Recently I hit the milestone of having 1,000 followers on Twitter. I’m not trying to boast, as I’m a big believer in quality over quantity, and I’m fortunate that both apply here. Still, it’s a convenient time to reflect on what that means.
1) Friending vs. Following
One of the more interesting paradigms with Twitter is that there isn’t the requirement of reciprocity that’s common on social networks. On Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn, two people need to agree to be each other’s friend. On Twitter, for all public accounts (which is the most common form), you can follow whoever you want, and there’s no need for the people you follow to agree.
There are many reasons why you might not follow someone back:
- They post too often
- They post too infrequently
- They only post about themselves
- They only post links with no commentary
- They’re boring
- You’re overwhelmed by your current volume from who you’re following and you’re cutting back
- You only follow people you really know
All those reasons are valid, and there are no questions asked (though if a significant other, boss, or client follows you, suck it up and follow them back to keep the peace, even if they fall into one of the bove buckets).
2) Some Followers Matter More
Not everyone following me matters. Okay, maybe that’s a little dismissive, but there are several tiers of followers:
a) Followers who are subscribing to your posts via IM or SMS so they get notified of each one
b) Followers who are active on Twitter and are reading your posts on a regular basis
c) Followers who don’t catch most of what you tweet but still see your tweets periodically, reinforcing your relevance in their network
d) Followers who connect with you because they know you or just think they should but never see anything you do; there’s still a bit of value in that first point of contact, and it could grow down the road
e) Followers who are following everyone just to try to get more people to follow or even notice them
f) Brands, organizations, or other non-humans following you because you follow them or because they found you in some Twitter search, but who won’t be going back and reading who they’re following (
g) Twitter spammers – the get rich quick schemers, snake oil salesmen, and the like (a subset of category "e" but more malicious; it’s the difference between a used car salesman who’s a nice enough guy but you’re wary of because of his profession, and the used car salesman who’s actively trying to screw you)
I’d estimate that about 10% of my followers fall into categories e, f, and g, and so they don’t matter as much to me; I don’t need to attract followers to inflate my own numbers. That percentage is definitely more than 5% and has to be lower than 20%, but it’s hard to keep track. And there’s no real way of knowing the breakouts for a, b, c, and d, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m just grateful they’re connecting with me here. (I also have no hard feelings for friends of mine who are on Twitter but don’t follow me; as mentioned previously, there are too many good reasons for that to take offense, and I don’t follow a number of people I respect immensely.)
In any case, maybe I’m Tweeting about this milestone too early. If it’s really 20% who are in the ‘don’t matter’ bucket of followers, should I wait until I get to 1,200? The content of this post would be the same regardless; the number’s just for convenience.
3) Value of Network
Twitter gets increasingly valuable as more people follow you since, generally speaking, you’ll have more people in the a, b, and c buckets above who might make for meaningful interactions. If you have a question, there are more people who can answer. If you have a great link to share, more people will get to see it. If you respond to someone, more people may provide their thoughts to that response.
An added bonus is that the size and quality of your network aren’t all that matter. I recently posted that a friend needed help setting up a blog, and the one person who responded wasn’t even following me (he was probably just tracking relevant keywords like WordPress). It wound up being a good fit, and the blog launched that day because of it. So you could have no one following you and still reap the benefits of people listening.
Having followers helps though. To my followers, thank you, and let me know how I can make my posts and interactions with you more meaningful.
Update: Be sure to read the comments. There are some very thoughtful, interesting stories of how people are using Twitter (and a couple ideas that I might include in a new version of this post). If you do comment – as I hope you do if you’re so inclined – be sure to mention your Twitter name.