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Twitter and Building Followers
buzzed, B&W
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@tahoedrew and I were having a discussion on twitter about @wealthbyland, who followed me (and had an empty profile and an empty Wordpress blog). Conversation went like:

@wealthbyland why start following people on twitter when you don't even have any content?


Andrew Heilmantahoedrew@ernie disagree on @wealthbyland. if they're 4 real, maybe they just need to listen 1st and try to understand what to say/how to add value


@tahoedrew listening first makes sense, but on twitter, that kind of behavior makes you appear like a spammer (or trying to be an "expert")


Andrew Heilmantahoedrew@ernie potential to appear like spammer is true, but since they list location (Reno, NV) and follow locals I'd give 'em benefit of doubt


At this point, the conversation went to direct message (since twitter is not a chat), and I don't feel at liberty to share the tweets. Summary: I wondered if Andrew was defending them since they were a client of his (they're not), and he said I was imposing more scrutiny on a new user than had been expected of me (as an early adopter). I pointed out that anyone with a large number of following, w/o many followers is suspcious to me. Andrew raised the good point that he's willing to deal with this skew, as long as there's a good bio and first tweet, explaining that they're learning/listening.

As I've thought about this some more, while I can understand what Andrew is saying (and he's absolutely right that transparency is key), I don't think it's a good practice. I allude that @wealthbyland seemed like a spammer, because there are plenty of people who claim to be social media experts because they have so-many-thousand followers on twitter, and how quickly they were able to build this number up. These types take a a fair amount of flak. One of the ways that people build these large followings is by just following everyone under the sun. Much like it takes minimal effort for a spammer to send out 1,000,000 emails and hopes that one person buys a product, these people follow lots and lots, and hope that 1 then follows them back. Crappy practice, and I tend not to reciprocate follows unless there's something interesting in their profile, tweet history, or I know them.

So why do I think this is a bad practice? Well, first off, for a growing minority, this mass follow behavior tarnishes your name. Andrew accused me of being an "early-adopter eliteist", but I think this attitude is growing more and more prevalent.

The bigger issue here is that there is a reason why "social media experts" build their lists the way they do - IT WORKS! It looks like @wealthbyland had about a 1 out of 3 success rate in building followers (570 followers vs. 1,521 follows right now). My prediction is that 570 will decrease a bit over time, unless they actually start posting, but they may get lucky and people forget they're following them, and don't un-follow them.

Right now, @wealthbyland may feel they have generated value becase they have over 500 followers, it's actually meaningless. The value of social media is the networking, which involves give and take. While I predict a slight decline for them over the next few days, I'm imagining an even bigger decline in their follower numbers when (if?) they start tweeting - the followers will realize that either they are or are-not interested in the content, and act accordingly. The small number that remains will be those who are truly interested in their tweets.

  1. Those with high follower:following ratios - these may be celebrities (@oprah, over 19,000:1
  2. ), those with insight (@timoreilly, over 540:1), true connectors (@superamit, over 12:1), and many others
  3. Those with close to 1:1 follower:following ratios - these are the vast majority of twitter users. They tend to have lots of reciprocal follow relationships
  4. The upside-down - these are the folks who are heavily skewed, following way more than they have followers (a la @wealthbyland). Anyone who's upside down instantly raises a red-flag, and I start thinking they're a spammer . . .


In any case, the better way to gain followers would have been to get the blog going, develop some content, and then start following, and make sure you have a couple tweets. Gives people a better idea of who or what you are, and the followers you do get will be following you for a reason. You don't risk tarnishing your name, and by growing a bit more slowly, you get to do the realy exciting part of social media - NETWORKING. You can get to know your followers, have conversations with them, etc, before your popularity starts overwhelming you. (Though I imagine the market for what sounds like a real-estate investment blog will not get to the overwhelming numbers that @aplusk, @THE_REAL_SHAQ, or @oprah have . . . )

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