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Over the last few months stories have appeared in the news and on blogs about the high spam and inactive followers many Twitter users have. I weighed in on this myself in a blog post back in August. The the fake and the lazy following you?. This had lead to a growing feeling that there should be a change in the way the influence of Twitter users is measured. The follower count has become, for most, the be all and end all of personal influence.

In this post I am not talking about celebrity accounts – those that have thousands and even millions of followers.  That, for me, is a different discussion.  Rather in this post I am talking about the average Joe – you and I – and how we interact on social platforms.

From a personal perspective my Twitter following has always been a measure of how many people I am reaching generally – a yardstick.  If I deliver a fantastic presentation a certain percentage will follow me. But I also know that there are probably a number in the audience that I did reach who are either not on Twitter. So if I get a few new followers I can add a few more in my head that I believe were impacted in some way.

For that reason I have always stayed away from any effort to artificially increase my follower count.  I was horrified to find out one day, about 6 months ago, how simple it is to do. As an experiment I randomly followed 20 accounts of users who have “social media” in their profiles.  Within a few hours I had 24 new people following me. Ever since then I view with great suspicion new followers that are following 10,000+ accounts themselves. I will not follow back and I know they are as good as a spam account.

The only platforms I have to increase my profile are this blog and the presentations that I do so my follower count remains a good yardstick. Of course it can be a frustration that it has not grown at a much faster rate but that is always motivation for me. It tells me I need to do more and better. There is, however satisfaction is knowing that when I do get followers they are, in the main, people who have a genuine desire to connect with *me*.

I do agree there needs to be a better way to measure the digital worth of someone. The follower count tends to be the main one but should be read in conjunction with other factors – their interaction, what they do on other platforms such as Facebook or Google+. In truth those that know do look a bit deeper than “oh, you have X followers.” Any change made by Twitter (and a number of suggestions have been made here. Will Twitter Replace your Follower Count?) will immediately be followed by a way to “game” the system.

When all is said and done it comes back to relationships. With a little bit of looking you can quickly see how interested a person is in building a relationship. Those are the people I want to follow and I hope will find me.

So stress not dear Twitter user: If you build it, they will come. (If you’re any good).

You can follow me, if you so choose, @ryanhogarth

Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



2 Response Comments

  • Arthur Charles Van WykOctober 10, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Great post. Great perspective. There is however no other way to measure your twitter juice but by the amount of people that follow you. I think the 24 people that followed you back were being polite enough to reciprocate rather than spam. 
    I have a personal Twitter law, which is to FOLLOW EVERYONE BACK until they give you a reason to unfollow, and that self-made law has seen me get close to 7.5K followers (of which 94% are real people according to my Twitter audit). Like you followed all the profiles with “social media” in it, people are searching for “Communicaton Speaker and Social Catalyst” right now and they’ll follow you if that’s what they find interesting. I too once believed that one should “interact” more, but by 2009 learnt that there are people who sit there and yearn to read what you tweet without ever retweeting or replying. You rock up at conference all of a sudden 200 people say they follow you on Twitter and enjoy your tweets. These will be people you’ve never “spoken” to on Twitter. 
    So follower count is perhaps not a very accurate measure of your Twitter juice because of its unquantifiablity as we know quantification, but it will always remain the best measure of Twitter juice.

    • Ryan HogarthOctober 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

      HI Arthur, thanks and your point is well taken.  I find it fascinating that for the most part we are all still working out the best way to do this and probably in most cases it is quite personal i.e. “what works for you”. The truth of it probably sits in the middle somewhere. However your point is correct in that once you get past a certain number of followers it is quite impossible to interact with each anyway and you’re being followed for what you have to say. Thanks for your input!