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Nathan T. Baker

How I Earned 1,859 Twitter Followers in Only 8 Years!

Nathan T. Baker
How I Earned 1,859 Twitter Followers in Only 8 Years!

Yes, the title of this article is dripping with sarcasm, but I’ll stop there.

Here's why. Author David Foster Wallace wrote this about sarcasm:

Even gifted ironists work best in sound bites. I find them sort of wickedly fun to listen to at parties, but I always walk away feeling like I've had several radical surgical procedures. And as for actually driving cross-country with a gifted ironist, or sitting through a 300-page novel full of nothing but trendy sardonic exhaustion, one ends up feeling not only empty but somehow ... oppressed.

I don't want to oppress you, so I'll get straight to the point. Sometimes having more Twitter followers, or email subscribers, or Facebook fans is a great goal—especially email subscribers; you own that space and aren't renting it. But, sometimes more followers is a terrible goal.

Reasons to Be on Twitter

You certainly shouldn't assume that more is always better. Let's focus on Twitter. Here are some of the reasons you or your brand may be using Twitter:

  1. Direct sales
  2. Website traffic
  3. Brand awareness
  4. Nurturing leads
  5. Building your own credibility
  6. Solving customer issues
  7. Influencer marketing
  8. Networking
  9. Learning
  10. Confirming a market fit

How Follower Counts Affect Your Goals

Notice, that having millions of followers rather than hundreds only helps you with some of these goals.

1. Direct Sales: Direct sales shouldn't be your goal on social media. It doesn't work well, and it's not smart business. Choose a different goal.

2-5. Traffic, Brand Awareness, Leads, Credibility: Yes, more quality followers will help you if you want more traffic, brand awareness, leads, or to build credibility.

6. Solving Issues: If someone wants to get your attention on Twitter, they will mention you, even if they aren't following you. You should of course check your mentions to listen to customers, but eavesdropping on unfiltered conversations is even more powerful. Searching hashtags or the name of your brand (in which you're not mentioned) to see what your prospects and customers think of you doesn't require a large follower count.

7. Influencer Marketing: Developing long term relationships with a few influencers is going to be much more effective than spamming lots of people you don't know. Having more followers doesn't impact your ability to befriend a few people.

8. Networking: Having fewer followers to interact with will make it easier to network with people. There will be less noise and more signal if you don't have to sift through a pile of Twitter interactions.

9. Learning: Would you rather enter a classroom with 1 million teachers, or one with 3 teachers you can trust? Tons of followers is not a requirement for learning from a handful of smart people on Twitter.

10. Market Fit: When deciding if the world is ready for your product, it usually doesn't work best to talk with your mom or a close friend. You want to talk to strangers trying to solve a problem who don't mind hurting your feelings. Search is your friend in this case, and you don't need a large follower count to do great research.

Chasing Michael Hyatt

Giving you or your brand exposure is a great thing, especially if it reinforces what you or your brand stands for. Just don't trade more disinterested followers for fewer interested followers.

I'll give you an example using my Twitter account. Back in the early days of Twitter, developer Chris Ennis created a website that tracked the most influential Twitter users in Nashville, my home town. Every morning, I would check the website and see how close I was to overtake the next Twitter user. Maybe I could overtake Michael Hyatt's 285 followers in a week or two. I think it's safe to say Michael Hyatt won that race.

Think Before You Chase Twitter Glory

Because I was focused on gaining more followers, I looked for the easiest path to that end. I shared as much Nashville news as I could and tried to break stories before local news. This strategy worked at gaining more follower from Nashville, but this didn't align with my long term goal of being known as a writer. I was becoming known as a guy that was really passionate about Nashville. That's true, but not what I ultimately want to be known for.

The same thing can happen in business. Yes news jacking random, juicy news or sharing cute unicorn GIFs can get lots of shares and followers. But, are you attracting the type of followers that will be most interested in your core message?

Take the time to know your goals on Twitter and how to measure them. This will inform how you use Twitter. If you ever get jealous of the Twitter elite, remember, there are some distinct advantages to lower follower counts. Use them.


Nathan T. Baker is the content marketing specialist at Raven, where you can craft marketing reports in minutes. Nathan’s side hustle is designing board games. On social media, he’s most active on Twitter.

Nathan T. Baker is the social media marketing specialist at Raven, where you can craft marketing reports in minutes. Nathan's side hustle is writing fiction. He's most active on Twitter.

Comments

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Jared Rogers
Jared Rogers
Boom :)
Tom
Tom
Yes Nathan!

BIG post, totally agree that the metric "followers" can be distracting and it is often more useful to focus on real and more meaningful metrics like:

HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU HELP!

Thanks again, will add this into our social sharing schedule.
Tom
@nathanTbaker
@nathanTbaker
Tom
Awesome, thanks for that! Yup, followers is only a small part of the picture.
Gail Gardner
Gail Gardner
Thanks, David, for sharing this post with us. Knowing what I know now, I would discourage anyone from doing Twitter the way I do it UNLESS their goal was to become known as a Twitter influencer.

Having 74k followers has some benefits, but having a small, highly targeted following with deeper interactions is a much better strategy for almost everyone. For those interested in numbers, fewer, more passionate and loyal followers convert much higher - as much as 10x or more higher.
@nathanTbaker
@nathanTbaker
Gail Gardner
Here, here! Tons of followers can be attractive or some demographics and even unattractive to other demographics if someone is looking for a tighter-knit community.
David Leonhardt
David Leonhardt
Some great points, Nathan. For all that most articles try to tell people what is right for them, you are bang on that the most important factor to consider is "It Depends". Both quality and quantity are important, but how you balance the two can be tricky. I would say I use Twitter primarily for 5 and 8 (uh-oh, already a tricky balance), but also for 2, 9 and possibly 4 (although for 4, we always take it off-Twitter anyway). So for me, numbers are moderately important and I use Twitter in conjunction with Skype and other social media for networking.
@nathanTbaker
@nathanTbaker
David Leonhardt
Usually goals are extremely blended like how you're describing, but it can be a great exercise, especially for a client, to rank your priorities. It can really help drive meaningful conversations about what social media is for. Followers is the easiest to track, but not always tied to a primary goal. Thanks for reading! :)
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