The Value of Twitter Followers: Quality Over Quantity

Twitter followers have become the status symbol of 2009, but how valuable are they, really? I think we’re placing too much importance on the numbers and paying far too little attention to the actual reasons why followers can be valuable to us.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t want to have a lot of followers. I’m saying that you don’t want to have a lot of the wrong followers. There is nothing to be gained by accumulating “empty” followers. Why? Because they are not listening to you! Your core followers — those you who actually listen to you and interact with you — are the real value of Twitter, and that’s why you should never, ever automate your Twitter account to increase follower count.

How Auto-Gathered Followers Hurt You

There are services available that claim to increase your follower account automatically. These are a bad idea, however, because auto-gathering followers creates:

  • Chaos and noise on your Twitter stream if part of the automated follower-building process you’ve adopted entails “auto-following back.” That reduces the value of your Twitter stream as a listening tool and information source.
  • Followers who aren’t listening to what you have to say. That diminishes the value of marketing anything on Twitter and reduces the chance of being heard at all.
  • Overinflated follower numbers, which are a turn-off for those looking to make meaningful connections. Many people use the “follow-to-follower ratio” as part of assessing someone’s “worth” on Twitter, as opposed to sheer number of followers. For example, if someone is following 48,895 people and has 46,975 followers, that looks suspiciously like they are fishing for followers rather than genuinely interested in interaction.
  • Automated activity in your Twitter account that you don’t control.
  • The possibility that your Twitter password gets into the hands of an untrusted third party.

Twitter Doesn’t Measure Your Worth

A common mistake many people make about Twitter (or any other social media tool) is that quantity matters more than quality and, as a result, an ever-increasing number of services out there that offer to get you thousands of additional followers. But thousands of additional followers who aren’t listening to what you have to say aren’t worth much at all. Your value isn’t based on your follower count, it’s based on the value of our interactions, the strength of our relationships, the nature of our reputation, and the integrity with which we use our communications tools.

Let’s get this straight: Twitter is a communications tool. Yes, communications tools can be used for a variety of activities. That includes marketing, as the basis of good marketing is good communications. But the idea that you can just jump onto Twitter and instantly get in front of thousands of new customers is a sham.

Using Twitter Sensibly

Some sensible reasons to get onto Twitter include:

  • To learn about a new communications tool and how to use it well.
  • To communicate your point of view or people with whom you want to interact.
  • To have more mobile or flexible methods of communications.

If Twitter doesn’t seem to be helping you to achieve your goals, then what? For most people, the first 30 days of Twitter is full of chaos, confusion and question marks. If you have the time, patience and determination, push through those early days, and you will most likely find some real benefits from using Twitter properly. But if you don’t, don’t sweat it, and don’t get lured in by schemes promising lots of followers easily. Focus on the tools that work best for you, and use them well.

Why People Follow Each Other

Unless you’re stuck in a “popularity contest” mentality, you probably follow someone else for one of the following reasons:

  • You know them.
  • You want to know them.
  • You know someone who knows them.
  • You like what the person tweets or what they stand for.
  • You have discovered them elsewhere and want to follow them in a more real-time manner.

Let’s cut through the hype, the barrage of “get followers quick” schemes, and an unrealistic need to accumulate a lot of followers in order to be “more effective,” and realize that the tools we use are only effective when we use them well, and don’t abuse them or try to game the system for greed and indiscriminate gain.

Slow down; be thoughtful; use courtesy. There are real people on the other side of a tweet. Handle with care.

How do you feel about the followers on Twitter, and how do you discern who you’ll follow and who you won’t?

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