Ev Williams has called for an end to the use of a simple "followers" count as a measure of an individual's Twitter influence / Rex Features


It's not how many followers you have but the impact of your tweets that really counts, the co-founder of Twitter has claimed.

Ev Williams has called for an end to the use of a simple "followers" count as a measure of an individual's Twitter influence.

The spread of computer software allowing the socially needy to artificially boost their popularity by adding "fake followers", has reduced the value of an aggregate numbers' count on the micro-blogging site.

What really counts is how far and wide your tweets travel, argued Williams. "The thing I think would be more interesting than followers is... retweets," Williams said at a New York panel discussion staged by the BuzzFeed website.

Merely bulking up on followers "doesn't capture your distribution," Williams said, according to BuzzFeed. "The dream metric is how many people saw your tweet."

Williams, 40, who invented the term "blogger" and co-founded Twitter with Biz Stone in 2007, said the company was working on a new metric to calculate the real influence of each individual's Twitter account.

Twitter could use its own Apps to "measure whether or not a tweet was requested in a timeline", which would indicate whether a tweet was actually read, not just made available to a user.

Downgrading follower numbers could prove a blow to individuals whose perceived influence is linked to the possession of an army of Twitter fans.  Lady Gaga has close to 30 million "little monsters" who she believes are hanging on to her every utterance.

But a verification tool from software company Status People found that 71% of the star's most recent followers emanated from inactive or fake accounts.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, was accused of using a programme to generate more Twitter followers. Twitter users said they were "followed" and "unfollowed" several times by Shapps, suggesting that a computer programme was behind the actions. The former Tory MP Louise Mensch had to discount 40,000 "fake followers" added to her total by computer software.

BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti told the panel that demoting the use of Twitter followers would provoke a "a shitstorm" and could undermine Twitter's business model, since it would shrink the perceived scale of the platform.