This week I celebrated reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter. As I got closer to the milestone I found myself watching my follower count click slowly upwards and a number of my supportive followers were encouraging their contacts to follow me to ensure that the magical 10,000 number was reached. When my follower count clicked over to show 10k the congratulations flowed in and I admit to feeling just a tiny bit pleased.
No doubt, some people would say that such an interest in my follower count is wrong: that the quantity of followers is far less important that the quality of followers.
Quantity vs Quality
Quantity: We’ve all seen accounts with tens of thousands of followers and very little interaction from either the account holder or their followers. Is there any value in such a social media account? Yes, as a marketing message repeatedly broadcast to tens of thousands of even disengaged followers will at some point hit its target. Cast your net wide enough and you may well land a random catch.
Quality: Target your message to a network of engaged and interested followers and you’re much more likely to land the catch of the day. A network of engaged and supportive followers is priceless. They will take an interest in your posts, and will spread your message further by promoting your posts via retweets, re-shares or likes. Interact with your followers and you will build relationships which will extend beyond the realms of the virtual world. Relationships are at the heart of business: it may seem to be a cliché but it is true that people really do buy goods and services from people that they know, like and trust. Relationships lead to custom and recommendation. If those recommendations are made via social media the cycle starts again, giving an opportunity to build even more relationships.
Quality wins: numbers don’t matter. Or do they?
I’ve heard people argue that it is far better to have 1000 engaged and interested followers than 10,000 followers. I see social media experts urging people to forget about their follower count and concentrate on building relationships with a smaller number of engaged followers. I’ve seen criticism of those who are seen to be ‘chasing’ higher follower counts.
The problem with these arguments is this: engagement levels on social media are generally low compared to the number of followers an account has. For example, take a look at my own weekly Twitter engagement figures produced by SumAll on 20.02.14:
To some (particularly those with a much lower following), the level of RTs and replies may look fairly impressive but these figures actually represent an engagement figure of around 3% of my total followers. If only around 300 of my 10,000 followers are actively engaging with my posts does that mean that the remaining 9700 followers are of no value? The quality over quantity argument would suggest so.
The quality over quantity argument fails to address these two important points:
1. More than half of Twitter users are ‘lurkers’.
This is a term used to described people who check their Twitter feeds regularly and ‘watch’ others’ tweets but who very rarely tweets themselves or interact with others. These users are often considered ‘inactive’ because they do not engage. They may be considered, by some, to fall outside of the ‘quality’ follower box. However, they are, in my opinion, valuable followers who are seeing your tweets. I have received numerous enquiries and instructions from people who contacted me via Twitter saying that they had seen my tweets, despite the fact that they had never interacted with me or my posts. These ‘inactive’ followers are now my clients.
2. To find the ‘quality’ you first need the ‘quantity’
As social media engagement levels are traditionally low, to build a following of, say 1000, actively engaged followers would require a much higher follower count. To find the ‘quality’ you first need the ‘quantity’.
Who wins? Quality or quantity?
In my opinion, you can’t have one without the other. To be successful on social media it is necessary to engage with and build relationships with your followers. Simply ‘collecting’ high numbers of followers and broadcasting to them is not what ‘social’ media is about. Neither should you feel bad about celebrating your follower milestones! Build your following, engage with and support your followers, and you’ll reap the rewards.
And to each and every one of my followers – thank you!
Which gets your vote? Quantity or quality? I’d love to hear your views
By Donna Beckett
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