I am always ready for a brainstorm. Call me at 866-a-web-guy.
What is the value of a Twitter follower to you? Is it going to make you the star of your high school football team? Will it make you prettier so you have a better shot in the cheerleader tryouts? Will you use that incredible popularity to turn it all into millions of dollars? What is it, really, that makes Twitter users so fascinated by gaining followers?
Why Do You Seek Twitter Followers?
It seems that having enough followers to fill a stadium provides some great sense of value, but unless you know what it is, or why you try so hard at increasing your fan base, perhaps it is best to slow the pace a bit and determine what you are after. This answer will be different for different people, but it is something I believe you should put your finger on before you try to game me for a follow and un-follow me as soon as I return-follow you. As one popular comedic act put it, “Homey don’t play dat!”
We all know that giving even the slightest glimpse of what you do to earn a living is totally taboo in social media. After all, this is social media folks … nobody here actually has a job or works for a living. If you have not already learned this lesson, you must not be following enough self-proclaimed social media experts or jealous antagonists who will try to sneak in their ads under the radar in hopes that people will swarm their Website and place orders without knowing that they are actually buying from somebody they follow on Twitter. O.K., you’ve got a whiff of my sarcasm, right?
The long and the short of it is that without either a desperate need for validation or a legitimate and useful business purpose, there should be no need to have a squillion followers!
The Nerdy Kid From Math Class
It is clear enough that many people using Twitter are doing so with the simple intent of having fun, meeting people, and enjoying learning the many wonders this smaller world offers. These are the ones so many of us like, because they pose little threat, and they are never trying to sell us something or teaching us how to get thousands of Twitter followers. They are also often the people without a massive base of followers, and not because they are not just as valued, but because they do not choose to participate in the popularity contest. Perhaps, in following my earlier comments regarding the star of the football team or cheerleader, this is the dork with the thick glasses and high-water pants. In this case, I feel right at home, because those are the kids I defended in school. Those are the kids I still talk to today. Those are the kids who somehow seemed real to me. Later, I found that they were also often the ones who avoided drug overdoses, divorce, jail, and many of the other things I watched the popular kids enjoy as their circle of friends crumbled and their popularity dwindled.
This nerdy kid from math class with only an itty-bitty follower count can be your best friend. I certainly find myself having meaningful chats with this nerd. The nerd knows me, and they know that I know them. They have earned my attention as I have theirs. They care what I have to say, and I care what they have to say. We may not always agree, but then, I disagreed with my wife once (but only once)!
This nerdy kid I write about may have only heard me because there was nobody else talking to them, or because they were only listening to people who cared enough to reach out and be their friend. What may shock you is that the same nerdy kid may also decide that once they know you and your intentions, they want to hire you, buy from you, tell others about you, or leave their estate in Hawaii to you.
This nerdy kid is the majority. This nerdy kid has my respect and my loyalty.
How “Cool People” Have Many Twitter Followers
We all see the “cool” people with their amazing number of Twitter followers, but don’t you sometimes wonder why so many people are following them? I can tell you the top four ways it happens:
They repeatedly follow as many people as Twitter will allow, because the vast majority of people will return the follow.
They promptly unfollow anybody not following them, so Twitter will allow them to follow more.
They represent a value to other Twitter users, and people want to hear what they have to say.
They have a television, radio, print, Internet, or other history that draws people to follow them on Twitter.
With regard to number one, this is something I personally do not find to be of great value. However, some people that I actually kind of like to follow are engaging in this on a regular basis. This is their way, and I do not hold a grudge, but I also know that there is a very miniscule number of people doing this who will ever deliver the value which their popularity would seemingly represent. This is a tactic used by millions of Twitter users … perhaps even you. It also yields the lowest probability of users reading what you tweet, responding to it, or having any interaction with you whatsoever.
