Posts Tagged ‘follower’

#twitter bullshit math?

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

I have been twittering for a year or so and something is starting to bother me about the math.

First, consider my use:

  • Have experimented with posting rambling updates on my food intake, following the rich and famous, and forwarding intriguing nuggets of news or ridiculously funny (to me anyway) posts by acerbic wits.
  • Have connected my blog with in order to automatically tweet the headline and drive tweeple to read the blog.
  • Have been playing with (formerly tweetlater) to automate “thanks for following” notes and have begun earnestly tweeting opinions and one-liners on the #leadership topic thread.
  • I am now adding about a dozen new followers per day and am at a whopping 300 or so followers.

Might not sound like much but I’ll get to that in a minute.

In my time playing with twitter, I have noticed something troubling. The majority of my followers have bailed on me—Over 600 people have followed me but only half are still with me. So I had a look at the quitters and learned they were for the most part selling something. Real estate agents, vitamin salespeople, work at home gigs, get rich fast schemes, get more twitter followers schemes, etc. Yes it’s true some people find my tweets annoying or boring and leave annoyed or bored. But when I look at the profiles of those who recently started following me, about half are individuals or organizations seeking followers whom they can pummel with promotional messages. Then I looked at other twitterers with 1000, 5000, and over 10K followers.  It was more of the same junk followers inflating the follower total.

The “rules of the game” in twitter are often regurgitated by many “social media experts.” The central message is: You get more followers by following others. The logic goes like this. Since many people follow the “rule” of following when followed, you quickly add followers just by following. Soon you can have thousands of people who follow you. Of course that’s just nonsense. Nobody I have ever met can actually read more than a few dozen active twitterer’s daily feeds. I saw one active twitterer with 14,000 followers and 14,000 people she followed. Come on. Really? You can read 14,000 people’s posts? Of course not. Nor can you read the posts of 5,000 or even 1000 people. I cannot find the data to prove my point, but I am willing to bet there are millions of people with at least 1,000 followers  and of those, most are junk followers.

Although all twitterers post noise of one kind or another, only the best tweets are worth reading. Keep in mind the Worthy-Post to Noise-Post ratio (the twitter equivalent to signal-to-noise ratio in telecommunications) must round to zero.

Now it is true there are celebs who post actively and intelligently. As a result they have millions of followers. But for the vast majority of not-so-famous people, their followers are mostly junk.

Why don’t I have more than a few hundred followers? First and foremost, I am not a celebrity. Nor am I very funny. I don’t tweet more than a handful of times per week. And I don’t follow the must-follow to build follower rule. I only follow those people who post tweets that I am actually willing to read almost every day. Fortunately most dont post more than once a week, or I’d have to drop many of them. So unless I have a lucky break on America’s Got Talent or become the next Washington State Governor, I will have only a small handful of loyal readers and a bunch of other followers who have forgotten that they followed me and I am lost in their collection of 3,987 twitter friends.

Net net: I have to believe that when the early adopter enthusiasm wears off, twitter will be a cool way to stay in touch with celebrities. A handful of intelligent blogger/tweeters will eventually have a solid following. A cultural revolution in the making will have a brief moment of international awareness like the riots in Iran this summer. The rest will live with a false sense of twitter follower fame until the next  social media darling comes to replace twitter or facebook or both.

Is twitter really like television in the early days? I don’t think so. There isn’t a mass adoption of a new medium. Twitter isn’t really new. It’s just like instant messaging and text messaging, only more unbridled in its reach. There is a lot of conversational noise that hasn’t died down yet. Kind of like the vibrating cacophony of voices in the audience before a concert. Once the real program begins, the masses will ignore each other until intermission. I suspect the same will happen to twitter.