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‘And I Follow Back’ – Does size matter with Twitter followers?

twitter followers

A few Twitter followers who are engaged and help to spread your message are more valuable than large numbers who follow too many others to listen.

The number of my Twitter followers has hovered around 70 for a while now. Today I received an email that I now have 71. Because I have been gaining followers so slowly, I take the time to look and see the person behind the Twitter name to try and determine why they are following me.

I have noticed that many of the ones who seem to follow me at random and then soon disappear have as many followers as those they are following.  Coincidence? As for myself, I tend to be choosy about who I follow and I want their Tweets to be useful or interesting to me in some way. If I do choose to follow someone and the bulk of their tweets is about their daily life, or an advertisement about their products, I will unfollow them. I am not a heavy Twitter user and even with just 35 people that I follow, it takes time to scroll through my Twitter stream to see the information that is being shared. Depending on time of day, the  stream of the 35 I follow goes back 2 to 4 hours in one screen. I don’t want to follow a few hundred people to learn information and scroll through several screens of recent tweets and only end up 20 minutes ago, or 5 minutes ago. I woudn’t have the time to keep up on even a fraction of the pages of Tweets, and I’d miss most of what those I want to follow are sharing.

How are the people with 10,000 people in their Twitter stream hearing messages from those they choose to follow? Do they really care about all of those 10,000 and what is being said? Are they retweeting or sharing any of the content? And if I see a user who is following 10,000 people including me, is it realistic to think that that person will read or even see my Tweets?

Presenting Mr. ‘I Follow Back’

Today, after not having tweeted in almost 24 hours, I received an email that I had another Twitter follower. I was a bit surprised because I usually gain followers within a few hours of posting a tweet. I clicked on the link to view his Twitter page and learn something about him. My initial thought was ‘how did this guy find me to follow?’  He had over 100,000 followers and his bio started out impressive with the name of a reputable, national print magazine and a statement that he was a New York Times best-selling author. But then his last line raised alarms: ‘And I follow back’.

I quickly glanced at the number of people he was following. It was 10,000 more than his number of followers. If viewing 10,000 people in my Twitter stream is a lot to grasp, 110,000 seems downright pointless. Since I don’t automatically follow people who follow me, I didn’t reciprocate the follow with this guy either, but I did start thinking about follower numbers and what is realistic.

As a business owner, is there a threshold number of people to follow that one should not exceed in order to be able to keep up on what is being said in their Twitter stream? Should I auto-follow those that follow me to gain more credence in the Twitter community? Or should I follow more people in order to hope they will follow me back?

While there are posts available on how to get more Twitter followers, from what I’ve seen getting more followers is as easy as following someone and having them follow you back. But I don’t see the point in that. I’ve seen users with only two tweets who have over 1000 followers. After 400 Tweets, I have 70. Mr. I Follow Back has 110,000.

For those Twitterers that do auto-follow people and now have a high number of those that they follow, there are tools available to manage Twitter followers and determine which of your followers remain worth following. Are you following all this?

 MG Siegler at Tech Crunch used ManageTwitter to eliminate a few hundred followers.  According to Siegler, the tool lets you know which of the Twitter users you follow aren’t following you back, who is inactive, who is talkative, and who is quiet. Among the people that didn’t make his cut, “most of these were users I followed a couple years ago that either were simply not using the service any more, or were no longer that interesting to me,” says Siegler.

Do more Twitter followers matter?

A ReadWriteWeb article by Mike Melanson presents a case against the goal of attaining high numbers of Twitter followers. According to a social media report by HP Labs, “it’s not necessarily how many followers you have, but how passive or active they are in spreading the word.” A key finding in the report was to separate the concept of “influence” from “popularity.”

In a June 2010 blog post, Mack Collier has gone so far as to say that the number of Twitter followers is the most overrated metric in social media, and he makes his point through personal experience as well as insight into a recent blogger outreach strategy.

It appears that there may be no magic number of followers to pursue, but diligence in paying attention to who you follow, and understanding your own followers will help you learn who to reach out to and engage with. It will be interesting to keep tabs on Mr. I Follow Back to see how long he sticks with me. I wonder if he’s listening…

I’d love to hear your feedback!
-natalie

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