Here’s an alarming statistic: Twitter now drives 20% of the total traffic on my other blog, Twenty Set.

Surprised? I’m not. Twitter is starting to rival Google in terms of traffic. Which shows that Twitter is clearly an incredible marketing tool, even when you don’t have that many followers. (I only have slightly over 5,000.)

This article is not about how to build a following on Twitter though. Instead, it’s about how to value your following on Twitter, because the marketing strategy I endorse for Twitter is finding a quality community on Twitter that helps you achieve results rather than just a big following. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a big following. That can be important too!)

The overarching question is: what makes a Twitter’er in your community valuable? Look at just one of your Twitter’ers to get an idea. There are certainly many different opinions about what factors could contribute to a Twitter’ers value to you, but I’ve narrowed these down to eight major factors and tools to help analyze your current Twitter stream:

Whether the Twitter’er tweets about topics you’re interested in

This is the first and foremost reason you would want to follow anyone. If the information a Twitter’er tweets is relevant to you, then you are gaining value in the form of information, even if you don’t interact with the person. NOTE: If the Twitter’er does not tweet about topics you’re interested in, they detract value from your community because they add noise with their tweets.

Tools: Twellow

Whether the Twitterer follows you back

Without a Twitterer who is following you back, you don’t have much of a valuation. I know some people will disagree with me on this one, but my argument is if someone is following you back, there is an opportunity for them to see your messages. If they are not following you back, you may as well not exist to them. Clearly, someone who is following you back is worth more than someone who is not.

Tools: Twitter Karma, Qwitter, SocialToo

How often the Twitterer tweets

Engagement is vital to the success of the Twitter community. A Twitterer who tweets often probably pays more attention to their Twitter stream, which means they are more likely to interact with you on Twitter. Heavy users also share more information with you, and are less likely to become a stagnant account that hasn’t updated in awhile.

Tools: UnTweeps

How often the Twitterer tweets @ replies

If a Twitterer has a high percentage of @ replies in his or her tweets, this is also a good indication of how engaged the user is with the Twitter community. A more engaged user should have a higher valuation to you.

Tools: TwitterAnalyzer

Bonus Tip: Good for many other stats on you or your friends too!

How often the Twitterer retweets (RT)

One of the greatest values of having followers is when they retweet the content that you’ve written. The Twitterers who retweet others’ content most often should have a higher valuation to you.

Tools: RetweetRank, Retweetist

How often a Twitterer @’s or RT’s YOU

They say past performance is a good indicator of future performance. So it follows that if someone has retweeted or replied to you in the past, they may be more likely to do this in the future.

Tools: TwitterSearch

Whether the Twitterer tweets about the same topics you tweet about

If a Twitterer does retweet, the chance of that Twitterer retweeting you depends on whether the two of you tweet about the same topics. If you do, your chances of getting retweeted by this person will be higher than if you don’t share the same topics.

Tools: TwitterSheep

Whether the Twitter’ers followers are similar to your followers

If the Twitter’ers followers are completely the same as your followers (extremely unlikely) and he retweets you, it’s essentially like you tweeting the same thing twice. So you can see how the more alike your set of followers are, the less reach you are getting from one follower retweeting you.

At the same time, when a message is endorsed over and over again by multiple sources in the same community, that creates buzz within the community. There could be a positive effect rather than a negative one here.

Tools: FriendOrFollow