On March 21 of 2006, the first tweet ever was sent — "just setting up my twttr." Fairly anticlimactic, but more than seven years into the future, it’s clear this was the beginning of a revolution. Now there are over 52.7 million Twitter users in the US alone (Social Media Today, 2014). Some people get it, others don’t. These are the top 10 most followed Twitter accounts according to Twitter Counter, most of them are people within the US. All Twitter stats come from the same source.
10. Justin Timberlake — 31,158,438 followers
Timberlake, most well known for his work as a singer-songwriter, was born in Tennessee. The honey-coated-voiced, dreamy-dancing star averages 15,985 new Twitter followers a day. JT’s feed is a mix of retweets, concert updates and anything he finds interesting. From The Mickey Mouse Club to N’Sync to his career in acting to the release of his newest album in 2013, Timberlake has enjoyed much notoriety that he carried with him (fairly elegantly) into the digital age. Sometimes he doesn’t tweet for a few days at a time, sometimes he tweets multiple times a day. He’s bringing sexy back (to Twitter).
9. Instagram — 31,229,274 followers
While it was only launched in 2010, Instagram has quickly become a social media giant. Over 150 million monthly active users share an average of 55 million photos every day. To date, more than 16 billion photos have been shared on Instagram (Instagram, 2014). Co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger both left Stanford with somewhat obscurely named degrees. Systrom is from Massachusetts, and Krieger is from Brazil. Whether it’s Krieger’s influence in Brazil or Instagram’s wide-reaching visual appeal, over 60 per cent of users are from outside the US (Instagram, 2014).This account gets an average of 16,039 new followers every day.
8. Rihanna — 34,443,246 followers
Rihanna is no stranger to the musical world — she’s won several Grammy Awards, multiple American Music Awards, double digits of Billboard Music Awards and two BRIT awards. In the top 10 most followed Twitter accounts in the world, she’s also no stranger to writing sassy 140 character messages. Known for her physical and musical reinventions, Rihanna’s Twitter presence resonates as personal. Though there’s plenty of the regular singer-promotion-type tweets, the Barbadian recording artist also makes fans feel like they’re getting a glimpse of her real life (“Alcohol is the devil and I need Chinese food,” or “Threw Bravo a birthday ba$h at mama Fenty crib!! #85 blessed yearz! Many more to you Grandfadda!”). Rihanna averages about 10,522 new followers every day.
7. Britney Spears — 36,290,507 followers
Whether you love her, loved to follow her inevitable journey of self-destruction or love her music (it’s okay, this blog is a safe place), the popstar (who frequently appears in the hashtag #divapop) has a more than respectable following on Twitter. She garners an average of 12,634 new followers every day and tweets mostly about her personal life. Her tweets are usually positive, friendly and appreciative. The “it’s Britney Bitch” attitude seems less prevalent in 140 characters as it is in a life in the spotlight.
6. Taylor Swift — 39,621,560 followers
This country-pop singer gets an average of 18,642 new followers every day. She’s uber appreciative of her fans and links many of her tweets with her instagram feed. Born in Pennsylvania, Swift moved to Nashville at the age 14 to pursue a country music career. Guess it worked for her.
5. YouTube — 40,216,574 followers
According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute and more than one billion unique visitors come to YouTube every month (YouTube, 2014). YouTube has completely changed the way people watch and share video content. Being a leader on this front, it’s no wonder YouTube is in the fifth overall spot for Twitter followers. As you can likely guess, YouTube’s tweets are mostly comprised of video links. The three founders, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, were born in the US, Taiwan and Germany respectively, adding a little international flare to the list. YouTube averages 25,147 new Twitter followers every day.
4. Lady Gaga — 41,065,719 followers
Ms. Gaga is known for her outrageousness, though her 140 characters are usually pretty tame (in comparison to her fashion, anyway). If her new average daily followers is any indication, it looks like Gaga might be losing some popularity — she now gains an average of 1,431 followers every day. Her tweets are mostly reserved for music fanfare, fan appreciation and activist/charitable shares.
3. Barack Obama — 41,941,762 followers
The president of the US is the only political figure topping the Twitter stats, and it can’t be much of a surprise since both of his campaigns enlisted social media for the win. And that picture of him and the first lady embracing? That photo was the most retweeted photo ever (until Ellen's selfie at the Oscar's), with over 781,000 retweets. His account still gains an average of 15,707 new followers a day.
2. Justin Bieber — 50,189,469 followers
A Canadian boy nears the top of the charts! The Biebs has ditched his moose-hugging, syrup-sucking persona for an ink-getting, mug-shot-taking one. Whatever he’s doing, it seems to be working for him — Biebs gets about 21,048 new followers every day. Beliebers are usually treated to Instagram photos, positive quotes and some "music is my life" type tweets.
1. Katy Perry — 51,286,741 followers
Born and raised in the golden state, Katy Perry (somehow) tops the charts for the most Twitter followers in the world. With a feed full of (like most musicians) fan appreciation, music and concert updates, Perry’s tweets do not stand out as extraordinary. In fact, she rarely, if ever, posts her own photos. While we may not get her Twitter-fame, someone does — she averages 29,046 new followers every day.
3 Rules for Twitter Success
1. Share photos. Instagram’s Twitter account is almost solely used to promote their blog that has a few hundred words of text and a collage of photos. Taylor Swift posts tons of Instagram pictures via Twitter as well. You might not be able to be a popstar, but you can tweet like one.
2. Interact. Whether you’re JT or just sing in the shower, engaging with your followers is central to a successful Twitter strategy.
3. Be a person. Be genuine. The second most retweeted photo ever — the one of Barack and Michelle Obama embracing after time away campaigning — was shared so many times because users could feel the authenticity. Share anecdotes and images that mean something to you.
SMBs Don’t Have Time, Digital Agencies Have the Solution
Unless you have a media team behind you, as presumably these 10 Twitter stars do, using some software to track your followers and progress is likely a good idea. Our stats indicate that 70 percent of SMBs have less than 100 followers on Facebook. SMBs just don’t have time to manage their reputation on social media. There are simple ways for SMBs to grow their social following, ranging from DIY to DIWM (Do It With Me™) to DIFM (Do It For Me). At the same time, combining useful software with digital common sense is important to protect SMBs from being socially discouraged. After all, you don’t want your clients to end up embarrassing themselves on social media...