For the last year or so I have sporadically got caught up in feeling that I ought to increase my number of Twitter followers, Google+ circlees or likers for my business Facebook page. I allowed myself to get wrapped up in all sorts of techniques to increase followers – many of which work effectively if you simply wish to end up with a big number. I have always drawn the line at paying for followers, but I do know of people who have, and apparently it’s very effective…
Now, before I get shouted at, I’m not suggesting that everyone who has a large Twitter following has paid for it, nor am I suggesting that those who follow large numbers of people are doing so with an ulterior motive. There are many on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or indeed WordPress or other blogging sites who have a large following because they post relevant, engaging, and interesting content and have genuinely got a large number of people interested in hearing what they have to say. But there are many other ways of rapidly acquiring a large following that are well known to those in the Social Media world which have faster and easier results, if your metric is acquiring followers, but do they genuinely increase engagement and give you a wider audience for your posts? To be quite honest, I really doubt it.
Why am I so sceptical? Just recently my business has changed a little, I’ve taken on an on site consultancy where I’m focussed on business process, sales, and predominantly off-line marketing. I’m not spending as much time as I used to on line – and when I do get a chance to read my Twitter or Facebook feeds, I’m finding it’s more and more difficult to keep up with the posts I don’t want to miss without getting bogged down in the noise. In other words, I’ve emerged from the Social Media bubble I had become wrapped up in.
I know I could manage this feeling of overload by spending time setting up lists on Twitter or by categorising people on Facebook – and to be fair, I find my Google+ circles are easy to manage because the very nature of that platform makes that sort of separation easy. But really, honestly, what is the point of following people I’m going to sideline into a stream I read only occasionally? If I’m not interested enough to want to engage with their content regularly, why follow them in the first place?
So, I’ve started gently unfollowing Twitter accounts I’m no longer interested in, or which have little relevance to me. Ones which, to be honest, I possibly only followed in the first place as part of a ‘Twitter growth strategy’. Personal and business contacts, well of course I want to hear from them – but right now they’re getting lost in the noise.
And guess what? Unsurprisingly, as I’ve unfollowed some accounts, my own following has fallen. So, these people who were following me weren’t really interested in what I had to say, they weren’t really engaged in my content, they were only following me so I would follow them, so they could broadcast their content to me, or to increase their own follower numbers. Fair play, that’s pretty much what I was doing. But, the moment I stop receiving their broadcast or boosting their numbers, they go elsewhere. So, I go back to asking what is the point of a large number of followers, if they are only following you so that you receive their content or because you follow them back? This isn’t benefiting me in any way other than an egotistical bragging opportunity. I have proved that if I wished to grow my Twitter following to several thousand or beyond, I could – but why would I want to via these kinds of methods? I would rather have followers who are genuinely engaged and actively want to hear from me, because they value what I say, than those who are only following me to boost their own figures – it becomes a mutual ego massage to no benefit and drowns out the important interactions that I have come to value.
So, for me, follow/unfollow strategies and other techniques to boost numbers are a thing of the past. I will be focussing on content, engagement, and interaction with those I enjoy hearing from, and I’ll leave others to play the numbers games.
Footnote: With huge and grateful thanks to the awesome Allan Blair Beaton who as well as my friend is my guide and mentor in all things Social Media, and who first set me thinking along this path quite some time ago, it just took me a while to realise he was right! Now if there is one person who is worth following and engaging with, it’s him. Not only is a thoroughly decent guy, he also knows his Social Media onions like no other.