Why numbers are not everything on Twitter

p Riiiight....

So subtle I almost didn’t see it! :p Riiiight….

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!

For suggestions on how to grow your followers effectively, please see this aticle by @blondishnet here.

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!)

My personal web page is here, and you can, of course, join me on Twitter.


11 thoughts on “Why numbers are not everything on Twitter

  1. Well said, Bud. I’m afraid that at the beginning I was guilty of being hoodwinked into the creed of numbers are everything on Twitter, but I do agree with you. Relationships are what count. I’m just not very sure about how you go about that on Twitter. I’m very new to it. Mel Menzies, author of A Painful Post Mortem

  2. Normally, I say “nice post” or “very nice post”, however your posts is right on target if you are an arrogant jealous person who believes that they should not take the time to get to know anyone, then your are correct -it doesn’t matter how many followers you…let’s break down this a tad:

    Followers vs no followers:

    No Followers:

    1. You are basically non-existence as no one knows of you.
    2. You do not converse with anyone, thereby you have no knowledge of anything and you cannot suggest that if you experience or read then you have knowledge – knowledge is for sharing in order to gain understanding – thereby you have no knowledge
    3. You can’t increase your brand because your brand is about people and people are your brand –
    4. Your website(s) including Twitter is calling card, if you have no followers then you have no one to increase your brand, then you have nothing.


    1. You converse with others which brings you branding, knowledge, understanding, experiences to share with others thereby increasing your brand which increases your website(s) experience which increases you.
    2. Without people you are nothing – even Howard Hughes had people around him and he married.

    So if you believe that building relationships is spamming then I guess we are all spammers, especially me – I talk to everyone and yes I interrupt conversations all the time. I talk about many subjects from football to politics and yes I care about what people are thinking, their experiences and how it has shaped their lives –

    Maybe you aren’t interested or care about people but you don’t have sling mud about everyone else to defer how you handle your friends, acquaintances and business associates. And maybe the unfairness about your rant is that you can’t multi-task and it is hard for you. If that is the case – then let’s make this post a little more positive – wow look all those who have 25 zillion people and all of them talk to one another. And I thnk you need to look at their updates – also some followers just sit back watch the conversation…

    I get your point, I do – if you are on LI, FB or Perfect Networker then I would say colllecting connections is either a recruiter (which we know how they are) or someone trying to get their ranking on LI up – because you can’t – in real-time- have conversations on those sites – you can send a message wait forever for an answer or post a question and wait for answer -even the most well connected normally get 40 answers – unless they keep the question open for a year –

    Your “post a question for help and see how many you get” is flawed- not everyone can you with your challenge. Not everyone is on twitter at that time, if you don’t know how to use Twitter you may miss it and if you are like you, and don’t build relationships then no one will know you are and they will save their “favors” for those who build those relationships.

    Now again this is just my humble opinion and shouldn’t matter to you at all. However I think if you tweak your attitude a little and try a little harder – then you will see having more than 300 followers might actually be interesting in your future conversations. But then again…

    It is just my humble opinion.

    Thanks for the humor – JanSimpson

  3. Jan, thanks for the very thorough reply.
    I think you might have misinterpreted my position a bit. I don’t think building relationships is spamming at all. The post is just to clarify the misconception that number of followers = amount of influence, which is used to justify auto-following services. When you use an auto-follow service, it trolls twitter for you, and automatically follows any user it can find, in the hopes those users will follow back, and thereby increase your number of followers. My position is that simply numbers do not translate to influence, as using these spamming techniques, will mostly yield you followers who are also utilizing the same spamming techniques. These are not regular Twitter users, but people using Twitter as a marketing tool, and ultimately they fail, because even though their stats may be high, without the relationship that comes from being an active participant, nobody will pay attention to their tweets.

    There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of followers, so long as you are able to engage them, and build relationships with them. Certainly, the more followers you acquire, the more time-consuming this becomes, and the lower your percentage will be of active particpants, due to time contraints.

    For example, of my nearly 300 followers, I have only had time to personally get to know about 10%. If I had 3000 followers, rather than 10%, it would be less than 1%. The amount of time I can spend conversing and sharing with my followers, does not increase. It remains static. This is why, rather than running programs or services to follow everyone you possibly can, or even doing this manually, it is best to focus on putting the most time and energy you are able to, into giving back to the followers you have currently, instead of ignoring them in pursuit of more and more.

    Influence, which is the whole purpose of the “more followers is better” argument, is not actually determined directly by how many you have, but how many you can be relevant to, and reciprocity goes a long way, in keeping your followers interested in your tweets!

    It’s not a matter of mud-slinging. I, like many Twitter users, are simply tired of Twitter being used as a platform for incompetent marketers running auto-follow and then spamming links to try and make money off of those naive enough to watch their tweets. Fortunately, as I said, these people only demonstrate their failure to gian followers based on their own merits, rather than the politeness of the users they prey upon, and end up in closed conversations with themselves. Here, I use the term “conversations” loosely, since people who utilize auto-follow rarely engage in any, and predominantly post links, in which they have a personal stake in generating revenue off of.

  4. Now I say very nice post – I think the post gets a muddled with your examples and sets a tone that could lead to a misunderstanding. Also, I was sent to your post via another posts – which in all fairness to you – early moning, been with alzheimer patients most of yesterday which means normal sane convesations have a sound of insanity – no coffee – so I absolutely could have missed your point.

    And I totally agree with you on the numbers game – albeit some just like to watch and not participate and as I try to single those people and figure out how they want the relationship – sometimes I dont’ get an answer in return – so there you have it –

    Glad you like to discuss your posts – some dont’ and how sad –

    Good Job.

  5. I have to agree with you completely and have started following you on Twitter as a consequence of this post. I have helped a few of my friends and colleagues get into Twitter, and it tends to be those who are into the ego-stroking through whatever means get obsessed with numbers. Some of my followers/people I follow I feel close relationships with despite the fact I have never met them, and they are random follows on my part. Yes summing up – its quality of relationship versus quantity of followers that creates a great Twitter experience.

  6. (@blondishnet in twitter)

    This is more than I can say on the matter as I fully agree. It is more important to have meaningful conversations. The numbers only prove the shallowness if there is nothing in a person’s tweets that are substantial for another to either take back with them or even respond.

  7. Pingback: Are Numbers of Followers Important? | blondish.net

  8. Have belatedly come across your post – and very much appreciated the wisdom. Now following you on Twitter. 🙂

    As a newbie to Twitter (very new – a little over a week now) it mystified me this morning why a couple of new followers were following me, given I could see no synergy or connection at all between their bio, websites or tweets and my own.

    Of course it could have been that they thought something I had tweeted was blindingly brilliant .. but I had no such illusions. 😉 Thanks to your post, I’ve figured these were probably related to some kind of auto follow service. Mystery solved!


  9. Pingback: The Coverage Continues… News, Information, and Blog Posts for the Twitter Community | Talent HQ

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