Number two is a sad after-effect of number one. I have wanted to be the guy who follows all of the people who were so “interested” that they would follow my tweets. I still test this on occasion, but it has become just about as useless as number one. I recently tested this by blindly re-following roughly 1,000 people who were following my tweets. To put it mildly, I will say that I found many opportunities to get thousands of Twitter followers, buy more real estate, read more SEO blogs, and join in more games. Yet, I still cannot determine a single user from this test group with which I have held a useful conversation, read an interesting message from, or grown my business. The amazing and wonderful result was that it did grow my follower count! So what gives? Well, number one and number two are closely joined. It seems that when I return-follow each user following my Twitter feed, my following grows massively. This is largely why at this moment, there are 15,682 users following my Twitter feed. If I did not follow them, many would not stick around long enough to find whether I hold any value or not. They simply use a combination of steps one and two above. I have commonly re-followed most people who follow my Twitter feed, which I believe is useful so that they may direct message me if they should choose. However, even when I follow them, they should know that I do not see everything they send publicly … nobody following a massive number of people will. If they want me to see everything they say, they will engage in conversation, become my friend, be added to one of my Seesmic Desktop groups, grow their way to my “Follow Close” group, and then I will read every last word they ever tweet. Short of that, just having me follow them is less useful than putting an @murnahan in the tweet, because I read 100% of those!
On to number three from the list, I really hope and believe that I am one of these people. I share what I think, I tweet some funny, entertaining, and useful stuff. I engage with anybody who will talk to me, and I am available outside Twitter at any time of night or day. I am the guy who really does care to hear from you … try me!
Number four … well, I know some. One that comes to mind is Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk). I do follow Ashton, but that all started when Ashton followed my Twitter feed, and I wanted to be sure he could return message me directly after I sent him a direct message. Since that time, he has been pretty downright respectful toward me. We are not close buddies, but we do direct message back and forth once in a while. I sometimes suspect that he is actually seeing a lot more than people think he is. I have also heard through the grapevine that M. C. Hammer (@mchammer) is also a bit more saavy than one may anticipate. However, we can generally expect that this group will not show up for your next family reunion or holiday party.
Why Does Twitter Need Another Book?
After responding to a blog post criticizing this very topic of the hunt for huge numbers of followers, I read a response to my reply on that blog that said “If you need to read a book about Twitter, you’re doing it wrong“. Of course, to this, I found a great deal of inaccuracy. I would contend that the very greatest value of social media is to gain a greater understanding of those around us, and this applies to all of us, whether we are making friends or selling weight loss products and Viagra, like everybody else. To this point, I would suggest that I have a lot to share on the topic, and it seems that a good number of people have learned about Twitter from me.
Buy This or I Strangle The Nerdy Kid From Math Class!
Back to my high school bit from above: I try to joke, but I am also selling something here. I hope that you will buy it, read it, and learn a lot from it. Don’t worry … you are not alone. I will try my best to sell my upcoming book to millions of others who may need some help figuring out how to use Twitter better, what Twitter applications work the best, how to filter information better, and much more. I strongly believe and hope very much that my soon-to-be-released book will help people to realize a greater value from Twitter, relate to others better, respect the community of Twitter, and find it as more than an update service or spam venue.
I will not bug you about this, send you a ton of junk, or stoop to a level beneath me, but I would like to ask you to help me spread the word. If you have read this far, you clearly had some interest in what I have to say. If you are even in the slightest way inclined to help me get the word out, please enter a comment to this blog post. Tell me that you are interested in helping me to spread the word about my book, read my book, or that you are sick and tired of watching Twitter friends fade away because they are too flooded with new friends and don’t know how to add you to a group where they will still be reminded of you from time to time.
Ramble, ramble, ramble … note that I have recently been accustomed to writing lengthier topics. My book, Twitter for Business: Twitter for Friends” will be completed later this week, and in print in just a couple weeks. It took longer than expected to finalize, but mostly because I keep adding useful stuff to help the Twitter community. I hope that you will join me in this effort. If so, I humbly thank you, and assure you that I will do my best to not let you down.
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