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Changing Twitter -The Coming Twitter Follow Collapse

As many of you know I market my book primarily through social networking. As each site is different in focus I also use different strategies and tactics according to how the audience allows marketing messages. I’ve also commented in my “The Monster Must Be Fed” downloadable pdf I posted here a while back that some of these social networking sites (“monsters”) will likely change just as soon as you get a handle on how they work best. So I’ve changed how I deal with Twitter.

Here’s what I’ve done. A while back I read a blog post by Dave at Area224 on Five Signs You’ve Got the Wrong Social Media Marketing Consultant. In his list #2 struck me a bit, he says of Celebrity and Social Media Marketing experts “[if you are a celebrity] …you are allowed to follow less than 200 people and be followed by more than 59,000 people. [and also if you] are a best-selling author and are not trying to sell your SMM Consulting services. Otherwise, your potential SMM Consultant must follow people back [to gain followers].” I’m borderline celebrity myself. I’d probably be a few letters below Cathy Griffith’s “My Life on the D-list” but I’ll take what fame I have. I can offer plenty of examples of either media coverage or Google rankings but what got me to thinking was the follow for follow idea. I disliked the idea from the start, but in order to play the game, you have to be in the game. I hated having to filter out and hunt for people I was interested in.

So one might think there’s a lot of programs that will filter out for me the people I want to read. The problem was that when I used them I was no longer on Twitter, I was on a third party application. Which means I don’t see the things Twitter wants me to see, many of which I need to know and want to know about. The other thing is that this third party software was a massive drain on my computer. It slowed my computer down by 15% when having it on and ever since I installed it I noticed a dramatic slow down of my browser even when the app was not active. And lastly this third party app creates more garbage to sort through, meaning each time I follow someone back I then have to either put them immediately into a category that I want to follow and then take them out of that focused category if I do not find them interesting. So one way or another I am handling my “follows” too much. And I have to receive a lot of garbage followers in order to show how popular I am.

These garbage followers are magazines, multilevel marketers, affiliate marketers, porn, Bible verse of the day, motivational quotes, real estate postings, the list goes on ad nauseum. As a marketer I love to spin things into my favor or to lead you to believe in a product and to ignore the downside of a product. And this is where I get into trouble with my advertising and marketing kin… eventually “your sin will find you.” Meaning that the spin will collapse on you, while it is great to promote a bunch of hype, jokes in commercials, and “cool ideas,” eventually you have to have a real dollar base in order to stay in business. For instance I can spin that I have over 4,000 followers on Twitter when I have a potential speaking engagement offer. But of those 4,000 followers you can bet that at least half of them are an automated twitbot and that no human is actually reading my posts. Another good chunk of those are also following a few thousand people too and one or two of my posts will not be more than a blip in their Tweet Stream. It is likely that only 300 people will see my post about the engagement posted on Twitter.

300 solid people is still a good number, but the odds of those 300 people attending the event is slim. Even some of these high profile celebrity expert posters will not likely fill a conference with their followers alone. I’ll take a stab in the dark and suggest that for every 10,000 followers only 20 to 30 will show up at a major event because of them directly following the celebrity expert tweeter.

SIDE NOTE: Something I did for fun and to prove a point was I created an account called @5minuteGenius The idea was to create an automated account to hit back at some of these “followers” of mine that I thought were garbage followers. With this auto account I posted one post that gave a link to my book on Amazon, then I went to a third party online software system and opened an account. I set the account to automatically follow the people that followed the account and set it up so that when the account gets a direct message it would automatically send a direct message back that said something like “thanks for the DM, I’ll return the favor and let you know about my book.” Then I went back to the automated Twitter account and followed some of the garbage accounts I knew about. I followed about 40 MLM and Affiliate Marketers and then let the system take over. In about a month the account was mentioned by two of the followers without any type of interaction by me. I find it amusing as well that now the account follows over 300 people and has 260 followers. And it has over 130 direct messages to it from “followers.” I’m sure these numbers would increase if I had targeted some other groups of people too. But I don’t need my book to be associated with spam, which I’m sure the account will eventually become if I don’t turn it off soon.

So back to changing my Twitter account and why I think the whole follow for follow system will collapse. As I followed more people I noticed I had less motivation to interact with people. I wasn’t interested in their posts, I really didn’t know who they were or if they even responded to people who responded to them. I also found myself dreading getting on the site because now I had to hunt for people to interact with and found myself looking only to see if people mentioned me in a post. If not I got off the site quickly.

