Identifying who has the most Twitter followers is tough because it changes constantly. Lady Gaga led the race to amass Twitter followers for a long time, with Justin Bieber a close second, but Gaga and Bieber flipped places in January 2013, when Bieber became the most followed celebrity on Twitter.
Katy Perry then edged ahead of Gaga to claim the most-followed woman honors just six months later. By mid-2014 Perry and Justin Bieber were neck in neck for the top two spots on Twitter, with 53.8 million and 52.1 million followers, respectively.
President Barack Obama was in third place in June 2014, with 43.3 million followers. LadyGaga had slipped to fifth, while the official YouTube feed on Twitter had claimed the fourth-most followed slot. Celebrities clearly dominated the top 100 list, accounting for more than three quarters of the 100 most followed people on the messaging network.
So how does anyone figure out who, exactly, has the most followers on Twitter? It's not as if Twitter publishes an official "most followers" page that is constantly updated.
But plenty of third-party companies do. And news services study the data tracked by third-party companies that are plugged into the public data feed Twitter offers to compile stories and lists about what the data shows.
Here are two popular services that track Twitter followers to see who's following whom, and to compile rankings based on Twitter follower numbers.
Most Twitter Followers Lists
- TwitterCounter.com -- TwitterCounter keeps up-to-date lists of the top 100 "most followed" people on Twitter. It also shows how many tweets each top Twitter user has sent.
- Twitaholic.com -- Twitaholic maintains extensive lists of top twitter users, showing who has the most followers in various categories.
Most Followed on Twitter -- or Most Influential?
Not everyone agrees that who has the most followers is a useful measure of who's really top dog on Twitter.
Some think it's more important who those followers are than how many there are. A variety of services have popped up that attempt to measure influence on Twitter by looking at such things as how many times followers have had their own messages retweeted and how many followers they have, too.
In other words, are these people just passive readers of tweets, or do they participate in the conversation on Twitter?
Influencers on Twitter
Here are some lists and articles about top Twitterers based on influence, rather than number of followers:
- Time magazine compiles an annual list of the best Twitter feeds to follow that isn't based on sheer number of followers. Check out the best Twitter feeds of 2014.
- ABC News took a look at the Klout scores of top celebrities and published the results in the spring of 2013.
- The Sysomos company analyzed Twitter usage through the lens of its own social media monitoring software to consider "authority rankings" for Twitter followers of various celebrities.
- The New York Times Magazine also published a list of the most influential celebrities on Twitter, based on metrics compiled by a social media analytics company called Twitalyzer. It's interesting that the most followed twitterers, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, didn't make this top 10 list of Twitter influencers. Brazilian comedian Rafinha Bastos topped the list, with football wide receiver Chad Ochocino placing No. 2 and Conan O'Brien No. 3.