The Social Media Numbers Game

twitter-logoI’m old enough to have used an address book and still have a Rolodex on the phone table.  When I actually sit down and think about the people with whom I have reasonably regular ‘quality’ contact in a 3 month period, either electronically or face to face, it probably amounts to no more than a hundred or so.  I guess it’s safe to say that in the world of networking I’m a ‘quality over quantity’ sort of fellow.  I’ve never been a great collector of large numbers of business cards or people details – collections are fine for stamps, coins and locomotive numbers but are kind of creepy for people. 🙂

Back in the late 1990s / early 2000s I used a networking site called Ecademy – I stopped after a while because it seemed that people were making contact with you purely from a sales oriented viewpoint.  Allow me to explain – if I’m interested in AI, and someone brings something to my attention that’s even vaguely related to the field – that’s cracking!  That’s exactly what I’m there for – and hopefully I’ll be able to reciprocate.  On the other hand, if someone steams in with a ‘Hi, I’m Fred, I’m in marketing, blah, blah, blah’ I get the feeling I’m receiving a boilerplate message which is likely to end up as a boiler room selling attempt.  The site seemed to encourage numbers of contacts over quality – and that’s one of the reasons why I eventually jacked it in.

I’ve noticed in recent days that I’m being followed by people who are following thousands of others.  And the odd thing is most of them appear to be selling something that is as relevant to me as a comb to Sir Patrick Stewart.  The ‘Bio’ of one such follower (soon to be ex-follower in my daily purge) – “A Business Dedicated to providing free online MLM training videos, articles, books and webinars”.  If I received an email like this I’d call it spam – pure and simple.  I know that Twitter has policies around spam, but my point is that most folks following 20,000 people seem to be in the MLM, ‘sales and marketing’, ‘social media consultancy’ sort of areas.  They’re cold calling – they sure ain’t networking.

Bottom line – there is NO WAY, realistically, that the content generated by the 20,000 people these bods follow is ever registering in any meaningful manner with these people – I assume it’s simply being harvested electronically and searched for keywords that might suggest a sales lead. 

Joe’s categorisation of Twitter users…

  1. Vast number of followers, smallish number of followed – publisher / celeb.
  2. Vast number of followers, vast number of followed – probably sales / mass marketing
  3. Smallish followers, large number of followed – probably spammer
  4. Smallish followers / smallish followed – personal / business networking

OK – it’s not a brilliant classification but it works for me.  Just watch out if you’re in category 2 or 3 ‘cos I’m binning you!

 Whilst I was drafting this yesterday, I came across this piece on the same topic:  http://juliorvarela.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/when-twitter-numbers-are-meaningless/

Don’t get too hung up on your numbers on Twitter.  If you’re following lots of people, just check WHY.  Do they add value to your day?  Amuse / entertain you?  Educate you?  Guide or enlighten you?  If not, ditch ’em.  And those following you – just take a look at their numbers and think about what I’ve said.

And I hope you don’t chuck me off your lists. 🙂

6 thoughts on “The Social Media Numbers Game

  1. Nice post and thanks for the trackback. I think your classifications are actually very accurate and very few Twitter profiles can actually handle a large # of followers and still engage people, but people like @chrisbrogan, @shellykramer, @rizzotees and others have this knack to be able to do it, but it takes a lot of time and dedication. Keep connecting! Best, Julio

  2. Thank you!

    Engagement is very important to me – we may use technology that wasn’t even thought of 15 years ago, but we’re still in the business of talking to each other. I’ll take a look at those people you mention – as you can see I’m something of a Twitter newbie, but trying to learn!

  3. Am planning to do bit of a waffle on the twitter spam on my blog shortly – the only purpose I can see it serving is lining the pockets of the people who charge you 9.95 a month to get more followers.

  4. Chance – hiya matey!

    Indeed – I’m a late adopter to twitter, and find it useful and invaluable for certain applications – finding new blogs and resources, promoting my own stuff, having chats with folks I know – but the spamming is getting a little excessive. I think I’ll hang on to my 9.95!

  5. Joe,

    Love the Twitter categorization. I had not thought of relationships in this fashion.

    Do you think your #3 entry is true for both new and longer term users of Twitter?

    I could see, for instance, a new user following a large number of individuals out of curiosity or in an attempt to learn how the “followed” were using the medium, but not being followers for the purpose of being spammers. I can also definitely see how a spammer would have few followers but be following a large number of individuals so they could spew the spam. I don’t have the answer but I could see the logic of both.

    Very nice article. Thanks for posting.

  6. Stuart, thanks for the comment!

    Yes, I think there is scope for variation in (3) – I think that in all technologies there’s the learning curve at the start of it all. I think that from my own perspective I see Twitter (at this stage of it’s evolution) as less of a disruptive technology and more of a continuation of other contact media, so I based my classifications very much with that in mind.

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