Did the BBC really “lose” 60,000 Twitter followers?

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 27 July 2011

Over the last couple of days there has been lots of attention to a blog post entitled “How the BBC lost 60,000 Twitter followers to ITV” by Tom Callow on The Wall. Last night he tweeted:

“TweetReach tells me tweets about my blog on the BBC’s ‘lost’ followers reached over 1.3 million people via 1,100 tweets!”

Which is all well and good...except...is it true?

Tom is absolutely right to say that this is unknown territory for broadcasters and media brands, and it is a well written post. But what about the numbers? Do they add up?

If you take TV as the analogy, when a series on BBC2 that has been pulling in 1.2 million viewers ends, we don’t generally go around saying that “the BBC has lost 1.2m viewers” and assume they are totally lost to the BBC. We expect that they still consume some other BBC programmes, and probably some of them still on BBC2.

Taking that analogy to Twitter, I had a look at some of @ITVLauraK’s followers.

Fifty of them, to be exact.

I wanted to see how many of the fifty were also following another BBC Twitter account. And the answer was pretty much all of them. Of the fifty:

  • 36 were following at least one other official BBC account
  • 9 were spambots
  • 5 people looked like they were not following any BBC accounts

I’ve published a spreadsheet of the data I collected.

Of course, fifty isn’t a massive sample out of the 65,000+ followers the account has, but of the genuine accounts I looked at, 36 out of the 41, or 87%, were still following the BBC on Twitter in some form or other.

When Laura Kuenssberg left and changed her Twitter account, it might have lost a political correspondent, but the BBC did not “lose” 60,000 Twitter followers.

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1 Comment

Great debate indeed! Interesting reading and thanks for the insightful analysis. I do still think it's not quite as clear cut as it's one fewer BBC account that people are following and that will reduce the number of people actually seeing tweets from the BBC as it has, as a 'proportion' of their timeline, been reduced.

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