Marketers love to compare annoying and irrelevant stats. This is because the vast majority of marketers wouldn’t know how to generate revenue or actual business results if they ran into it head-on. So instead, they talk lots of meaningless statistics that sound impressive, but ultimately, give exceptionally little insight into generating any result. It’s a large part of why businesses look at marketing as a necessary evil, rather than an investment in a revenue stream.
How many “followers do you have?” is one of those statistics. Drives me utterly bonkers.
My personal twitter account has been somewhat of an experiment. I have on it only real people. It’s been that way from the beginning. I only pay attention to real people. The second I get any belief they’re a “bot” (fake profile) or otherwise, I gut them. They’re gone. People who follow me get looked at by me. Each and every follower. I read what they have to say. I read their profiles. I read what they share. Then I make a decision to follow them (or not).
As a consequence, I have about 800 followers at the moment and it’s taken me about six months to get here where I am now. Although my account was registered nearly 8 years ago, I flushed everyone I had out of my account and started from scratch.
People look at me like I’m a marketing leper.
I wrote this piece today because of a conversation I had with a recruiter. The recruiter scoffed at the fact I had only 800 followers. For a moment, I felt somewhat like replying with a “Pythonism” of something to the effect of “… in your general direction.” As I asked the recruiter to actually look at who followed, why, etc., suddenly it was less of an issue. When I explained it was my twitter following, along with roughly 200 emails of some of the most influential people in marketing, that allowed me to get published where I have, and reach millions with some of my pieces, I felt somewhat like trying to explain to aborigines how to fly a 747… blindfolded.
Here’s the thing, I have more reach, more interaction, and more traffic from my 800 or so people than I suspect you get from lists that are ten times as big. I have more verified accounts (read that as “important influencers”) that range from celebrities, business people, and artists. Moreover, they seek me out I don’t go seeking them out.
Why? What makes me so special?
Because I read what people tweet and share and I share it with others in my network (including my stuff) in a way that provides some value. Moreover, if you are a real person in my network, and you share something that I think is funny or interesting, I share it. I also reply, argue, and comment, on other people’s tweets and postings.
In other words, I talk to my 800 people. Therein lies the rub.
We talk a great deal in marketing about whether or not something is “scalable”. The idea is to find something that works, and then “scale it up” (magnify it) to make it more profitable. In other words, “I got the fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell baby!”
Being a nice guy that people like that people think about that people say, “Wow, that was something good.” That’s not scalable. You cannot scale personal relationships. Realistically, I guess at some point here I’m going to reach the scalable implosion point, and I’ll start to suck in keeping up with what people write and post.
Here is another reality. How big would you want my account to be?
Seriously. I can buy followers. If you didn’t know that – you can make your account any size your pocketbook will afford. If you want 100K followers on twitter – it only costs some money. Want lots more? You can usually make a deal.
They won’t be real, mind you, but the numbers will be impressive. You can be the hottest sensation nobody has ever heard of in 24 hours.
By the way – yes, brands do this all the time; wannabe rock/pop stars do this all the time; and marketers do this all the time. It’s the embodiment of “fake it until you make it”.
One thing I’ve learned – bots (fake people) never buy anything.
A real follower is a tough thing convert. I had, for example, massive exposure to millions thanks to a few pieces I’ve written. Ricky Gervias, for example, tweeted my article on LinkedIn pulse (and my website). I had tens of thousands of daily visits for a week. All in all, I had half a million views in about a week. I received about 2800 readers on my LinkedIn account (followers) and I received a few hundred followers on twitter.
The bottom line is that 80%+ of traffic never sticks. What’s worse, you need to have seven “touches” with a visitor before you usually can convert that person to a follower or a subscriber.
Hopefully, you can see the problem of attrition hidden in these numbers.
So I don’t worry too much about my 800 followers. I enjoy each and every one of them. They inform me, enlighten me, and validate what I’m doing in my writing and research. The fact I get new ones every week suggests that ultimately I am interesting (not that I didn’t already know that – but like Sally Field – it’s nice to hear people like me.)
Size doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. What matters is the audience, valuing them, and providing value to them.