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?



This was an amazing post, glad to have looked at it again, there is much power in Quality over Quantity, I had a in depth conversation about that subject with @aznextgov and found that many of the thoughts shared in this post were also part of my views on the matter.

The ratio aspect I thought was interesting, and looking at my own numbers that is certainly something to take into consideration, in order to improve @knatchwa on twitter.

Recently I started removing those news casts and the like from my main feed and putting them into a list, that way there is less noise on the feed and as a result I have a chance to see the amazing tweets that are shared with those who I retweet because of the value they offer.

This is really a powerful post, and thanks so much for putting it together, there is always more to learn and certainly I am a willing student.

Debby Bruck

Heyamaretto ~ I will take it as a compliment that you scrounged the internet to find my posting and felt it warranted placement in this blog. This is a continuation of the way people find each other through the power of words, blogs and twitter. Who knows what kind of connections you will make for further collaborations.

Hey ~ It’s also very flattering to find someone felt your thoughts were worthy to be repeated.

I do not considered myself one of the thousands who call themselves “Experts” in the field of Social Marketing. However, I have learned enough to teach others a thing or two.

Debby Everyone is welcome to visit Homeopathy World Community to learn about homeopathy and much more.


Is there a way to update my image on previous comment posts?

Simon Mackie

Debby, assuming you use Gravatar, as long as you used the same email address on all previous comments if you change your Gravatar all the images will change.


It is not about the amount of followers its all about the quantity of those followers. If your business has its own twitter account and you cater to those people that will use your service then it doesn’t matter how many followers you have as long as they are loyal.

Andy Kaplan-Myrth

In the early days of Twitter, followers were very important because that was the network that users shared information with, and it was how users had conversations. But now that it’s possible to follow hashtags, keywords and even usernames for people you don’t “follow” on Twitter, I find it’s much less important who I follow and who follows me.

Instead, I monitor the activity of some users that are particularly important to me, as well as particular keywords

Heidi Cool

Great post. Automated services, whether those that auto-follow in general or those that auto-follow on keyword terms can never substitute for human input. I’ve been slowly growing my following organically over time. I meet people through others I follow, people I connect with on LinkedIn, those I meet in Twitter live-chats such as #blogchat and #smchat etc.

When I get follower requests I look at their profile and Tweets to see if they are relevant to my world. I used to follow-back most, but now it’s probably down to 10% because of all the requests I get from follow-bots.

What strikes me as particularly silly is that the marketers don’t get it. A few months back I wrote an entry “MKTG 101: Social Media Marketing is still marketing: know your audience.” to explain to the marketers that you still need to target your audience. Whether you are trying to sell widgets or just want to connect with people who share your interest in fly-fishing, you need to focus on the people with a genuine interest in your topic. Doing so requires time and research, you can’t just auto-follow everyone who mentions the word fishing in a Tweet, or follow everyone on the planet in the hopes that the fly fishing folk will notice you in the noise.

That seems so obvious to you and me and the other commenters, yet people still think that amassing a million followers is some sort of worthwhile end goal. But it’s not a very productive goal, because it doesn’t help you to connect in any meaningful way. Cheers to you for spreading the voice of reason. – @hacool

Robert Auguste

Your post is totally dead on.

Authenticity is key and the challege is to build real realtionships within Twitters constraints i.e 140 characters

1) Follow vs friends ratio can be also misleading if you follow information sites like that don’t follow back eg Times, ESPN. You may actually have a balanced friend/follower ex news or real info sites that are followed.

2) Number sku’d by people who tweet less often vs more often.

3) high tweet days- I need to work on this but you may have one chatty day and it even some of your closet followers can be pushed to the edge. But those who stick through a high tweet day you may have may be in for the long run.

Rasheed Hooda

Excellent post. I have always been in favor of quality over quantity, regardless of what the venture is.



Oh good…I always suspected those get-rich-quick-by-getting-twitter-followers schemes.

Thanks for assurance.

Jannie Funster

AMEN to this post! I don’t feel like such a total outsider now, that I’m not following and being followed by thousands.

Real connections with real people are what social media is all about, thanks for the corroboration. Quality is most always better than quality,anyway.

Twitter Directory 2000

Well I agree quality is good but Twitter search itself ranks search results by the amount of followers you have, even tools like Wefollow. Maybe quantity is better than quality in the Twitter Nation.

Debby Bruck

I agree with Trina Roach. There are numerous ways to utilize Twitter. You may start out as an adventurer into a new land exploring the possibilities. Over time you develop your own style and purpose for using this communication “tool.” And that is what Twitter provides – a way to send and receive messages.

You could be transmitting static, or you can tune in to a clear channel.

Whatever you do is up to you. What did I get out of being directed to this article? I am now learning more about what Trina has to offer with her coaching skills. See how it works? Yeah, it really does.

Debby, CHOM Homeopathy World Community Homeopathy Heals

Harold Shaw

Michele – I prefer to have twitter active in the browser as a sidebar and then I dip in when I have the browser open, I just am not a fan of the desk top apps, I have Seesmic installed and like it to a point and have tried tweetdeck and wasn’t impressed.

I keep trying to simplify thing and have my apps do multiple duty.

Just contrary at times I guess – not really :)


Kathleen Hanover

I agree with Trina. I have several Twitter accounts. One “catchall” (@KathleenHanover); one political (@RonPaul_2012) and one for a new business venture I’ll be launching soon. The political account is essentially a news feeder for articles that feature my favorite politico. I set it up for my own use, and was surprised when people started following it. Now it’s turning into a little community. I’m not following anyone on that account (except myself) because I just want to see Ron Paul articles in the stream–that’s why I created the account. My conversations are in @replies.

