I used to joke that I would reveal my secret identity if I reached 10,000 followers. I never thought it would happen. Maybe I still will. Or maybe I’ll wait till I feel like 10,000 of my followers have been earned.