Charting Twitter Follower Counts Over Time

There was a time, two or three years ago, when I paid close attention to Twitter statistics, and in particular, that ever important Number of Followers. It’s a number so in vogue that I’ve seen in mentioned in half a dozen TV shows. Somewhere along the way, I pretty much stopped paying attention. The last time that I can remember really watching the number was nearly a year ago, when I was about to head off on vacation. The only reason I kept an eye on it then was because I was about to it 2,222 followers.

Well, it’s a year later, and for some reason, the number caught my eye today, probably because it is creeping close to 3,000 followers. The thing is, it has been a climb, but a very slow one. When I looked at my follower count today, it stood at 2,975. That’s an increase of 732 followers over the course of an entire year! Wil Wheaton I am not.

Back in August, I was playing around with the APIs of many services, including Twitter. I decided to write a little script that would capture changes in my Twitter follower count over time. My script grabs my follower count once per hour–24 times a day–and stores the data in a comma separated file. With more than four full months of data, I thought I’d plot it out today. Here is what it looks like:

Twitter followers over time

The chart begins with me at about 2805 followers and ends with me at 2975 followers. That is a change of 170 followers over 4 months. Or about 1.4 new followers per day on average.

In August there is a big jump–due in large part to my articles at The Daily Beast and 99U. But then things pretty much smooth out and go sideways. I wanted to see if I could predict if I would hit 3,000 followers (I have 25 more to go) before the end of the year. But generating a trend for this chart doesn’t work well because the data is skewed in August.

Still, I can predict a range. The difference in follower counts over the last year is 732. That is about 2 new followers per day. Over the last 4 months, that number is 1.4 new followers per day.

Starting with the low number, and considering that as of today there are 27 days left in the year, then 1.4 * 27 = 37.8 new followers by the end of the year–which would put me over the 3,000 follower mark, with 3013 followers.

If we take the larger number, we get 2 * 27 = 54 new followers by the end of the year. This also puts me over the 3,000 follower mark, with 3,029 followers.

Of course, the trend is volatile. The number can go down, or it might go up significantly. In any case, now I have reasonable confidence that I will pass the 3,000 follower mark by the end of the year. And with that I can stop paying attention once again–until January 1, of course, when I will just have to check to see how my prediction panned out.