Again, back to Area224′s post. I let it sink in for a while and decided my Twittering needed to change. I was missing opportunities to interact with my fan base, people of interest and media opportunities. Here’s what I’ve done:

1) I immediately quit following people who started following me. Unless of course it was someone that I had interest in.

2) Each time I got on Twitter if someone’s post was not related to any of my interests I unfollowed them. At first this scared me because I know that some people use software that unfollows anyone that unfollows you. But then it hit me, it doesn’t matter. If the only reason they follow me is because I followed them, then they really weren’t fans or friends in the first place, meaning they are not in the market. Having a smaller but solid follower base is better than a lot of “air” to spin to clients that can’t be backed up when the dollars want a reckoning for the effort.

3) I unfollowed posters that did only “push” posts. A push poster is someone who does not interact with their audience but simply posts things about their company, product, quotes, sayings, links, news retweets, etc. I checked each one I saw, if they only pushed, I unfollowed. If they interacted and I might have interest in what they post then I kept following them. Although some eventually are getting unfollowed based on the shear volume that following 4,000 people still has.

4) I decided it is okay if people do not follow me back. Sometimes people are following you just so you will follow them back. They don’t have interest in you or what you have to say. I had to decide that not following someone is okay. If I follow someone I no longer am concerned if they follow me back. I also will not be checking to see if they follow me or unfollow me. What is becoming more important is that I like what someone posts.

5) It still is not enough. There was still too much clutter. I used to use a software program called Karma so that I can unfollow those people who unfollowed me. The idea was good enough, but now that I am no longer concerned about that I use Karma for another reason. Karma has a great interface that puts all my followers on one page instead of like Twitter, where I have to page through a few hundred pages to see who I follow. With Karma all the faces and links being on one page I went through and found all the names that said anything like MoneyMaker2000, AffiliateFreak, BibleVerseToday, SexyJen, JimFollowMeSmith and the like. Then I told Karma to bulk unfollow these people. While I still have some filtering to do, afterall going through 4,000 names you are bound to miss some, you would not believe how much more I get out of Twitter now. I can see the people I want to follow without a third party app. I can respond faster to media requests. And best of all I am no longer tied to the burden of the popular “YOU MUST FOLLOW BACK.”

6) Its still a process. Some people I’ve continued to follow even though I don’t have interest in what they post. But since they interact with me, I’m fine with that, for now anyway. I think eventually my follow list will dwindle down to under a thousand. What that will do for my follow numbers is anyone’s guess. Even if it gets down to a few hundred people who follow me, I know they are likely following me because they have interest in me. And as a marketer, interest in my product is better than boring a market that has no interest.

7) After I get more of the spammers, autotweeters, mlm, and other garbage posters off my list I’ll be following these rules for me to follow you: A) Your account can be beneficial to my business and book. B) Your posts are interesting to me.

And here are my rules to unfollow you: C) If you post multiple posts (more than five) in under one minute, you will be unfollowed. Not even Peter Shankman who makes his living from posting journalist requests all day can get away with that. D) You do nothing but Push posting. Even if you are not peddling a product you will be unfollowed.

8) I repeat. It is ok if you do not follow me back. And don’t be offended if I do not follow you back. Its going to be all right.

The whole follow for follow concept is a flawed idea. It is essentially building a house of cards. When the market realizes that inflated numbers don’t translate to dollar sales, the market will turn against you. You will be considered “all hat and no cattle.” Even if you are using social networks to simply interact with people you cannot maintain good interaction with thousands of followers by yourself. You will have to unfollow the bulk of who you follow back. You don’t have thousands of friends in real life do you? The rules of real life will eventually kick in on these social networking sites. You’ll even unfollow people you do like. :)

Companies will demand hard data on your follower list. Do they actually buy your product or service? How many will actually show up if we announce an event? Basic business practices will overcome the joy of high followership.

The so called “influencer” will have to actually influence. And the reality of those numbers that are influenced will shock you.

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2 Responses to “Changing Twitter -The Coming Twitter Follow Collapse”

  1. Anne Orchard Says:

    Hi Gary,
    Very interesting post, and may well change the way I build my Twitter account (@familiesfc).
    You’ve said that you treat each social network differently, so I’m wondering if what you’ve said here also applies to your network on LinkedIn – or do you have a different strategy there?
    Anne Orchard
    Author ‘Their Cancer – Your Journey’
    http://www.familiesfacingcaner.org

  2. Gary Unger Says:

    Anne,
    No. LinkedIn is different in that (for the most part) people there are not numbers driven. They are business people who don’t want to waste their time on things that won’t generate them more business.

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