Social media is a numbers game. How many followers or friends you have, how often you tweet, who listens and re-tweets. It's maddening. It's also been proven that things that get measured are the things people will focus on. So the focus is on how many, not how valuable.
There's no way to quantify whether or not you have "good" followers or just a number. An author with 678 followers where every single one goes out of their way to help promote that author has a far more valuable social network than an author with 12,325 followers who never do anything to help promote their work.
Yet we view the 12K author as more successful.
High numbers look good, but what's the actual value to them?
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about already successful authors. If you're a bestselling author your numbers are people who already like you and want to hear from you. I'm talking more about those still building their social network who work hard to raise their numbers without knowing if those numbers are actually helping them.
For example, I've had folks with high numbers follow me who are clearly doing it to get more followers. The old "follow me I'll follow you" deal. Their bio has nothing to do with writing or books, and their tweets have nothing to do with what I tweet about. They're most likely following me just for the number, and in most cases, when I don't follow back they unfollow me. It's gotten so prevalent, that I rarely follow someone with mega-high numbers anymore.
I chat more with folks with lower numbers than higher, because we actually see each other's Tweets and respond. (No one can keep up with hundreds of tweets per minute in their feed.) I get to know those lower-number folks and thus retweet their comments or start reading (and tweeting) their blogs.
I recently agreed to read an ARC for a possible blurb due to a tweet by a fellow blogger I retweeted. Random connection, mutually beneficial outcome. She'll be a guest on this blog when her book comes out next year. A great example of social media that worked, and not because of our number of followers.
When I first joined Twitter, I got excited when someone with 65,000 followers tweeted one of my blog posts one day. I thought, "Wow, 65,000 people are going to see that link! My numbers are going to spike!"
My blog numbers didn't change. Having that huge-number person tweet me didn't do squat to drive traffic to my blog. It was a very nice thing to do and I appreciated that person sharing it, but one tweet by one person (unless they're famous or some other out-of-the-ordinary thing) isn't likely to affect traffic. There's just too much out there for one tweet to stand out.
But my numbers have been steadily rising since I started tweeting writing links all day, and started connecting more with fellow writers and book bloggers. Most of them have smaller numbers of followers, so when they retweet, people see it. October was my biggest blog month ever numbers-wise, and I recently hit the one million views mark.
(More on my Twitter experiment here)
I believe this success is because I'm offering something of value to people who see it, appreciate it, and are generous enough to pass it on. (for which I'm eternally grateful and appreciative). The fact that most of these people have lower Twitter follows means to me, that they're real people connecting with other real people, not just number hogs.
I notice my number bias now when I decide whom to follow back.
If you're a writer, I'll follow you back because my goal is to connect with other writers. But I'll check your feed first and see what you tweet about. If they're all "buy my book" tweets, I won't follow you. You've clearly established that Twitter is there for you to spam others. I don't need that in my feed, and from a purely selfish marketing standpoint, if you're too busy spamming your own work, you won't mention mine. You offer me nothing, so why should I be just one more number on your tally.
I'll also skip following someone with a huge number of followers with low tweets. This I can't figure out, because how can someone get 95,000 followers if they've only ever tweeted 135 times. (Unless they're famous already) Again, there's no social media value to those numbers. It's folks following and auto-following back.
An author with huge numbers? Unless you're someone I know or have met face to face, (or I just want to hear what you have to say) odds are I won't follow you, because you obviously don't need my help to promote your work. Plus, you have so many fans the odds of connecting with you are slim. You're already getting bombarded with folks hoping you'll tweet their stuff or mention their book. I imagine there's a lot of tweet overload on someone with five-figure-(or higher) numbers. I can't possibly keep up with all mine and I'm just under 7K.
If numbers are all you care about, then those numbers are meaningless. You won't be offering anything of value to those followers, and your tweets will be one more piece of spam lost in a daily feed.
Look at who you chat with, who retweets you, who you connect with and share with on a daily basis. Those are the people you will most likely help, and who will most likely help you. They're the ones you remember because you interact with them.
It's about quality, not quantity. And honestly, it might not even be that big a deal overall. The Intern had an eye-opening post about an author who deleted her entire online presence as a test. It's a post I think about every time I feel pressured to take time away from writing to do online marketing.
The goal of an author is to reach readers. If all of our numbers are actual readers, then that's fantastic and valuable. High numbers in those cases are good things. But how many really are our readers, and how many are folks trying to bulk up their numbers? There's software out there that says it can tell you, but it's can't. Not unless it knows which of your followers bought your book or helped market you.
It really makes me think.
- Does there come a point when the number of followers makes it impossible to beneficially connect with those followers?
- Should we be striving for meaningful connections and forget the numbers?
- Should we pay more attention to lower number "real" people and less on big-number marketing folks?
- How do you decide who to follow, and how much do you actually pay attention to what they say once you do follow them?
- How many people do you actually interact with on a regular basis?