When you tweet, consider this advice: Lead, follow or get out of the way.
I was not one of the first people to embrace Twitter.
What could a naturally verbose person do with a communications mechanism that can only say 140 characters worth of words at a time? But I’ve come to embrace it as an interesting, often useful tool.
Yet, I can’t help believe that for many people it’s a scoreboard to make believe you’re popular. While working with my Twitter account, I see dozens of people who have thousands of followers—and most of these people follow a similar number back—supposedly reading all the knowledge nuggets and worthless statements that get sent out from all these accounts.
I get new followers to my Twitter account (@dradin) daily, but when I don’t follow them back, they sometimes disappear after a few days. Occasionally, I see somebody worth following but do it only sparingly. So my account languishes in the low hundreds of followers, mostly people with interests in Pittsburgh, PTA, coaching, Beatles, marketing, technology business, or fun and interesting quotes—because that’s the kind of stuff I tweet. I don’t conduct many conversations on Twitter, opting to have a private e-mail exchange instead of tweeting a conversation.
Twitter, though, has allowed me to have some good public conversations with local business people, readers of my column, advertising and tech industry gurus, and even with Tom Peters (the author of “In Search of Excellence.”) And I have shared a lot of interesting information and unique quotes that I heard elsewhere. I only follow a couple hundred people, but they’re carefully selected based on the value of what they have posted previously, as well as their reputations in key areas.
Having a few hundred followers would be a problem to most people who want to embrace Twitter, but I’d rather be part of a select group than to drink from the information fire-hose. I expect my followers to want every tweet to be worthwhile to read, just like I do.
Twitter has also connected me with Joel Comm, author of “Twitter Power 2.0.” He is one of the unusual breed of Twitter users who has a lot more followers than they follow. While he barely follows 600, Comm has 72,000 followers. In a phone conversation with me, the Colorado-based author and consultant conceded that he had also followed thousands of people for a while, which is when he racked up his huge following. Then when his following reached 83,000 people, he realized that his stream became unusable. (I didn’t ask him why he didn’t realize it earlier.) So he purged his list, making it all about relationships instead. Now, he’s going deep instead of going wide with his Twitter following.
More than 10,000 of his followers removed Comm as well, showing they only cared for the high number of followers. But he made his life easier. Oh, did I mention, he now has more than 5,000 people connected to him via LinkedIn?
He did lead me to some important facts. According to research conducted by Sysomos (a provider of social media monitoring and analytics tools), 76 percent of Twitter’s members have no more than 18 followers. Research company Nielsen found that 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return to the site after their first month.
That doesn’t mean Twitter is a failure, only that it can’t be all things to all people.
I’d like to do some of my own research for you. If you use Twitter, please tweet me to let me know what your strategy is: wide or deep, and why you choose to follow or unfollow other Twitter users. I’ll share the results here—and through my own Twitter feed.