The definition of "Follow" on Twitter is different for everyone, but for me it means I read every tweet from the people I follow. I purposely limit the number of people I follow to under 100 because I can't realistically keep up with anymore than that. I simply don't have the time. Some people play the “I will follow you, if you follow me” game in an attempt to amass more followers. Not me.
I do find Twitter immensely useful to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening in the tech world. The people I follow provide not just the news, but insight and perspective on why it is important. In return, I try to keep my Tweets focused, useful, and insightful...to the extent that is possible in 140 characters.
I wrote the post below two years ago. Since then "Twitter Litter" has exploded. Scoble and Kawasaki have many more "followers", and the meaning of "Follow" has been completely destroyed. Read this post and please respond with how you use Twitter, how many people you follow, and how you think about "followers".
Twitter Litter most followers don’t really follow you
Robert Scoble follows 80,141 people on Twitter. Do you think he really reads the “tweets” of all those people? No way. Not humanly possible…even for Superman Scoble. Guy Kawasaki follows 97,276 people on Twitter. Clearly, follow means something different to them. The reality is that many Twitters engage in the “I will follow you, if you follow me” game in an attempt to amass more followers. The result is that no one really listens (follows) anyone. Twitter Litter.
Robert and Guy are great guys, sensational networkers, and friends. I have the greatest respect for both of them. But let’s be clear, this is just marketing.
What do they get in return? Kawasaki has entered 20,337 tweets and Scoble 19,228. That is a lot of work, lots of tweets, lots of following random people. What is the return on all that work? Kawasaki has 89,472 “followers” in return for his following 97,276 other people. Scoble has 73,030 followers, while he follows 80,141. Is it worth it? Do phantom followers have value?
Jason Calacanis, another sensational marketer, offered $250K to be on Twitters “suggested user” list. Today he upped the offer to $500K. Jason admits that his offer was “half bluffing” and a great way to get buzz, but he justifies his offer with some interesting math. The numbers all compute, but they rely on some questionable assumptions. Puzzle out this one “If I was able to reach three million followers, and kept half of them (1.5m), that means every tweet would get 15,000 visits. Five a day means 75,000 daily visits, and over two million visits a month–or close to 50m visits of two or three years. Some percentage of those two million would participate in Mahalo by asking or answering questions, and if that number is also .5 to 1%, that means I would get about 250,000 new members for my service.” There are a lot of “ifs” and assumptions in there. Maybe he is right. The outcomes of these opportunities are never obvious.
So, what is a Twitter follower worth? Do they really follow and read your tweets? Can you really say anything meaningful in 140 characters? Will Twitter come up with a profitable business model? Is Twitter worth the $500M acquisition price that was rumored? Is being on Twitters “suggested user” list worth $500K? Hmmm…maybe Mahalo Answers can help? Which is precisely the result Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo, is hoping to get for his $500K. Good luck!
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