Avoiding Follower Obsession

“I will have you, yes I will have you

I will find a way and I will have you

Like a butterfly, a wild butterfly

I will collect you and capture you.”

– From “Obsession” by Animotion

All right maybe it isn’t that bad.  But many people – and brands – obsess over the number of followers they have.  Follower numbers (or fans or likes) have been integrated into the way many brands measure their online success.

Sometimes smaller is better.

The reasoning is: The more the better.

But we inherently we know this isn’t true.  Having a successful Twitter account shouldn’t be only about broadcast reach, but about the ability to connect in a more meaningful way with customers and constituency groups that are important.  For example, a B2B software company shouldn’t care about how many people follow them on Twitter, but about the quality of the followers who do.  They need the right audience – not the biggest one.

Audience composition is more important than its actual size.

But, admittedly, its difficult not to fall into the trap of wanting as many followers as possible – no matter what.  That’s why Facebook and Twitter publicize the amount of followers and friends everybody has – to entice us to get more.  It is human nature to compete with others so we’ll be on top (and what brand doesn’t want more followers than its competitors?).

This competition for followers has gotten downright silly.  Some brands (and probably even more individuals) stoop to buying followers.  As TechCrunch noted earlier this year, there are services that will sell followers (5,000 of them on Twitter can run about $20).

TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld called such service “worthless.”  And, technically, it is.  Buying fake accounts to bolster your followers doesn’t get you much in the way of influence, marketing or public relations.  But high follower counts can make a brand appear to be hot or an individual look like they have influence.

But this, of course, is an illusion.

The New York Times recently ran a piece on the followers on Twitter.  It determined that the size of a brand or person’s followers had no correlation to their influence.

So stop obsessing over follower/fan/friend numbers and start focusing on providing content that will attract the right followers/fans/friends.  That’s where the true value lies.


TechCrunch story on buying followers

New York Times story: “Website Ranks Most Influential Tweeters.”

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3 Responses to “Avoiding Follower Obsession”

  1. I’ve said numerous times that I’d rather have 1,000 totally engaged followers rather than 10,000 that are either minimally engaged or not engaged at all.

    Having a large network is only useful if you can manage that large network; increasing your follower count without doing anything else is a waste of valuable social media resources. Sure, bigger may be better, but make the engagement with the numbers you do have bigger — that’s where you’re going to win out in the end.

  2. Large networks work well for mass consumer brands. That’s probably a great goal for those kinds of companies. But not so much for niche or B2B brands.


  1. Twitter and the First Amendment | cazh1 - February 21, 2011

    […] … would morph into a haven for publicity hounds and the traffic-obsessed […]

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