May 28, 2013

The harsh reality of Twitter: Popularity counts


To get traction, your social campaign needs 1,000+ followers

Chris AbrahamFew people hang on your every word. Everything that comes out of Ellen’s mouth is duly noted. Same thing with BieberGaga, and KatySeth Godin and (skinny) Chris Brogan only need to say something once. But if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ll need to speak up, maybe repeat yourself, and be more persistent than the Earth’s top celebs or our most hallowed social media motivational speakers.

Yes, we might be heroes to a few people in our lives — our moms, our dads, maybe our partners, children (if we’re lucky), and maybe a few people who either have deep crushes or are gunning for our jobs.

Don’t worry.

No matter how much you’re worth or how much your local paper adores you, it doesn’t guarantee social media celebrity. So there are three strategies that you’ll need to pursue if you’re interested in harvesting some ROI from your social media marketing campaign, be it in the form of content marketing, digital PR, or using social as part of a multichannel sales strategy — and I will only go into two of them in this post. If you don’t have any followers, speaking about activation and conversion is pointless. Convert who, right?

You need more followers

The more followers you have, the more likely that there will be someone paying attention to your messaging when you share your content, your announcement, your promotion.

It also heightens the probability of someone sharing, resharing, or actually clicking through to your content or your brand. A secondary benefit is that people respect numbers, no matter how authentic or real or true these followers are.

It’s a sad truth.

Barack-Obama2And, finally, you can’t build a following unless you have a following. It’s very difficult to grow your followership with only the right people if you’re also not willing to collect everyone else. It’s easier to get rid of spammy followers than it is to develop a real following. Let’s call it a social media bootcamp.

You need to work on things that are kind of BS but seem to be important to people: follower numbers (be it Twitter or Facebook) and your Klout score. The too cool for school crowd is preparing hateful comments right now but it’s true: Klout scores and pure number of followers matter.

I mean, according to SocialBaker’s Fake Followers app, our president, Barack Obama, only has 46% “real” followers on Twitter. 35% of his followers are “fake” and 19% are considered “inactive.” Still, he has the No. 4 most-followed Twitter handle on the planet.


So, even though follow-back schemes, Twitter’s promoted “who to follow” list, and full-on buying hundred, thousands, hundred-thousands, or even millions of Twitter followers, cash-on-the-barrel. You need to start somewhere.

How to launch your Twitter empire

When it comes to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, fake it till you make it seems to be a pretty great way to kickstart your Twitter empire. How else can you explain the shadow-obsession with applications like TweetAdder and Twiends?

I hate to say it, but when it comes to celebrity, the more popular you become, the more popular you are and the more popular you become. It’s a cycle.

When it comes to celebrity, however, you cannot choose who adores you or who wants your autograph. You can’t choose who sends you fan letter, naughty selfies, or entire ears. And, when it comes to celebrity, who even knows how much of all that is real grass root obsession or is the combined simulacrum of a dozen agencies and publicists?

Me? Over the course of the last 6 years and four months I’ve been on Twitter, I have tried loads of things. I am sure I bought Twitter followers at a time when I found a good source through my team.

That said, I am lean: Of my 43,807 followers on Twitter, only 1% are fake, 1% are inactive, and 98% are good. It isn’t always that way, I am sure — I spend a lot of time trimming, mowing, and pruning my own Twitter lawnTweetscaping, I guess you’d call it.


OK, now that I have burned all of my bridges and told you a little too much, and now that I will probably be drummed out of the Twitterati by everyone except possibly Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki (my shameless patron saints of Twitter), let me continue.

You need the right followers

rjf_rooster3I guarantee you that you’re much more likely to attract the right people once you have a certain amount of gravitas, and online that gravitas is defined by: who you are, of course; who you work for; what you’ve done; what you say; who you’re associated with (those are the old reliable); but also how many followers you have, the ratio of number of followers to number you follow (you need way more people following you than you follow to be a cool kid), your Klout score, and simple things like your bio, if you have a profile photo, if you have a nice background image, or if you’ve been on Twitter for a long time.

We people are a little like chickens: If a couple hens are really into a particular rooster, then all the hens will be into him.

You need to be interesting, popular, successful, relevant, powerful, connected or influential enough to make that follow-back worthwhile

And, if you spend all the hard work in finding the right people to follow, you can’t make any of these “right people” follow you back, can you? You can surely ask, implore, and demand, but you cannot make them.

At the end of the day, we’re simple creatures — and superficial at that!

You need to be interesting, popular, successful, relevant, powerful, connected or influential enough to make that follow-back worthwhile, especially when people want to keep their ratio as “cool” as possible by only following back high-Klout, high-influence, and high-caste individuals (thereby benefiting from the friend and Klout association — what a racket).

To quote Tony Montana: “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” And, the corollary, “On social media, first you get the followers, then you get the influence, then you get the business.”

Let me know in the comments if you’re actually interested in learning how the Twitter and Facebook sausage is made. I would appreciate it — what do you want to know?Chris Abraham is a partner in Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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3 thoughts on “The harsh reality of Twitter: Popularity counts

  1. Great article. Love the name “Tweetscaping” for a good concept and an important practice. I think it is important that Social ROI can be measured in dollars or in influence, which is indirect but related to revenue.  President Obama is an example of the influence-based value of social networking. We find the most social satisfaction for small to medium business clients is from those interested in building influence. We use TweetReach to visualize their influence-ROI and people like how clearly it illustrates which efforts give them reach. 
    Is anyone tracking the growth in the number of smb’s, not big brands, getting dollar-ROI with Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn… and whose results are trumping using Adwords?
    Be interesting to see an infographic of the percentage of Twitter accounts that are people who use Twitter for news and communication vs. brands using Twitter for ROI. Plus the gray area where those two circles cross over of users who belong to both categories.