One of the first things you probably noticed when joining Twitter is the number of followers people have. And those numbers can be really large. The top current Twitter user has 80,000+ followers (we won’t count Barack Obama’s 151,000 follower’s). See full list of top 100 ss3svc64.exe on startup.
Although the core premise behind Twitter is about interaction between people—building a community and relationships, many people place a huge emphasis on the number of followers they have.
To many, the number of followers designates their popularity — their social standing in the the Twitter community. And for the most part, this is true.
People Like Being Followed
People like being “followed” by other people using Twitter. Part can be attributed to the ego boost from being popular and part to the opportunity to connect with others. And if you’re a business marketer, this can also mean a huge boost in revenue. For example, Dell made $1 million dollars last year from tweeting special offers to their followers.
That said, it’s important to remember; it’s not just about the number’s. It’s about engagement.
Who’s Engaging With You?
Now ask yourself the following questions and make a list of Twitter user names for each.
- How many Twitters do you engage with on a regular basis?
- How many actively engage with you?
- How many followers actively respond to your questions or requests for help?
- How many followers ReTweet (RT) your tweets?
- How many followers actually click on the links you’ve included in your tweets?
- How many followers Direct Message (DM) you (outside of auto messages from following them)?
- How many followers simply say “thank you” when you help them and/or promote their tweets?
Now, make a list containing all the followers you listed above and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the number of actual quality people who are following you.
Don’t be surprised if that number is small.
The truth is, there are only so many people you can follow and actively interact with. Think about it. Outside of any other communication, do you think a popular Twitter user such as @problogger (who currently has 22,113 followers and is following 5,283 people) can actively engage and build a relationships with 5,283 people?
If he can, I really want to know his secret. In reality, he probably interacts with a couple dozen on a regular basis. Otherwise, he’d need to tweet once every 16 seconds in order to cover every person he follows.
I’m not saying that following a bunch of people is bad. Only that there is only so much time in the day.
Remember, the majority of people following you are doing so because they’re more interested in what they can learn from you rather than wanting to become your “friend”. But that also isn’t a bad thing because people follow people with common interests.
So it comes down to this; Quality vs. Quantity.
When Quantity is Bad
If you’re looking to build quantity, you can simply follow everyone. Then a percentage of those you’ve followed will automatically follow you back and your follower count will increase. Heck, you can use a script to automatically do this for you and you can have a couple thousand followers in no time. But why?
The majority of twitters using scripts to follow others are spammers pitching their products and services. To them, it’s a numbers game. The more people they follow, more follow back, and then the spammer can auto DM new followers a sales message and website link. And I don’t know of anyone who like receiving that kind of crude.
To quote what has already been said by @acclimedia,
“Sure, you can play the numbers game successfully but quality suffers. I’d prefer 10 substantive relationships over 1k empty ones.” (tweet)
Now, you may not care if a bunch of spammers follow you. I mean, they’re not really hurting you, right? Wrong.
Although spammers may not directly affect what you see, they do affect what potential followers see.
I, for one, look at the profiles of those who are following me, and in turn, who is following them. I do this in order to gauge whether I want to follow them back. If I see they have what appears to be a bunch of spammers following them, I have to seriously consider why they didn’t block the spammer. If I have to think about it, I generally won’t follow back. Now, that isn’t the only factor I take into consideration, but it is one of them.
Which brings me back to Twitter and their commendable efforts to create a tighter and higher quality community.
Twitter is currently in progress of “cleaning house” by implementing a spam list removal protocol which will remove of old, non-used (read dormant) accounts and those they have marked as spammers. This quote from their blog;
we’ll be releasing a change later this afternoon that will start removing deleted and suspended users from your list of followers. As this hasn’t been cleaned up previously, you may notice your follower counts go down. This is to be expected.
I don’t know how often this will happen but I hope it’s at least a few times a year, if not on an on-going basis.
As this happens, you will be losing followers. And as numbers work, the more followers you have, the more you can expect to lose.
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Good for you. Good for all!
This loss means you will now have a more focused group of followers you can engage with and will hopefully engage with you.
As an added bonus, if you happen to like Twitter rating sites like Twiiter Grader, that loss will actually improve your score.
In conclusion, if you’re jumping into the Twitter community looking to build huge numbers, you can easily do that through some sleazy and unscrupulous methods. But in the end, people will unfollow you and you’ll be back to square one.