There is a long-standing debate over quality versus quantity, especially in the social media world. The competitive side of people rears its head when the number of followers or friends is displayed so publically. You might find yourself saying, “I have more followers than John. Ha!”
But what does more followers really get you? Influence? Authority? Real friends? No. It’s just a number. That number might be nice to show clients but it’s not worth much more than that under the surface.
More followers doesn’t guarantee more influence
Celebrity Kim Kardashian doesn’t have the most followers on Twitter, but she had more traffic referrals from Twitter than anybody else in September 2010. Her followers (numbering under five million back then) proved to be more than just a number when they clicked on her links more than any other celeb. To put her followers into perspective: Lady Gaga’s had 6.5 million followers then, Britney Spears just over 6 million and Ashton Kutcher 5.8. Of course, those numbers have increased since then, but Kardashian wasn’t close to having the most followers out of popular celebrities.
What’s more important to you: a high number of followers so you look more popular on the surface or followers that actually DO something—retweet, click on links, share new ideas that might benefit you, etc.? I’ll take 50 quality followers that will click on my links and share them over 2,000 followers that are only interested in self-promotion any day.
Something else to take into account: it’s highly likely that your quality followers have also developed relationships with their followers. The people following your quality follower will be more interested in their tweets if they feel a connection. So when your quality follower retweets something from you, chances are high that it will go to people that actually care about it.
Why reciprocation doesn’t work
Some people believe that if they follow you, you should automatically follow them back no matter what. Blogger and author Amber Naslund recently wrote an article disputing this called “The Fallacy of Social Media Reciprocation.” She explains that attention has to be earned and that you are not entitled to anything on the Internet—attention, friendship, anything. I agree with her. You don’t get to decide if you’re worthy of attention, others do.
If you use software to follow people with the hopes of them returning the favor, you’re probably gaining followers that only care about numbers and not making connections. These people will never interact with you and won’t retweet or click on your links. What good are they to you then?
Even if you were targeting people with similar interests, they probably already follow more people than they can keep up with, especially if they automatically follow anyone that follows them.
Could I get 5,000 followers if I followed 5,000 people? Yes. Would most of them be worth anything? No.
If you are automatically following people to get a higher number of followers or aiming for that magic number of them, ask yourself what that accomplishes. Do most of these followers even pay attention to you?