Interview with Peter Bray, FollowerWonk

Sure, your Twitter account might have thousands of follows, but, how much do those followers really care about your brand? Portland-based FollowerWonk ( is looking to peel back the layers on Twitter, and go beyond those follower numbers to truly understand your Twitter followers and your social relationships. We spoke with Peter Bray, founder of the firm, to learn more about FollowerWonk and its software.

What exactly is FollowerWonk?

Peter Bray: What we do is Twitter analytics, although we are going to soon be expanding into different social networks. For now, our focus is on Twitter. We allow you to dissect, analyze, track, and optimize your social relationships on Twitter. One of the thing, which we see as a missing piece of the puzzle, is how Twitter understand who your followers are, and who are you following, who are your competitors, and who they are following. In many cases now, it's a number's came, about how many followers you have and so on. But, we see that relationships on Twitter include both quality, and quantity. Some relationships are more important than others. Our apps help you find and nurture those more important relationships, and also helps you understand who is following you, their patterns, and how that compares to competitors.

How did the company start?

Peter Bray: We've been working with Twitter developing apps since early 2009. We developed a product called Tweet Spinner and Twepe. We just had a small team, were bootstrapped, and had three of us who were earning a good living developing apps with a number of customers. One of the things we found doing that, is we'd created large database of all these Twitter users from these other apps. That database included biographical information, statistical information, which we made searchable, to find different features about them. For example, what is in their bio, search for a URL, and so on. That allowed us to search for people in Twitter, for example, who included the New York Times or Wall Street Journal in their URL field. On top of that, we'd laid on the ability to do a social overlay and graph. That's how we came into being, and started layering on more and more of those features to explore the different data, rich data we had about users.

How do you charge for the software?

Peter Bray: At the moment, we price based on your social graph size. A lot of the functionality is free, unless you have a million followers, where we have a subscription pay wall that immediately comes down. Most of the functionality is free, and allows you to do searches, log in, and overlay your social graph, and do some comparisons with competitors. The other feature is social graph tracking. That can track day-to-day changes to your social graph, and you can click on those days and see the new and lost followers, and sort by those days. That requires a subscription. Right now, our subscription is based on social graph size, starting at around $10 for a smaller graph, increasing accordingly.

Who are the ideal users for this--brands, celebrities, other users?

Peter Bray: All of the above. They might include social media managers, managing different brands in understanding different relationships on accounts they have. It might be a brand with multiple different Twitter properties, which they want to compare and sync up. An example of that might be Disneyland and Disneyworld. They might want to compare those two accounts, look at the different relationships of who is following which one, and sync up between those different accounts.

Anything interesting you've learned about Twitter in developing your tool?

Peter Bray: We've found that relationships matter. Even though most people concentrate on the number, more to the point, the thing on Twitter is that a few, critical relationships matter.

What's the next big thing for you?

Peter Bray: We're in the midst of a big redesign, where we'll be moving into other social networks, like Facebook and Pinterest, as their API comes along.

Finally, with all those different social networks, how do you as a brand handle all of that?

Peter Bray: For a brand, it's increasingly difficult. There are different ways of interacting in those networks, and I think that's where tools like ours can help you better understand who is listening. On Twitter, you might remember Newt Gingrich, who had over a million followers, but when someone did an analysis, most of them were dormant or spam accounts, who had never tweeted. Those are the kinds of things that support that instead of just blind numbers of followers, you need to better understand who those followers on. That's true not just on Twitter, but on any social network.



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