Remember back on May 10, 2010 when the number of followers/following were both set to zero for a brief time. A random heavy metal band had inadvertently found a command line weakness and it was immediately exploited once the information got out. So Twitter put the kabash on the follower data temporarily while they fixed it. Personally I didn’t care much about my numbers being at zero as I knew they'd bring the data back up, however watching the waves of reactions, when everyone from soccer moms to influential marketers to small businesses, to music teachers, was showing their true colors and reasons for using Twitter.
The chord it struck with people was a little surprising. Right away I saw several individuals complaining about bummed they were that now no one was following them. Others were worried that they’d lose touch with people or not be able to find them again. Some folks openly said “I feel so lonely now." A scary thought indeed.
The Two Schools of Thought
I won't go into the old discussion about quantity vs. quality of followers here. That horse has already been beaten into the center of the earth. In this post, I’m more talking about the line between etiquette and value on Twitter, one vs. the other, OR are they one in the same OR does it depend and is it to varying degrees?
Here are the two main reasons people follow anyone on Twitter:
Option 1: Follow Those Based On Their Value to You or Your Business
Option 2: Follow Everyone That Follows You to Be Nice
Who defined twitter etiquette?
Who was it that decided, with a stone tablet and chisel, up on top of the highest mountain, with a long flowing white beard and white robes while the sun beameth down upon them, that following someone back because they follow you, was the official etiquette on Twitter? What is the genesis of that? If my content offers you no value, why would I expect you to follow me? If someone follows me and I offer them no value, then I'm cluttering up their feed. If their content is of no real value to me, why follow them? If so, why would that bother them if I didn’t reciprocate? Is this unspoken etiquette requirement just a reminder of how fragile everyone’s egos actually are?
If you find someone’s content valuable you opt in and follow them. This is a good thing. What happens if they don’t feel the same about your content? Does it bother you? The more we attach our emotions to the Twitter craze, the less useful and efficient we make it. My opinion of course. Maybe we're all digital connection hoarders, hoping that one day that 60,379th random person we just followed will say that one magical thing about something we care about that will change our lives.
How do you define the true value of a follow/follower
The true value of social media is and will always be (at least for awhile longer) one of the most highly discussed topics for businesses. Taking that convo to a Twitter-only discussion, I think it’s important to really think about why we follow people and what makes us or anyone else ‘followable‘. To me, followable means that your content is truly and legitimately valuable to someone other than yourself. By content I don’t mean just business-related. It could be anything – your hobbies, interests, sense of humor…standard stuff that brings people together. For those of you that follow 50,000+ people: If you were to look at the list of people that you follow, does every single person bring real value to your Twitter feed? If your answer is ‘no’, it might be worth some evaluation and pruning.