I read a blog post last week that stated something along the lines of “show me a Twitter user who says he doesn’t care about follower numbers and I’ll show you a liar”. It struck a chord – as much as any of us harp on about quality over quantity and about influence and all that other social media bull (it might be true, but it’s still bull), the plain fact is that we want more followers. More, more, more! We’re like the Hungry Hippos kids game, gobbling up follower after follower, scrapping for every last morsel of tweet food.
But consider it from a different perspective for a moment, that of the people whom you follow. How many profiles do you currently subscribe to? 300? 500? 1000? 3000? And how many of those do you actually FOLLOW? 50? 100? 250? Let’s be honest for a moment, if you subscribe to 1500 people, I’ll bet you only actually FOLLOW a couple of hundred of them, probably siphoned off into lists in Hootsuite or Tweetdeck or Seesmic. Beyond a certain point the true size of your network doesn’t really grow any more, no matter how large the numbers on your profile.
It comes back to Mr Dunbar and his famous number: the theoretical limit to the number of people with whom a person can maintain a social relationship, often valued at around 150. Speaking personally, I currently subscribe to nearly 1000 profiles on Twitter. But of those, I only have what I would call a ‘relationship’ with 130 of those people. Those 13% are profiles I read and interact with to one level or another. Sure, I interact with many others too periodically, but I’m honest enough not to consider them part of my network. When I login to Hootsuite, I read down the lists that contain those 130 people first. And then I quickly skim everyone else. I probably miss out on some great people, simply because my network has virtually reached its maximum size. My feeble brain can’t cope with any more!
So, making a huge assumption that I’m not alone in my Twitter behaviour, what does this mean for marketers on Twitter? It means, quite simply, that a brand’s biggest advocates are more likely to be people following fewer profiles irrespective of how many individuals follow them. A marketers’ strategy should, arguably therefore, be focused on engaging those with a lesser profile (and less ‘influence’, as defined by conventional measures), as these are the people who are likely to converse with the brand and retweet brand information. Trying to create an ongoing dialogue and relationship with the big boys is going to be hard, hard work.
What’s your opinion? Viable marketing strategy or misguided nonsense?
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