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Influencers have been a part of the marketing world for a while now, but influencer marketing has come a long way since Michael Jackson sang about Pepsi.
Nowadays, social media is the place for influencers to collaborate with brands and promote their products.
In recent years, we have witnessed many strong influential women taking over the spotlight on social media and elsewhere.
Women are topping the Billboard charts, winning Nobel Prizes, changing legislation across the world. The most recent American elections saw a record number of women elected to take seats in the House of Representatives.
Social media is somewhat of a reflection of what’s going on in the society: from hashtags which start social movements to individual tweets that change opinions of millions of people.
And they do listen: with one tweet, Kylie Jenner was able to significantly damage Snapchat’s market value. That’s the true power of an influencer.

However, there’s one caveat with influencer marketing, and it’s identifying real influencers.
Vanity metrics, such as the number of followers, are often deceitful.
Even social media platforms, from Twitter to Instagram, understand that and try to eliminate fake followers and paid activity.
That’s why, to find the most influential women, we’ll look at several factors that may contribute to a person’s influence.
For the analysis, I will be using social data from Awario, a social listening tool (disclosure: I work for Awario), and native Twitter metrics such as the number of followers, retweets, likes, and replies.
Let’s start with the most frequently (ab)used metric: the follower count.
Most Followed Women on Twitter
My first step was identifying the most followed women on Twitter. Here are the top 10:

Name
Followers
Katy Perry
106,859,251
Rihanna
88,784,049
Taylor Swift
83,182,794
Lady Gaga
77,362,793
Ellen DeGeneres
76,760,435
Ariana Grande
59,950,012
Kim Kardashian
59,143,588
Demi Lovato
56,986,249
Selena Gomez
56,915,268
Britney Spears
56,444,463

For most people this would be enough: the more followers you have, the more loyal and passionate members of your audience there are, right? That makes sense.
But as I said before, the number of followers can be a misleading metric.
I wanted to go beyond it and dive deep into social data to find out who the most influential women on Twitter are, and what marketers can learn from them.
To find out their real influence, we need to see how people engage with an influencer, how much they talk about them, how they react to their social posts. An engaged audience is a loyal audience: these people are more likely to be impacted by influencer marketing when making purchase decisions.
That’s why I decided to calculate an ‘Engagement score’ for each account first.
Engagement Score
Firstly, I found the most popular (i.e., most frequently mentioned) women on Twitter. I selected top 25 women from this list for further research.
Then I used both native Twitter analytics and Awario to get more social data. Here are the metrics I used in my calculations.
The average number of retweets for the last 50 tweets.
The average number of replies for the last 50 tweets.
The average number of likes for the last 50 tweets.
The number of mentions from the last 30 days (both with and without the @ symbol).
I chose to pull the metrics from a certain number of tweets and not from the tweets from a certain period of time to make the research fairer: some influencers tweet much more often than others.
Overall, I processed more than 716,000 tweets.
Then I calculated the Engagement score using the following workflow:
For each metric, I found the highest number and assigned to it the value of 100 percent.
Then I cast the value for other influencers in relation to 100 percent. For example, since Ariana Grande has the biggest average number of retweets (39,303), I assigned 100 percent to this number and then calculated Demi Lovato’s retweets value by dividing her number of retweets by Ariana’s.
I did this for each of the four metrics: retweets, likes, replies, and social mentions.
Then I summarized the four final values for each influencer, divided it by four, and got an “x out of 100” score.
Now we have the results!
Here are the top 10 women by Engagement Score:

Name
Engagement Score
Average RT
Average likes
Average replies
Mentions
Ariana Grande
88
39,303
227,984
4,420
140,600
Demi Lovato
73
32,815
268,101
6,370
15,300
Hillary Clinton
45
9,610
41,560
6,604
54,100
Taylor Swift
36
25,537
12,217
617
94,300
Miley Cyrus
26
6,311
41,953
357
25,600
Cardi B
26
10,479
62,008
858
56,300
Selena Gomez
24
12,728
62,800
1,618
23,400
Rihanna
21
7,238
67,264
1,082
32,500
Lady Gaga
21
5,642
39,615
1,000
57,600
Emma Watson
21
10,265
104,579
976
3,700

But can we truly call these women the most influential?
Final Top 10
The engagement and social media buzz you generate is undoubtedly important. However, the follower count shows how many people want to consistently interact with you on social media, so maybe I was too quick to discard this metric.
There must be a golden mean, so I decided to include the number of followers in my formula to calculate the ultimate Influence score. And now we have our final list!

