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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

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