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Let’s be honest: If someone ranked you #1 on a list, you’d be proud and flattered, right? (Assuming, of course, it wasn’t a list of the worst mass murderers or serial rapists). And you’d have to be an idiot to question the methodology that made you #1, right?

I am that idiot.

is a blog, written by Jonny Bentwood, that follows the IT industry analyst world, and it ranks (using TweetLevel) how influential, engaged, popular, and trusted analysts are on Twitter.

In the most recent ranking, out of 950+ analysts, I was ranked #1 on engagement (but nowhere near the top 10 on influence, which I guess means my Twitter followers are engaged with me, but don’t do what I tell them to).

It was great to be ranked #1 for engagement, but honestly, it raised a bunch of questions in my mind: Is this good (for me and for my business)? Is it OK that I’m engaging people but not influencing them? Am I really doing something right? Is this what I want from Twitter?

Mr. Bentwood praises me for how engaged I am with my Twitter community (I bet that there are at least a few people who follow me on Twitter that would like to inform Mr. Bentwood that he shouldn’t confuse being a snarky, smartass with being engaging).

But what I don’t get is how can any tool or anybody (I distinguish the two so that nobody thinks I’m accusing anybody of being a “tool”) determine that I’m engaged with my Twitter community?

You’d probably think that I would go and show my boss my shiny new #1 ranking, but I haven’t (and won’t). Because I know he’d ask “great, but what has that done for business?”

And I don’t have a good answer to that good question.

I’m sure that my Twittering may have contributed to increased awareness of my firm among a few people. But quantifying that? Impossible.

I’ve been asked, recently, to speak at two different conferences by a couple of people I often tweet with (one who I’ve met in person, the other I haven’t). Would I have been asked to speak if this hadn’t been the case? Possibly.

I’ve come to realize, though, that the benefit of tweeting – for me – isn’t quantifiable. The benefit is in the ability to CONNECT.

A recent article on said

“Salespeople have long known that establishing rapport with a customer can help close a sale.”

I think this is what I’m trying to do with Twitter – establish rapport.

Thanks to Twitter…

…there are people who I’ve never met in person (and, come to think of it, have never been properly introduced to) that I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call and ask them to participate in some research I’m doing, or ask their opinion on something.

…there are people that I’ve only met in person maybe once or twice but that I’m more comfortable communicating with than I am with some of the people I work with everyday.

…there are some people who probably  “know” me better than some of the people that I work with everyday do. (This can backfire. I once sent @stormtwitter an email telling her how much I appreciated being mentioned in the acknowledgements section of her book, but because of the way I worded the email, she wasn’t sure if I was being sarcastic or not. OUCH.)

It never ceases to amaze me that there are people who herald Twitter as some amazing innovation and advancement in the world of marketing. Yet, they use it to do what marketers have traditionally done in other channels: Push out marketing messages.

If that’s what they want to use Twitter for, that’s fine. That’s their choice. I’m not saying they’re wrong for using the tool that way. Simply saying that I think they’re missing an opportunity to do something that marketers have found very difficult to do in the past: Connect with people.

So, in the end, I don’t care how the engagement score was calculated. I’m going to shut up and take that #1 ranking on engagement.  I’ve realized I don’t use Twitter to influence – that’s what this blog and the reports I write for my employer are for. If TweetLevel thinks I’m doing a good at connecting with people, I’m good with that. Thanks for the ranking, Jonny.

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at . Check out more of his ideas and research on Cornerstone's And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at

This article was originally published on February 25, 2010. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Well, I’d like to argue with your second paragraph, the one with one sentence. You’re not just “that” idiot. You are “an” idiot, perhaps “the” idiot.

    But I digress. 🙂

    If I recall correctly you ranked 30 or so in influence, #1 in engagement. That’s sort of like being a lead-off hitter in baseball who gets lots of hits but not a lot of RBI’s. OR, a less appealing analogy is hockey player with lots of shots on goal but fewer scores than the guys on the first line.

    It seems to me that in your line of work the engagement factor indicates participation and should indicate monetization. Influence may not. Would your firm rather everyone read your stuff but did what, say, Forrester said, or the other way ’round?

    But, its certainly confusing. Here’s my suggestion. Go pat yourself on the back and kick yourself in the pants 🙂

  2. Hey Ron. Considering that you protect your tweets (do you still do that?), this is remarkable. I would guess that there are few others on that list who do so.

    I agree that it is about connecting, and being able to share information and then potentially call in favours with a much wider group of people. It’s about gaining access through sharing and connecting (maybe this is what they mean by engaging).

  3. Very cool to come in first, no matter what it means. Congrats.

    Not being very engaged in Twitter, just a random broadcaster; what is the time commitment? I know you enjoy it (for the most part), so it’s part hobby, certainly not all work. And I know you use it to spice up your commute time. But is it a couple hours a week or more like 2 or 3x that?

  4. Jim: Just as I find it hard to quantify the benefits, I’m not sure I could quantify the time spent. Once an hour or so, I’ll scan Tweetdeck to see if anybody I like to follow has tweeted something. Most times, I read it and get back to work. Occasionally, I’ll respond. And then there are those times when some thought that I deem tweetworthy will pop in my head and I’ll tweet it off. I can’t imagine that, all in, we’re talking anywhere near a couple of hours a week. It’s not the amount of time spent that’s the issue — it’s the ability of Twitter to disrupt my attention (or more accurately, me letting Twitter disrupt my attention).

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