Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

January 13, 2010

Having 1000 Twitter Followers Doesn’t Make You A Social Media Guru

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:06 pm

I keep seeing the same mistake being made over and over: http://crochet247.com/tag/ocean-kiss-summer-shawl-crochet-pattern/ Companies keep choosing their social media department based on how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends they have.

It starts when an executive hears of social media and decides that his company needs an offering in that space. The executive soon discovers that nobody really has any experience in social media, but they’ve got to pick somebody. It’s then that you can see them frantically running around the office asking “Who’s got a Twitter account?”

In a world where we have metrics for everything it can be easy to simply look at friends or followers as a metric for determining social media prowess – and that’s where companies get into trouble.

Twitter and Facebook friend counts are nothing more than an elaborate measurement of virtual penis size. That’s really all they’re good for. I’ve talked about why friend counts are bad years ago, but nobody was even talking about social media back then. (those problems still exist by the way.)

The bigger problem with friends is engagement. As I discussed last year, the reason twitter bots are so effective is that people blindly re-follow anybody who follows them. If I want to get 1000 facebook friends I simply have to go friend request about 5000 people. It’s a safe bet that 1/5 of them will approve my request. That percentage is even higher on Twitter. In my tests I’ve seen about a 40% re-follow rate.

Engagement is what matters. How many of your followers actually reply to you? How many of them comment on your posts? What percentage click on links that you tweet? Go ahead and ask your social media person – I bet they don’t have any answers for you.

It’s not just companies that are falling into the “friend fallacy” though – individuals are even more to blame. Just look at how people describe themselves on their twitter biographies and you’ll see what I’m talking about. There’s a plethora of self proclaimed gurus out there. (personally, I prefer to call myself an expert rather than a guru.)

In fact, many of the people I consider experts (myself included) are taking an opposite approach to followers. Not only do I not follow people back unless they’re interesting, but I also block the spam bots and low-quality accounts from following me. It keeps my followers and people I’m following low, but it also keeps them highly engaged. My signal to noise ratio is great too. You won’t find many other people who do this though, as they like to point to that high friend count to re-enforce their “guru” status.

Whenever somebody professes to be a social media guru I always ask them the same questions: How much money are you making from Twitter? What’s the lift generated by your Facebook account? What metrics are you using?

Many social marketers will quickly change the subject when you start talking about actionable analytics and ROI – and for good reason too. See, the fact is that many of these Gurus have no idea how to measure their contribution to social media nor do they want to. Measuring their value may just show them how small their virtual penis actually is.

Social media, like all marketing campaigns, needs to be well thought out. You should have a clear goal, a plan in place to achieve that goal, and a method of measuring the results. Plus, it can take a long time to growing a following of real people if you don’t buy tiktok views for your TikTok posts.

Just like you wouldn’t undertake an advertising initiative without a plan, you wouldn’t hire an advertising agency based on “number of dollars they spent” or a PR person based on “number of press releases submitted,” so why on earth would you hire a social media person based on how many friends or followers they have?

It’s time we stop comparing the size of our virtual penises and start looking at metrics that matter. Besides, we all know that my e-penis is bigger than yours anyway.


  1. To be fair, it was @pageoneresults who first lectured me on the importance of managing and blocking followers – some many months ago.

    He loves random followers too – so don’t forget to click that follow button by his name.

    Comment by Ryan — January 13, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  2. here’s a devil’s advocate idea:

    a lot of companies wanting to try out social have no idea what it will actually lead to. for them, the objective is ‘get a lot of followers’.

    in picking someone who’s managed to get a lot of followers, they’ll probably achieve their intended result: a lot of (potentially meaningless) followers.

    while those follower stats may be meaningless, there may be a nice bi-product: from that point on, there’s much greater internal focus on “what’s going on with twitter?”. that naturally leads to the question “what are we actually getting out of this thing?”, and they get there much quicker than if they’d sat around waiting for something to happen, or risked spending a lot of money on someone who may be their saviour or may be selling snake oil.

    of course there are a million caveats to this, and i don’t fully believe it, but worth thinking about.

    Comment by DAN BARKER — January 13, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  3. If anybody is curious, I use http://www.thetwitcleaner.com to see who I should unfollow. It’s not that bad.

    Comment by Ryan — January 13, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

  4. I sir, am an idiot.

    Comment by kmadd — January 13, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

  5. DAN BARKER’s comment is interesting. he is a genious

    Comment by social media marketing — January 13, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  6. Thank you SO much for posting this — it’s 100% true and I’m really sick of getting followed by people who have 30,000 followers and are following 30,000 people. I don’t know them. They never actually talk to me, engage me, or know who I am… It’s like they’re storing nuts for the winter and it’s a little obsessive to tell you the truth. You know what? I may have only 500 followers but I know every single one. So. There.

    Your E-penis can suck it. Or something.

    Comment by Marian Schembari — January 13, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

  7. I actually just spent the last 2 hours parsing my Twitter account of about 600 people I was following.

    I admit, I got caught up in the “re-follow” bit because I wanted to be nice but Twitter is beyond the hype for me now. I’m beginning to build relationships with people that are leading to opportunities for my blog and business.

    I don’t need all the noise that comes with following so many people. Additionally, and I’m sure you would admit as well, it’s depressing seeing 700 followers and only 2 or 3 answer back on even generic questions like “how’s it going?’

    I much rather have a closer group of refined Twitter friends than a mass amount of people that don’t care. It’s all talking to a false audience.

    I’ve stopped accepting friends on Facebook because, besides my close friends, I don’t really know these people and just because they have been suggested to me via other friends doesn’t make them worthwhile.

    So my message, I guess, is the classic “quality over quantity”.

    Oh yeah, screw anyone that calls themselves a “guru”.

    Comment by Murlu — January 14, 2010 @ 12:48 am

  8. Good post, I fully agree with you.

    Depending on your goal, you should never aim for the numbers alone but engagement.

    Attention is the most valuable commodity we have on the internet. I wrote about how to get attention on my blog here (It involves studying and putting some effort, so it may not be for you)

    Comment by Landon S Lang — January 14, 2010 @ 1:18 am

  9. You mentioned ‘penis’ 5 times. In a social media blog about followers. Not sure what point I’m trying to make but it’s certainly something you may want to reconsider in future blog posts.

    Comment by biff — January 14, 2010 @ 8:44 am

  10. I know Twitter accounts with well into 5-6k followers. This doesn’t mean their social media gurus at all, just use Twitter… I agree with you 100%!

    Comment by Blogger Den — January 14, 2010 @ 9:30 am

  11. Good shit!

    Comment by Domenick — January 29, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  12. hey Ryan

    Just wanted to drop by & thank you for recommending The Twit Cleaner.

    I’m always trying to improve it, so if you do have any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them.

    Thanks again


    Comment by Si Dawson — January 31, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

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