I love Twitter, I hate Twitter

use 022814twitter[1]use hate-twitter-281x300[1]I have made a real commitment to be more active on Twitter. My efforts thus far have been positive, but frustrating. I like Twitter; it is an excellent place to find information, learn and follow interesting people. I get inspiration for blogs and ideas to pitch the media for my public relations business. On a practical level, I use Twitter to help spread the media coverage we at Corbett Public Relations secure for our clients. I am guilty of a degree of self-promotion. When I get a media hit such as a TV interview or I am quoted in a publication such as Fast Company – which has happened in the past two months – I share this information and use it to start discussions.

Here is my frustration (and I know I am not alone): Why aren’t I getting more Twitter followers? The problem is I have been looking at Twitter in the wrong way. I suppose I am guilty of Twitter envy. I envy people who have amassed large numbers of followers. How can they do this? Why am I failing? My content is as good as theirs, so why are people not flocking to my Twitter account or my brand? After review and study I now have some of the answers.

It’s not about the number of followers. It is all about connecting with quality and engaged followers. People who will share your information, interact with you and potentially buy or refer business to you. To get hundreds or thousands upon thousands of people interested in you and your brand it takes personal effort.

It is no secret we want a lot of followers on social media – and not just on Twitter. There are many people and many accounts on Twitter that “fake it,” i.e., buy followers and don’t really engage. Without taking a close look at some “questionable” accounts, it’s hard to figure out how this is being done.

For example, if you look at an account that has good, consistent content you can readily see why people follow that person, right?

However, you need to look more closely. For me the realization came a few weeks ago when I was Tweeting 20 to 30 times a day. Yes, that was quite a bit for me, but I have not yet decided what the optimal number of tweets per day should be for me. This is something everyone needs to determine for themselves. We live and learn. During the days and weeks when I was very actively Tweeting, I was rewarded with new followers. It led to more favorites, retweets and direct messages. These were positive indicators that my content was interesting and appropriate for my brand.

However, after a spike in activity, I was not able to maintain the followers I had worked so hard to get. Why? Why did 5, 10 or 20 followers drop me in just a day or two? You have probably had this happen to you. Did I post something off color or offensive? Did I fail to thank a person for following me? Did I forget to follow somebody back? I think to a small degree that by not thanking a person or posting something that was deemed uninteresting to a person could be the cause for drop offs. However, losing 10 or 20 followers in a day seems odd.

What I have discovered – and I am not the first by far – is that there are simply tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Twitter users that are simply focused on the numbers game. They use “services” to buy followers or they follow large numbers of people, then if they do not get an immediate or near immediate follow back they unfollow. Sometimes they dump hundreds if not thousands of followers at a time. How do you know? There are a few clues, besides the drop in follower count. For example, look at a Twitter account that has a few hundred thousand followers. Ask if the person is well known? Are they a celebrity? If they are virtually unknown, a red flag should go up. If an account with a large number of followers is following around the same number of people who follow them, this too is a sign.

But the real sign is to look at sites like TwitterCounter.com or others that show the follow history of an account. A solid Twitter influencer who produces and shares quality content and engages with followers does not simply broadcast information or retweet.

Radice Graph

An example of a quality account/ influencer on Twitter.

If you look at an account like this and see a steady climb in both followers and those being followed, you have quality influencer. If you see a person with massive shifts in those whom they are following and in return see corresponding peaks in the number of followers, you know that something is not right.

2 Graph 4

1 Graph 3

These users are dumping followers to clear room to follow more people. The goal for them is to follow more people who will follow them back. This achieves the goal of getting followers and but can it produce marketing success? Perhaps business can be generated but it is built on a misconception that the person is more influential than they actually are. The individuals and accounts with tens of thousands of worthless followers have only an inflated perception of influence.

I am no longer interested in the numbers alone. Real and interested people will follow you when you present quality content, interact and listen to them, respond to their needs and concerns and share your personal knowledge and interest in helping them.

Consider news outlets – broadcasters: CNN (18.1 million), FOX News (5.33), USA Today (1.66 million) and Huffington Post (5.91 million). The outlets have millions of followers because of the content that they provide. We can learn from their example; while they don’t engage directly with readers, they do provide the content that readers want. People follow these news/media brands for the content. On the other side look at Guy Kawasaki (1.46 million) and Seth Godin (480,000) and others that are not multi-billion dollar international media companies but are personal brands (with successful organizations behind them) that produce the content that people want. People engage with them and relationships result.

Don’t be obsessed with the number of followers you have. Faking it or buying followers may work for a few, but these accounts are built on weak foundations and misconceptions. Foundations of strength focus on relationships, engagement and quality content. Use this approach and you will get more out of your social media activities.

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