Here you can take a look at the raw data for the top 25 most influential women on Twitter.
As you see, the most followed account on Twitter (not just out of women, but in general) doesn’t get that much engagement, which placed Katy Perry at the sixth place on our list.
But why does the seemingly logical assumption that the more followers you get the more engaged members of your audience there are proves to be wrong?
The Mystery Behind the Follower Count
Now we know that the number of followers doesn’t always indicate real influence. There might be a few reasons for that:
Bots. The first thing that comes to mind is fake followers and bots which blow up the follower count. Scrolling through Katy Perry’s followers, you will come across a lot of profiles like this:

But before you light your torches, Katy Perry might not be the one to blame here. Bots and fake accounts usually follow the most popular accounts automatically, so it’s doubtful that Katy Perry is paying for more numbers in her follower count. It’s much more likely that bots are just naturally drawn to her account.
Time. Fame can be quite fleeting. Katy Perry might have been all the rage in 2013 when the number of Twitter users was growing rapidly, but she’s not anymore. So the account is left with thousands of followers who are no longer actively using Twitter.
What Do the Most Influential Women Tweet About?
After discovering the real influencers, let’s figure out how they managed to build such a dedicated audience.
The first thing you notice is that most women on the list are pop artists; only the last three places are occupied by women of other professions. The average age for women on the list is 37 years, and they are all American.
But what do these women tweet about?
To find out, I looked through their feeds and used this tool to generate word clouds for the top 5 women on the list based on their last 2,000 tweets.
1. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande’s most tweeted words (last 2,000 tweets)
Ariana Grande is one of the most successful singers of our time, but it’s not what takes her to the top of our list.
If we take a look at her Twitter, there is one thing that separates her from the other women on our list: she doesn’t shy away from interacting with people. And not just other celebrities – she talks to her fans all the time.

Influencers who engage with their audience naturally build stronger relationships with them and, as a result, have a stronger influence on them.
So when choosing an influencer to work with, take note of how often they interact with their audience.
2. Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato’s most tweeted words (last 2,000 tweets)
Demi Lovato is another pop star on the list. She posts a lot of updates and promotional tweets that have to do with her music, but she also tweets random thoughts, talks about her life, and addresses rumors.

What we can learn from her is that being genuine and direct will help you to connect with your audience.
3. Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s most tweeted words (last 2,000 tweets)
Taylor Swift hasn’t been very active lately, tweeting less than one tweet a week on average. However, she knows how to be successful on social media.
As you see, one of her most tweeted words is “reputaylurking.” Taylor used this hashtag after the release of her latest album, retweeting photos of her fans with the album.
In the marketing world, we would call it a user-generated content campaign, and Taylor’s Twitter is a perfect example of how successful this tactic can be.
4. Rihanna

Rihanna’s most tweeted words (last 2,000 tweets)
Rihanna is also a singer, but she hasn’t released any new music in a while. Instead, she’s focused on her business: makeup and lingerie companies (that’s where the words “collection,” “savagexfenty,” and “sephora” come from).
Her latest tweets were mostly dedicated to the launches of new products, but the tweets that generated the most engagement as of late were the ones about elections.

The lesson we can learn from Rihanna is not to be afraid to take a stance on political and social issues. One of the most successful influencer campaigns, Nike’s “Believe in something,” featured an influencer with a strong political message, so if you believe in something, don’t shy away from preaching it!
5. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s most tweeted words (last 2,000 tweets)
Lady Gaga also engages in political issues and tweets a lot about current events.
She directly addresses her fans to encourage them to join charities and social movements. Such social awareness, coupled with her recent Hollywood success, landed her at the fifth place on our list.

Marketing Takeaway
So now we are certain: vanity metrics, such as the number of followers, do not reflect the real influence.
To win over new customers through influencer marketing, you need an engaged and loyal audience: bots are not going to buy your product.
As with everything on social media, there are trends for influencers. For example, Cardi B doesn’t have nearly as many followers or interactions as some other women on our list, but she is the fourth most talked about woman on Twitter.
By using social listening, you can identify how much buzz an influencer has around them, and, therefore, predict how much buzz your social media campaign will generate with them.
Many tactics can help you build your audience:
Consistent engagement with your followers.
Socially relevant content.
Staying on top of trends.
But, apparently, there is one key to success on social media that is much more powerful than all of these tactics:
Love.

Top 10 women’s most tweeted words (last 20,000 tweets)
More Resources:
Image Credits
In-post Images/Screenshots: Created/taken by author, January 2019

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