21 Responses to “Twitter Follower Ratios – do you really care?”

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  1. I’m with Mark Shaw. You cannot follow thousands of people and get the best results from Twitter. What happens when you auto follow people is that you spend so long organising your lists, scanning and unfollowing that there is no time to tweet! When someone examines your profile they can’t see you’ve spent xx time organising your 5k followers, they just see that there aren’t many tweets!

    I do check through my followers and I do follow back where appropriate but I don’t want to spend time organising when I could be engaging. If someone wants to DM you they will ask you to follow them – no big deal

    I agree with Ant – engagement, engagement, engagement, invite to buy. I don’t like Twitter feeds that just fill up my timeline with automated posts. IMO its far better to interact as a ‘human’ twice a day than it is to send 20 auto tweets a day. That’s a subjective view too as many people do automate but it puts me off personally

    If someone tweets me they might not get a follow but they will get a reply – its social media not sheep media IMO. Be friendly, approachable and engaging to everyone you come across and when you do need to ask a question to your followers lots of people will be willing to help :-)

    Great post Karen and a really interesting debate too :

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  2. I agree with you. If the figures are equal then there is something wrong. you are just following any old follower for following sake.

    more imoprtantly, how do people get thousands of followers without ever having made a tweet? thats a scam!

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  3. This is a really interesting point to raise and something that I have been thinking about. I recently signed up to @formulists where I can easily see who doesn’t follow me back and also who unfollows me. When I looked through the list of tweets from people who don’t follow me back I was quite disheartened to see people who I had chatted to and who I felt I knew, weren’t actually following me back. To me I just felt this was rude that I knew so much about their business and their lives and they had never even read one of my tweets! Much like Claire M above says about covering your ears when they speak back. Nicky says above that she only doesn’t follow back spammers. So I feel if I don’t get followed back, that person has checked out my profile and chosen not to follow me. I must admit that I have now started unfollowing these people. Sounds a bit childish I know, but I just feel that they aren’t interested in speaking with me so unless they have something I really want to hear, why follow them?! Thanks very much for sparking the debate Karen!

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  4. Like Helen, I look at the overall picture of someone’s profile before deciding to follow or not on the basis of value but I include follow/follower ratio in this assessment. It offers me a snapshot of the kind of engagement I can expect. Will this person really interact with me? (probably not if they’re following thousands), are they newbies (if they’ve got under 100), do they add value (probably if they have a high follower count), are they simply looking for numbers rather than engagement (probably, if their following ratio is considerably higher than their amount of followers). I don’t make a judgement purely on follower count but it adds to the overall picture.

    Personally, I keep the number of people I follow in the low hundreds (I use Hootsuite to manage my feed) so I can keep track of the people and conversations that take place there and build relationships. I don’t think that’s possible if you’re following thousands – you will only manage to keep up with a select few, so I don’t see the point in following large numbers of people you aren’t engaging with – it just clogs the feed and makes is harder to find the good stuff. I get the ‘being polite’ argument but auto-following back is the same as ignoring that person in my view because you’re not really saying hello!

    Using #tags and keywords is an important part of joining the conversation on Twitter. Following conversations rather than people can provide much more value.

    Sorry for the novel length post :)

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    Don’t apologise for your novel – I’ve seen far longer ;o) Thank you for your contribution Alicia – much appreciated.

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  5. Great post Karen!

    It was great to chat to you after the talk to hear your view on this. Thanks for coming over and chatting.

    I think the key thing is for people to be looking at why they want to follow or engage with someone in the first place. The perception given by the number of people following can be a massive lure.

    Take @garyvee for instance. A huge twitter ‘idol’ with over 800,000 followers and he follows 12,400 of them back. His following is organic and has been driven by the success of video blogging, his work in the wine industry and now his media business. He attracts people on and offline and they want to be seen to be following him. Managing his 12k of people that he follows is crucial to allow him to stay engaged. Tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck help you organise lists, groups and sort the wheat from the chaff.

    Everyone does social media differently – even the way that Nigel and I follow people… and that is the beauty of social media.

    I hope that what I shared with you yesterday was a way that people ‘could’ be seen as having used artificial inflation tactics of their Twitter accounts. As I went on to explain the key then is to look at their digital footprint online. If they have a lot more following them, but have a blog that they have 100′s of posts going back months/years, plus their Twitter stream shows lots of interaction, again going back months/years, I would suggest that this is an organic growth – as I think your’s is.