My @KathleenHanover account is where I do a lot of my “businessy” stuff, and I use it to keep up with the leaders in my field, plus assorted friends, clients, business associates and thought leaders. I only follow people whose tweets I value, and I unfollow people who tweet every 3 seconds and push everyone else out of my stream.


Totally agree with everything above. Just had a quick recommendation – if you are overwhelmed by your twitter stream – you’re probably not using Tweetdeck or Seesmic or one of the other software tools which allow you to group your followers. You can still see your main twitter stream, but more closely follow those who especially interest you. They are very valuable tools (not scams or spam).

Harold Shaw

I guess I am one of those that agree with you, I tried the large number and found that the quality and quantity of my conversations decreased with the larger numbers of twitter followers. My twitter karma is low, I don’t really care how many people are following me, but in order to not experience overload in my twitter stream I only follow around 100 people and when I get to 125, I cull back to 100 again.

That way I would have the opportunity to actually “know” who is talking or providing me info.

Thanks for validating a bit, what I have been doing.



I totally agree with what you said about who you should follow. I’ve never understood the concept of follow-back just to get a large number of followers. What’s the point of following thousands to get a large number of followers if no one is reading any of the tweets?

I check Twitter a couple of times a day to check out my new followers to see if I want to follow them. I also read the tweets of those I’m following. In fact, that’s how I found this article.

Meryl Evans

I’ve noticed spammer-types manage to find a way to use tools to get BOTH numbers way up. So, if you have 3k+ followers/following — it’s not an automatic yes from me.

If I notice someone dominating my twitter stream or making wasteful comments, I take a closer look (we all have days when we stray from our routine) to see if it’s a chat or a temporary thing. Sometimes I notice it was all garbage and remove them.

In the early days, I didn’t quite know how to decide, but you learn with practice. So some of my earlier connections may not have been good ones.

Trina Roach

It really depends on why you are using a service like Twitter. If you are looking for more 1-on-1 communication with a finite group of people, then following a lot of people (or having them follow you) makes no sense whatsoever.

If you are functioning more as a professional entity and part of your reason for being on Twitter is to raise awareness about your business or service, it makes sense to follow people who, for example:

1. might be interested in your product/services,
2. are members of your peer group and can share wisdom/information/leads/etc.
3. are opinion/market leaders in your industry whom you want to stay in tune with

I check my direct messages and @replies daily, and try to read through my feeds and searches every few days. I comment on things of interest to me, so people know they aren’t just tweeting into a black hole (reciprocation appreciated!).

Usually when I touch bases with people several times, a more personal interaction begins. That can lead on to other things:

Having said that, I am still challenged each time I vet my followers: Who does it make sense to follow and who will just clutter my feed? I admit it’s still touch-and-go or trial-and-error for me at the moment.


Maybe I’m a bit old-skool, but the whole followers/following ratio thing doesn’t even come into question for me.

Unless they have recommended by a trusted source, before I follow someone I will actaully read some of their posts. If their updates are things I am interested in, then I’ll follow them, if not, then I won’t – whoever they are.

I don’t have many followers and I don’t really follow many people either; aside from the handful of people who I am actually interested in, I generally use the trending topics anyway just to see what’s *really* going on the world.

Sorry, that was a bit long – maybe we should have a 140 character limit on comments as well!


I absolutely agree – Twitter is great to stay in touch with friends who can’t be here, to get to know new, friendly and interesting people who share similar ideas and to get a better impression about what customers and business partners do and think about all day.

It’s not a competition and I absolutely don’t know how people who follow 10000+ people generated by a dubious online service can really interact with just a few of them, but I have to admit that the follow / follower ratio as well as the profile description help me to make a decision if I follow back or not.

This works very well and probably is the reason why I still love Twitter and made it a part of my daily lifestyle now – because it adds a certain kind of value to my business life.

John Michael

I AVOID all the so called “celebrities” who have hundreds of thousands, but follow in turn 12 people. They’re a waste of time & useless.

Interaction is the key & quality matters…

Charles McPhate

When I get a message that someone is following me on Twitter, I check to see who it is. Many times, it’s marketing-related, and I end up blocking the person from following me. I want the people who see my updates to actually care about what I have to say.

As for the people I choose to follow, there are occasions when I follow someone, then later unfollow them because they’re just cluttering up my stream. I just unfollowed two people and cut my updates list in half — no kidding. Those two people were just generating noise, and the people who mattered were getting lost in the clutter.


Have been on Twitter a few weeks – not many people I actually “know” use Twitter; it takes a while to understand it. You have to follow enough people with similar interests to make it interesting, but not so many that you can’t begin to read them all or get to know anything about them. Definitely quality trumps quantity.


You said what i think, i have no idea why people just simple follow someone even you don’t know who he/she is. For me, i will very careful to choose people to follow. Quality is more important than the quantity. Don’t make your twitter looks like a spam account.


I am so with you on this one! I actually read tweets, actually try to get value from the people I follow, actually think there needs to be a reason to follow someone. Where do the followers come from who are following hundreds of people and have never tweeted once themselves? Why would anyone follow them?


I really appreciated this posting. I am trying to figure out why so many people have close to an equal number of followers as people they follow- can you really keep up with 13,497 people’s conversation? Twitter should be a place to engage and communicate; read as well as write; listen as well as speak. Thoughts and comments back are appreciated!

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