Why the world's most popular tweeters are clustered in a handful of American cities—and Brazil

Lady Gaga, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Britney Spears, and of course Kim Kardashian top the list of the world’s most followed people on Twitter. No surprises there. But which cities pack the most Twitter punch?

To get at this my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Zara Matheson broke down Twitoholic’s list of the top 500 most followed tweeters by city.

Los Angeles comes out on top with 125 of the world’s top 500 tweeters, a full quarter of the total, followed by more than 285 million people. Eighty-nine of the top 500 tweeters (18 percent of the total) are in second place New York, and they command more than 190 million followers. San Francisco is in third place with 23, 4.6 percent of the total. The other top-ranked American cities are Washington, D.C., and Atlanta with 13 each, Seattle with eight, and Chicago, Nashville, Las Vegas and Miami with seven each. San Jose has six, and Austin five.

All told, the United States accounts for a whopping 358 of the twitter 500, nearly three-quarters of the total, with 780 million followers worldwide. The second place nation is Brazil, with 42 (8.4 percent) of the world’s 500 top tweeters and 78 million followers – considerably less than Los Angeles or New York and about the same as San Francisco and D.C. combined. The United Kingdom comes in third with 40 top tweeters (8 percent) and 65 million followers; Spain is fourth with 10 (2 percent) and 21 million followers, about as many as Chicago. India is fifth with 9 (1.8 percent) and Mexico sixth with 8 (1.6 percent). The top tweeters in these countries claim roughly 12 million followers, about the same as Miami or Las Vegas.

One explanation for America’s dominance is that it had a head start: Twitter was created and launched in the U.S. Most top U.S. accounts were registered earlier than those in other countries, and there is a clear relationship between how long an account has been active and how many followers it has accrued. It’s likely that American dominance will weaken somewhat as tweeters in other countries catch up. But that is clearly not the whole story.

Attention, it is often said, functions as an increasingly important currency in the post-industrial world. Between Hollywood and Madison Avenue, New York and Los Angeles are world capitals of celebrity and branding—it is only to be expected that they would dominate the twitterverse’s attention economy as well. It may not be the most finely calibrated gauge, but Twitter provides a revealing glimpse into our evolving cultural geography.

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