    What I hope people can take away from yesterday is a way of looking at people and seeing if they are totally legit or not!

    There are so many cowboys out there trying to turn a quick buck and people get hung out to dry all too often. I hope that I can help people to see past the false façade that many think they need to create to win business through Twitter.

    My advice to them… Engage first, Engage second, Engage third… then when you have the trust built and respect of your social media audience… invite them to buy… Social media is a marketing tool and the end result could be to make money out of it – but it should never at the forefront of your mind for it’s success when starting out.

    Thanks again for attending yesterday and for writing this today!

    Speak again soon.

    Ant

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    I loved your approach to the session, Ant. And yes there are lots of “recommended” ways of getting followers – which you demonstrated well yesterday.

    By using internet marketing tactics – it works for internet marketing companies. But trying to copy these principles for other types of businesses such as training organisations, accountancy firms, estate agents, selling baby products, etc – the focus on numbers and lack of engagement can leave you with egg on your face. Thank you for creating the opportunity for me writing this blog post!

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  6. I dont sweat the numbers. I only follow people back if they are engaging, and are making interesting tweets about themselves or their business. I have become alot more leanient on whether or not people have their “face” on Twitter or not, as im starting to realise that some kind of business people are just delivering news and not engaging, and sometimes, I like to just read news. The rules always change, there isnt hard and fast ones, the only people MAKING rules for Social Media are the guys who are trying to make money from it helping others!! :) Thats not a bad thing, but to offer a service i guess you need to set guidlines for people to adhere to

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    “The only people MAKING the rules for social media are the guys who are trying to make money from it helping others” Good point, Phil!

    In fact, I am keen to start collating case studies of “real” businesses (businesses who are using Twitter to sell widgets and non-social media related services) and how networks such as Twitter have made a difference to their bottom line.

    Graham Jones has put together a brief summary of a report that was released recently about the growth of companies using social media – and those who are not. But it was focused on the big brands such as MacDonalds and Starbucks. I’ve just had a look on Graham’s website but can’t see it there – he emailed it out to his mailing list at the weekend. Get in touch with Graham directly on his website http://www.grahamjones.co.uk if you want a copy. Interesting reading.

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  7. Karen, I agree with Nigel. Social Media is about having a two way conversation, and having people follow but not following back anything like as many for me isn’t really embracing Social Media. Its a bit like going to a party and speaking, but covering your ears when they speak back. I follow about the same number who follow me and by being open minded have learned loads and connected with all kinds of people.
    Nigel’s point about DM is a good one. I regularly trawl through my Twitter links and cleanse out the spammers. A bit of work there is worth it in the long run

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    Thanks Claire and I love your point about covering your ears when they speak back. My 8YO son often uses that tactic on me!!

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  8. Hi Karen and good article. I love a good discussion over the whole follow / following thingy.. In my experience so many people simply dont get it or take the easy way out. When i first started on Twitter in April 2008, I was told to follow everyone back. It was the nice thing to do… In realtity it was the worst piece of advise I was ever given.

    For the record I follow apporox 260 and am being followed by 13,200… But by Ant’s definition I am a spammer…I will leave it to you to decide If i am….

    Why was it so bad…. Because people simply cannot follow thousands of people. I dont care what anyone says. I should know, I was following 19,000 people back that had already followed me. So what people actually do is set up groups, filters, lists.. pretty much anything to try and manage that huge number…. What they are actually doing is separating off the 250 ish that they want to keep in close tabs of whilst pretty much ignoring the others…

    But by doing it this way, they dont have the wrath of the so calle Twitter police who accuse them of being rude, not following back, etc… they take no aggravation for it…But in reality they are doing exactly what I am doing… But boy did I take a lot of agggro fo doing it.. However I stand 100% by my decision to only follow peeps that add value to me.

    Now.. that does not mean that I ignore people, dont engage with people. You dont need to follow peeps to converse with them. Ant mentioned Klout as a level of influence. I rate the klout scoring metric as it gives a reasonable indication of influence.. Now influence is not how many followers you have.. It is how many of them actually listen, do stuff when you ask them, re teeet you and so on.. I am very please that I have a klout score that is currently 77… demonstrating that I am very influencial which has been achieved through engagement, and not through following.

