How many Inches of Twitter Followers Do You Have?

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I was quoted in a report on All Things Considered this past Thursday, where I suggested that paying for new Twitter followers is about as icky as paying for sex. What I really tried to get across in my interview was this:

There are certain things you don’t do in this world: Abuse an animal. Make any attempt to get any TSA official to smile. And also, you never pay a consultant or company to acquire new Twitter followers for you. They’re not real, and they won’t help you in the long run.

By itself, the number of Twitter followers you have is the new penis envy. If that sounds familiar, it should – I’ve said it before. But with new “consultants” popping up all over the place guaranteeing you “2,000 new followers in 30 days” in exchange for your credit card number, I believe it’s time to revisit the subject.

1) Quality will always trump quantity. I’ll take 500 interested, engaged, active, and contributing-to-the-conversation Twitter followers over 50,000 from whom I never hear back any day. In fact, (and I mentioned this before, too,) when I have some occasional free time, I’ll DM some followers I’ve never heard from before, asking them if I can change anything to make their experience of following me more beneficial. If I don’t hear back, or if they continue not to respond to anything I tweet, I no longer count them as a “real” follower in my mind. In some cases, I’ve suggested that some followers unfollow me, and based on what they’re tweeting about, follow other, more relevant Twitter users, instead. It’s never about the amount. It’s about the engagement of those you have.

1a) – Remember – By default, high engagement from the followers you do have almost guarantees new followers daily, since they’ll be people who have seen your current followers engaging you – thus, they become interested in what you have to say. This is the best kind of follower, an organic follower. Getting organic followers should always be your goal, because they’re born from you tweeting interesting and exciting content. I can guarantee you that paying for followers will not generate one single organic follower. Expecting it to is like expecting a prostitute to want to come home the next morning to meet your family. There’s no reason for them to, since it was always a business transaction, and nothing more.

2) Here’s the number one, time tested, best way to get new, organic followers: Respect the followers you currently have! My favorite line of all time, and I say it often: Having an audience who actually wants to listen to what you have to say is a privilege, not a right, just like wearing Spandex. You have the privilege of having an audience who wants to engage with you, and you must respect that. That means listening to what they have to say more than you ask them to listen to you. It means holding contests and giving away free (quality) product or discounts to the audience you currently have, and not insulting and ignoring them by holding weekly “our next follower/fan gets a free thingamabob!” contests. You’ve worked hard to have the right to talk to the audience you have. Why would you, as soon as you get them, ignore them, looking for the next one? It’s like those people we’ve all met at networking events: As you’re introducing yourself to them, you can’t catch their eyes, because they’re already scanning the room for the next possible introduction who they think might be better than you. Insulting as hell, isn’t it? Well, by constantly focusing on trying to get that next new follower/fan and not giving props to the ones you have, you’ve become that guy to your audience. Don’t become that guy.

3) So the logical question then becomes “well, if you’re telling us to only focus on the followers/fans we have, how do we attract new ones?” And it’s a valid question, with an even more valid answer. Your job is no longer to do your own PR. For years, it was. For years, you were the one charged with shouting from the rooftops how totally awesome your company was, and getting people to listen and believe you. Those days are over. That’s no longer your job. If you’re still doing that, you’re wasting your time.

Your new job is simply thus: Create such amazing experiences for your current customers and audience, with stellar customer service, amazing response to them, and spectacular content tailor-made for the audience you already have, and your current audience will take over your job AND DO YOUR PR FOR YOU!

Think about it – Your audience, if treated beyond well (think awesomely,) will go out and share how happy they are with their audience, and well, simply put, chances are, that’ll convert some of their audience over to you, and you’ve got an organic follower, who’s so much more likely to turn into a paying customer for you.

It’s no longer about you having to shout about your awesomeness. It’s about allowing an audience who for the first time has the tools to do it themselves, to go out and do it. And you’re not asking them to – you’re not begging – you’re not asking them to “vote for your page,” or any of that crap we see so often. You’re simply offering such an amazing service, product, and in the end, full experience, that they do it on their own, because they want to share their story.

Think about the last time your flight was late. Remember when you finally landed? You and everyone else on the plane pulled out your mobile phones and bitched. Didn’t matter who you called, you just needed to bitch about the craptastic service you got, and how you were never flying that airline again.

But then, think about the last time you had an awesome experience. You did the same thing, without even realizing it. You shared it. You talked about it. And you did it without being prompted. You wanted to talk about it. You wanted your friends, those people who put their trust in you, to have that same amazing experience. You wanted to build organic followers for the company or brand that made you feel like a superstar.

That’s what we need to be striving to do. Not trying to get to a “number” or fans of followers. Not pulling out the tape measure. We need to focus on being amazing, in all aspects of our business. When we figure that out, it won’t be a numbers game anymore. It’ll be about your business growing. And in the end, a business that grows, and generates revenue, and is profitable… Well, I’ll take that over a thousand new followers every single time, and so should you.

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