In Defense of Twitter Follower Count
Today, I bring you a guest post from Stephen Forman.
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For years, I’ve watched in bemused silence the attacks levied against Twitter follower count – It’s a poor gauge of social net worth. It’s a lazy metric that is easily gamed. It’s been supplanted by dozens of newer, more telling data points.
However, such conventional wisdom suffers in interpretation of how Twitter’s follower count ought to be wielded: not as a metric, but as a marketing tool.
Seeding the Tip Jar
When strolling the sidewalks of an unfamiliar city, scanning for a popular and inviting nightclub to try, would you be more likely to wander into a friendly, well-lit and busy establishment, or a dark, shuttered and desolate one?
Starbucks baristas and sidewalk buskers understand this effect as well: you are more likely to tip a jar which is already stuffed full of dollar bills than an empty glass mug with a few pennies clinking the bottom.
So it is with one’s Twitter account. If you want to attract visitors, you must turn the lights on. As the old saying goes, “The rich get richer”—accounts in the millions of followers continue to grow like perpetual motion machines, while accounts in the tens and hundreds languish.
It’s incumbent upon every business to create their own good fortune. However, “The harder you work, the luckier you get”, and one can say this is true of larger follower counts as well.
As a national insurance marketing organization, when I first surveyed the social media landscape several years ago, Twitter stood out as an ideal, vacant target. “Hit it where they ain’t,” was my mantra: I had no intention of following my competition onto other platforms (read: Facebook), but instead planned on establishing LTCA’s dominance on Twitter well in advance of others’ arrival. This meant creating a beachhead of followers and a trail of great content.
When our company’s social media footprint was less visible, it was proportionately more difficult to make headlines: the reverse is also true.
Once our followers began surging—crossing 10,000, past 30,000, past 100,000, as high as 140,000—our business received passive attention and recognition, and our opportunities for good [social media] press increased.
- Named “Best of the Web 2012” Finalist
- Led to this “Company Spotlight” article (leveraged here).
- Notified we’d become one of the “Top 10 Most Influential Insurance Accounts to Follow”
- Notified we’d landed on Seattle’s “Top 100 Users” (#21)
- Advanced nearly to 3rd round of “Social Madness” Challenge (leveraged here).
The Master Plan
In a move some will cite as controversial, I employed a variety of legal services to augment our follower count, each with varying degrees of success. (Examples of such online services can be found here and here.)
With the exception of ensuring I was dealing with reputable firms, I never asked “how the sausage was made”, and while I cynically expected some might attempt to deliver me “fakes”, I hoped there would be few—since my firm sells insurance only in the United States, it does us little good to add international Justin Bieber fans to our rolls.
By design, our follower count spiked very high during each campaign, then once the paid and organic followers were fully conflated, any sham Followers began to “attrit” (my word for dropping off), leaving behind an increasingly true and authentic body of followers. Qwitter has proven invaluable in monitoring exactly this sort of behavior.
Although our count has peaked as high as 140,000, it has now deflated back down like a soufflé—as of this writing it hovers just over 117,000, and that more than meets our needs at present. While the attrition of the sham accounts continues like a radioactive isotope with an infinite half-life, every day we pick-up red-blooded living followers, too.
Where once I was intoxicated on our follower count, today I am proud to place our content up against any in the financial services industry—I believe we’re delivering on the mission we set out to do, “Education Through Social Media”.
“The Forman Doctrine”
Having said that, let us summarize the philosophy at work behind investing in a large follower count—although contrarian, it is simple and watertight. The Forman Doctrine is this: “All other measures being equal, bigger is better.”
Mind you (!), the predicate is that we are comparing accounts or campaigns that are equivalent in all other areas first. This means you’ve invested all you can in making sure your content pops with originality and timeliness, your relationships are zesty and reciprocal, and your marketing is crisp and compelling.
But for all the casual conversation that size doesn’t matter? Come on… at the end of the day—all things being equal—who wouldn’t want to go bigger?
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What do you think of follower counts? Is it a good metric to use? And, is it ever okay to buy followers? What metrics do you find useful?
About the Author: Stephen Forman is senior vice president of Long Term Care Associates. He has spent the last 20 years helping producers and clients plan for their future long term care needs. Although agents from all across the country seek his expertise, he is proudest that his own LTCA producers rank in the top 1% of Specialists nationwide, as recognized by AALTCI, our industry’s trade group. You can follow LTCA on Twitter at @ltcassociates.
Image credit: Joe Lazarus