I Don't Care How Many Twitter Followers I Have
Well, actually, I do care. I’m very proud of the fact that several hundred people follow me on Twitter (@iamPariah) and that a few dozen more follow me every month. I’m proud not of the number of followers but of the fact of followers, which is what sets me apart from a good percentage of the Twitter population.
Earlier today, mostly for fun, I created a FaceBook group called “Twitter is not a Popularity Contest,” subtitled “I don’t care how many followers I have on Twitter” (join it here). That act inspired the following question from my friend Anne-Marie Concepcion:
Yet… I could’ve sworn all those “Thank you VERY much to all my followers! Today I broke 1,000! You guys RAWK!” and “Wahoo!
@Photoshop_GU just broke 1,000 followers!” etc. tweets of yours from about 20 hours ago meant you cared … *really* cared. ;-)
Straighten me out, oh twitter/fb guru … seriously! Why’d you form the group? I’m curious. I thought hitting a 1000 followers was an impressive accomplishment, myself.
In the first paragraph Anne-Marie refers to some recent tweets of mine from yesterday, Friday, 27 February 2009. The first, “Thank you VERY much to all my followers!” was from me (@iamPariah) thanking people who began following me that day as a result of recommendations by other Twitter users (#fridayfollow, it’s a Twitter thing). I sent it as a welcome and to show my appreciation for the recommendations of others (a recommendation means to me that someone likes what I have to say, and thinks others will, too). The others--“Today I broke 1,000! You guys RAWK!” and “Wahoo! @Photoshop_GU just broke 1,000 followers!”--were from and about, respectively, @Photoshop_GU, another Twitter account I maintain.
Getting to 1,000 followers is impressive in my opinion, too. But only because that’s 1,000 people following the @Photoshop_GU feed because they’re interested in the content it sends them--five new Photoshop-related news items or tutorials every half hour from GurusUnleashed.com--and because I often help people with Photoshop problems through that account. I doubt any of those following @Photoshop_GU have hopes that doing so will somehow increase their own follower counts.
My main Twitter account, @iamPariah, has around 400 followers, but I only follow 200-odd people. Except for a handful that are bots whose services I use (and thus must follow in order to use those services), everyone I follow is someone whose tweets enrich my Twitter experience in some way. Some provide information I find useful, some make me laugh, others are friends and provide camaraderie or stimulating conversation.
For far too many users, Twitter is simply a popularity contest, a race to see who gets the greatest number of followers. In the mind of such a person, his number of followers directly equates to his self identity, to his perceived importance; it’s a personal validation. Twitter is so competitive, in fact, that over a dozen third-party services have popped up in the last year to facilitate the race.
Services like SocialToo offer the ability to auto-follow everyone who follows you and to automatically unfollow anyone who stops following you. Such services have nothing to do with Twitter content--anyone who employs them obviously can’t care about the content he will be fed on an autofollow or the content he’ll miss with an auto-unfollow--yet such services are extremely popular.
Other Twitter ranking sites perpetuate the idea that Twitter exists as a scoring system. Sites such as TweetValue, Twitter Grader, Qwitter, and Friend or Follow. The last I actually use to catch up on new followers in whose tweets I might be interested.
For me, and for a good portion of other Twitter users, the service isn’t about numbers.
From @imjustcreative, @chadengle, @fabrikade, @Kathy_Writer, @keylimecreative, @mayhemstudios, @bccreative, @justcreative, @zwettemaan, @aj_wood I learn something new everyday, either through original content they’ve written or the links they often share to interesting online articles and content they find. I don’t know if they’re all following me back, nor do I care. Whether they are interested in what I have to say on Twitter has no bearing on my interest in what they say.
@amarie, @jctremblay, @rufusd, @russellviers, @dblatner, @jmvrankin, @Worldlabel, @vectorbabe, @mordy because they’re my friends, colleagues, and collaborators; Twitter is just another communication medium for keeping up with them, their lives, and their projects. Do I care if they follow me back? Sure, to a point. Friends should keep in touch, but I know that, for at least one of my friends, I’m a little too prolific and chatty on Twitter. Sometimes my tweets dominate his selectively meager follow list, so he doesn’t always follow me. I’m ok with that. It doesn’t mean my friend doesn’t like me, and it certainly doesn’t mean I should stop following what he has to say (on those once a week or so occassions that he actually tweets something [ahem]).
I follow @Prepressology, @juliaroy, @iKitty, @smalonedesign, @witch22, @aprilclark because good conversation often ensues from doing so. In fact, just last night I was talking to @smalonedesign. She’d had a bad day, and I was trying to help cheer her up. According to her, I did. That’s a human connection facilitated by Twitter, not an anonymous, impersonal inflation of follower/following numbers. I think all of these people follow me, but if they do, it’s because they also enjoy our conversations and like what I have to say outside of our conversations.
And, with few exceptions, everyone I’ve named above as well as those others I follow whom I haven’t named, fit into more than just one category. Most have taught me something at some point, which often leads to good conversation, perhaps laughter, and even friendship or project collaboration.
For me, Twitter is a new means of gathering information and connecting with people, and I would like to think that those following me do so with the same view of Twitter. So, yes, I’m very proud of my 1,000 Photoshop_GU followers, but I’m just as proud of the 500 or so people who follow and find the InDesign-related news and tutorial tweets from @InDesign_GU useful, and of the 400 that follow and read or interact with me more directly via my @iamPariah main Twitter account.
I created the FaceBook group partly as a lark, partly to connect with and guage the size of the portion of the Twitter community who feels as I do: Twitter is about people, not numbers.
P.S. In case you’re interested, here are my Twitter accounts:
- @iamPariah My main Twitter account
- @Photoshop_GU Photoshop news and tutorials
- @InDesign_GU InDesign news and tutorials
- @Illustrator_GU Adobe Illustrator news and tutorials
- @InCopy_GU Adobe InCopy news and tutorials
- @QuarkXPress_GU QuarkXPress news and tutorials
- @Acrobat_GU PDF- and Adobe Acrobat-related news and tutorials
- @wFreelance Graphic design business, inspiration, and resource headlines
- @wFreelanceJobs The latest design job postings and requests for bids
- @wFreelanceTalk Live design discussion from all around the Web