The Popular Stranger

A glimpse at the Twitter users who have about 1 million followers shows the expected collection of celebrities, entertainers and athletes. But among all of those notables is a Las Vegan who is far from a household name.

Roger Erik Tinch has more than 966,000 Twitter followers, a greater number than even ubiquitous Vegas “it” girl Holly Madison. You can go to his page and read about movies or tech-related posts, but exactly who is he? And how did he gain such a following?

Twitter users based in Vegas who have more than 1 million followers

Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather) 1.92 million

Tony Hsieh (@zappos) 1.88 million

Dana White (@danawhite) 1.73 million

Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) 1.71 million

Mike Tyson (@miketyson) 1.26 million

The Killers (@thekillers) 1.19 million

Tinch, a graphic design and Web development consultant, attributes his large following to being an early Twitter adopter. He was working for the CineVegas Film Festival when he started an @cinevegas account before going to the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007, about six months after Twitter debuted. “It wasn’t even big in Vegas then,” Tinch says. “Hotels weren’t even using it.”

Following Sundance, Tinch noticed an extremely rapid rise in the amount of @cinevegas followers, a surge that he learned stemmed from the account being part of a suggested user list sent out by Twitter. The account reached 1 million followers in 2009 before CineVegas went on hiatus the following year because of economic concerns.

After the festival went away, Tinch, who had been the voice of @cinevegas and owned the account, thought it strange to continue using that handle, so he changed it in early 2010 to @tinch. When he did, though, all those CineVegas followers automatically became @tinch followers. Tinch has been criticized for the move, but former CineVegas managing director Ian Jankelowitz says he has no problem with it.

Since CineVegas was a once-a-year event, Tinch used the Twitter account for personal reasons even before changing the handle so it wouldn’t sit dormant for long periods. But he says he has never used the account to Tweet about inflammatory topics such as politics or religion.

He retained the account’s followers, he says, on the chance that CineVegas resurfaces in the future. That way he won’t have to cultivate the festival’s followers all over again.

Since he changed his Twitter handle, Tinch has seen the number of his followers steadily decline. Some have simply dropped him, but some of the decrease is because of new software that blocks spambots—those phantom followers nobody needs anyway. Tinch says it’s all for the best.

“I’m not too worried about losing followers,” he says. “I’d rather have people who are interested in what I’m Tweeting about following me because you have more of an interaction there.”

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