    To me one of the greatest things that people can do on Twitter is have a view or opinion, and then demonstrate by their actions that they live and breath that. I certainly have made my position clear and demonstrate that all the time…

    People are free to use Twitter exactly how they want. I am not preaching to anyone how they must use it, but I do believe that I have the epxerience and knowledge to tell people the realities of such a stratgey as I have gone thorugh it.

    Mark

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by Mark and adding to the discussion. As you say, people are free to use Twitter exactly how they want. And I still believe that we have only scratched the surface with the potential that Twitter offers. Such a emotive subject :O) Love it!!

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  9. Great post Karen!

    Clearly we got you thinking at The Social Media Guys event yesterday and good to see you adding to the debate.

    Taking a step back I think who you follow and your approach should always be part of a wider social media strategy the reflects what you want to achieve with social media and how Twitter might contribute to that (of course, if you are on Twitter to have fun, knock yourself out!).

    I often make the analogy that being followed on Twitter is a bit like meeting someone for the first time networking and simply saying ‘hello’. It would be rude not to reply and in this scenario that is the automatic follow back (which is the only type of follower automation Twitter allow). After you hear what they have to say you might choose to engage more fully or indeed ignore (and unfollow!) them.

    I auto follow back and then weed through my list of followers regularly and unfollow and even block those who are less than desirable.

    Consider this, at Morgan PR we have received business enquiries about getting help with Twitter or other social media where the first contact has been a Direct Message. This can only be sent by someone where the following is reciprocated. So over 2,500 of your followers cannot send you a private message. This is a common mistake among businesses who try to crisis manage on Twitter who tell people to ‘DM them’ but do not follow first!

    Also, by scrutinising the new followers I have automatically followed back I often find that there are local businesses, journalists and influential twitterers among them. Imagine if through being busy I had seemingly ignored them by not following back while merrily tweeting?

    It is Social Media – the clue is in the title!

    Also, Helen makes a good point. Always look at everything about someone’s profile and learn what makes a quality follower.

    Keep up the good work Karen! And I am delighted I was already one of your chosen people to follow ;o)

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    Good points, Nigel – especially about the DM policy if you don’t auto-follow people back. Personally I just don’t have the time to unfollow people who I have automatically followed. But I do get the email alerts from Twitter every time a new follower appears, and I try to scan down the list a couple of times a week to pick out interesting people to follow back.

    Great to meet you yesterday and I’ll be having a rummage through your blog as I am sure you have some cracking ones to share here on mine!

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  10. I don’t believe that anyone following 5000 people can be interacting with them all, – they’d need to be on Twitter all day to even skim read the feeds, even with lists. However if I saw someone with a fairly even ratio, following about 5000, being followed by about 5000, I wouldn’t think it was strange and if I liked their bio and pic and the last few tweets, then I would follow them, – I wouldn’t tend to follow anyone who was following 5000 but only had 300 ppl following them, – That smacks of them just following 000′s to get follow backs.

    As Helen said, I look at lots of things tho’ not just the number of followers

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    I must admit that it is why I only follow a few hundred people, because even with Twitter Lists, I couldn’t keep up. I like using the Twitter app on my iPhone to catch up with tweets.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Claire and adding to the discussion.

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  11. I have a policy to follow anyone who follows me unless I suspect them to be a bot or a spammer. I look at the last 3 tweets for engagement. If there isn’t any engagement but their bio seems interesting, I will look at more tweets. I believe that it shows openess and friendliness and you never know where some of these follows might lead! I have had so many interesting things happen this year, by following this policy, including an interview this afternoon for a Canadian podcast!

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    It’s great that you have a follow policy, Nicky. It makes it easier to decide quickly who you want to follow. Great idea. And well done on the Canadian podcast :O)

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  12. Helen Stothard

    I tend not to look at just one thing when deciding who to follow, I look at everything, profile, image, recent tweets rather than numbers. I follow on the basis of whether I will get value from following ie will I learn something, will I have a laugh, do they look like someone I can have a conversation with. There’s always the unfollow button a few days later if I find I was wrong.

    Follower numbers attract too much hype, it’s quality at the end of the day for me over quantity.

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    Karen Skidmore Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by with your thoughts, Helen. And I think the unfollow button is one of the reasons why I love Twitter so much. Following doesn’t have to be reciprocal.

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