The Truth About Twitter’s ‘Suggested Users’ List

Word broke recently that Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis had offered Twitter $250,000 for a spot on its coveted “Suggested Users” list. Calacanis has now upped his offer to $500,000 for three years in prime position.

The “Suggested Users” list, which is displayed to new Twitter members after they create their account, can deliver 5,000 to 10,000 new followers a day, Calacanis says — leading him to call the placement the “next Super Bowl ad.” So how does Twitter actually determine who gets on the list? Twitter’s Biz Stone is opening up about the process.

The ‘Suggested Users’ Process

In a new blog posting, Stone describes the “Suggested Users” list as being “a bit like your local book store’s staff picks,” only with a twist: The selection process is partially automated. A custom program scans active accounts for some “key ingredients,” Stone says, which include how complete of a profile it has, how interesting it appears to other users, and a few other unspecified “signals.”

From the short list generated by that system, Stone and other Twitter execs start evaluating and looking for the right match. Their considerations, as Stone explains them:

“Is the account a good introduction to Twittering for a new user? Does the person or organization running the account have a fairly wide or mainstream appeal? If they are a celebrity or business, have we confirmed it’s really them?”

If someone is still on the list after those questions, the Twitter team does a “gut check internally with a couple folks.” Pass the gut check, and you’re in. At least, in theory.

An Evolving Entity

Stone says the list does continually evolve and expand, even though only 20 users are displayed at any given time. Interestingly, he explicitly states that Twitter isn’t paid to include anyone — suggesting that, perhaps, Mr. Calacanis’s offer may not go far. Still, the door hasn’t been closed.

“That’s how we’re doing the list today,” Stone says. “We may very well change the way we populate this list or stop using it altogether if there is some other way to get the job done.”