Is that title seemingly schizophrenic? Yes, but on purpose. I started this post, and set it aside, and then lo and behold, Max Kalehoff at AttentionMax wrote about it in a very similar fashion. So, go read his post, then come back here.
Here’s the problem with Twitter follower counts…
To some, it does matter. They want to amass the most followers to their message gets out to the largest number of people, and they (perhaps) feel a bit of an ego rush because they have 50,000 followers or whatever the case may be. It shouldn’t matter, though, because there are scams (no idea if they work) to instantly gain followers, so that number might not even be real. Plus, at any given point, 10% (or so) of followers are porn, spam, and robots – unless you actively police and block that.
To others, it doesn’t matter. When you strip away the ego and the superficiality of it all, it so doesn’t matter. And if you read this, you probably know that. It comes down to you using Twitter the way you want to use it (Chris Brogan says you’re doing it wrong anyway). People follow you for a reason (more on that below). So if you have 10 or 10,000 followers, that’s the right number. Want more? Continue doing what you did to get the first x followers. If you’re on Twitter for a numbers game, go play the lottery.
Here’s where I think the two follower mantras co-exist.
When I get a notification that someone is now following me (I use Topify, and it’s awesome), I look at a few key things for me to determine if I follow them back. Do they have a picture? And is it of them or a reasonable facsimile, or is it a sunset or something else? Is their bio complete? What did they recently tweet? How many people do they follow? And… how many followers do they have?
I look at that number. How can I not? Who doesn’t? (you’re probably lying if you say you don’t) But… if you’re using it as the sole reason to make a decision on whether you should follow someone, you’re doing it wrong. I look for a picture because it gives them depth and a sense of vulnerability (“Hey, it’s me, and not the beach.”). I look for a bio, because it lets me know what they might tweet about, or a sense of interest. I look at recent past tweets to ensure that they don’t blast out inane stuff (though this can be misleading). I look at the follower/following counts to get a sense of their ratio and try to determine if they are a broadcaster, lurker, or sharer. And, I look at how long they’ve been on Twitter. If someone joined Twitter only hours ago, are following a ton of people, don’t have a lot of people following them, and have a picture and a bio – I’ll follow them back, even though their follower count is low (they’re just starting out). There’s a good chance that it’s a real, human person.
For me, and for how I use Twitter, that’s important.
How about you? What do you value most in a person’s Twitter ‘composition’?
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