There’s a lot of focus on numbers on twitter. Of these numbers, the most important, which is actually updates, is quite often forgotten, in place of the tired following/followers stats that all the “Twitterati” and “Twitterati wannabes” obsess over. It’s easy to get caught up in the quest for Twitter dominance through numbers. The simple fact is, the number of followers does not, in any way shape or form, act as a legitimate gage of the quality of a given account. This is a truth that should be self-evident, using the service for a week, let alone a month or a year, and yet so many regular users of the service, fall prey to the misconception that followers = endorsements.
I’ll be using my own Twitter account as an example here. I am far from an expert, but I’ve made certain observations that I’d like to share. I follow Nearly 300 people, and have about the same amount following me. It might not seen like much, but I should point out, I add an average of 1-2 followers per day, with the rest of my follows being follow-backs. I, like others, believe it is proper to follow back any real person who expresses an interest in following my tweets. Hey, I might not be into horses much myself, but if you’re following me, I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt that you enjoy my tweets, and I’ll follow back in the interest of etiquette. I make no exceptions to this. The only time I do not follow back, is where the account is an organization I am opposed to or not interested in, or an mlm business that does not even have the pretense of a personality behind it.
I’m not focused on following (in order to get follow backs), like so many people using Twitter as a platform for influencing other people, whether it be to buy their products, or buy into their political or religious beliefs. I spend the time they put into blindly following random users, into cultivating relationships with my followers. Relationships are where the true power-structure is in Twitter, because until you build relationships, nobody really cares about your content.
You might be running autofollow services to show your Twitter prowess, and acquire a few thousand followers within a day or two, in the process. The only thing you have really accomplished is broadcasting to the rest of us, that you are a failure. You fail so hard at attracting people, that the only way you can increase your count, is by randomly following others in the hopes they follow back… You wake up the next day and look at your stats, and a big stupid smile appears on your face, while you spam your links… It quickly turns to a frown when, much to your surprise, you have realized nearly no traffic from those tweets. Allow me to enlighten you, on what has happened. You see, you followed people at random soley to try and increase your own followers. Real people chose not to follow you back, probably because through a combination of your tweets and your following/followers ratio, or your meager amount of updates, they can see you’re a spammer. The only people who consistently followed back, are the same SEO-style rejects with their mlm schemes or link-spamming techniques that you yourself are so fond of. In other words, just as you are not paying attention to their updates, they are not paying attention to yours. You people have a sort of a closed-circuit spammer network established. Sure, you get some impressive numbers, but you are all talking to yourselves! Suddenly not very impressive at all, because your numbers can not translate into influence. In fact, most people are not even seeing your tweets, let alone being influenced by them. You’re being followed by thousands of YOU, and are you reading tweets?
Anyone can get numbers. It doesn’t impress me. It shouldn’t impress anyone, except the most new and inept of Twitter users, as there are several free services which offer the auto-follow/unfollow spamming technique to whoever wishes to sign up and activate it. It’s an exercise in self-degradation, and the only value it has, is in appearances, but it comes at the cost of credibility, and skews your stats completely.
I might only have 300 people on my list, but that is 300 people more than your average spammer with 6000 followers, where followers mean other spammer accounts. I’ve watched some of these guys, even some of the “cult of personality” types who are self-proclaimed CEOs of one internet-based business or another. I’ve seen them post questions, and get 2 replies. I’ve posted questions, and received 10. If we do the math, I can see quite clearly that although my numbers may be smaller, the amount of followers I have engaged is certainly larger. That’s what matters, whether you are using Twitter as a marketing platform, or simply a social networking tool. How many people have you built relationships with? How many people have you engaged? If you focus on these questions, the numbers will come by themselves, and when they do, you’ll know it means something.
If you think I am wrong, do your own test. Post a simple question to your followers, one that the majority should be able to answer, while asking for their help, and see over a 24 hour period how many of them bother to respond. You’ll know right then how many followers you truly have, no matter what your auto-follow inflated stats tell you.
Twitter is, despite the presence of “celebrity”, a great equalizer, in that, as time goes on, those who ultimately become the most successful, will be those who most engage their followers, and have a relationship based on reciprocity with them. Unfortunately, Twitter is in it’s infancy, and we see the Twitterati types, and the @wilw’s, who lack even the pretense they care what their followers have to say, coasting to greater heights on their dubious celebrity status alone. We also see the auto-follow goons, rising into the top positions, like @astrospace, who is perhaps one of the most legendary for using this spamming technique, to acquire over 25 thousand followers. This is all well and good for now, because their numbers are being inflated only through new users. Once the influx of new users to Twitter plateaus, we’ll see where they truly stand. In the end, people will value themselves enough not to follow Twitter celebrities of any type, who refuse to follow back or engage in the type of back and forth dialogue, Twitter thrives upon, and won’t buy into the followers = endorsements argument put forward by these tweet whores and spammers. Right now, Twitter is attracting new users who perceive it as an opportunity to “interact with those types of people I normally would not have access to”. As we move forward, those people will realize, through this platform, that the very people they held on a pedestal, are just people after all… some are cool, and some are self-absorbed jerks, and if they don’t care what you have to say, why should you care about them? I’m so bitter! Why won’t you notice me, @wilw?!?! Err… I mean, yes, we will move on… in time.
p.s. @wilw, dm me, and I’ll replace your name with Levar’s. Just one little dm… come on, Welsey, show me the love!
To keep an eye on the @tweepl project, which is attempting to provide evidence for the same type of sentiments expressed here, please visit this site. (Note: You might choose to not follow @tweepl at this time, to preserve the integrity of the experiment. @tweepl might find you!)