The Race to A Million

Creative Commons via irishbaseballseason.blogspot.com

Remember the challenge that Ashton Kutcher made to CNN regarding who could reach 1 million fans first on Twitter in April of 2009?  Check in with Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter (@aplusk) today and you’ll see that he now has over 6 million followers as compared to CNN’s 1.4 million.

A common question I have been asked recently is “how do I get my follower count to a million?”  And I will often ask the person asking, “What do you think a million followers will do for you?”  To which I invariably hear, “I don’t know, but I see everyone begging for followers so it must be important!”

The reality is that most followers will be just as interactive as the names on a manufactured lead list or phone numbers in a telephone book.  Sure, at one point in time, someone clicked “follow” for any number of possible reasons: perhaps they liked something you had to say, wanted to see the 2nd side of a conversation, saw that you live in their zipcode or identified you as someone they might like to know someday.

The reasons people follow you, however, rarely stays in the forefront of anyone’s mind.  The true value, found on Twitter, is the ability to connect.

Clicking “follow” on Twitter is akin to the “first impression rose” given out on the TV Show, “The Bachelor.”  We can all agree that there is absolutely no relationship formed at the time that rose is distributed.  Now, while laughable, as to whether any relationships are truly formed on the Bachelor, I wonder how many people on Twitter truly form relationships or try lead their virtual lives from a distance, hoping to spin gold when they reach a magic number of followers.

Whether you have 5 or 500 followers, the authenticity of your participation online is evident.  If you are truly engaging with your audience, there will be chatter among friends, sharing information that might help others based on their interests & shared needs, encouragement, rich discourse and relationships that are formed in-person based on a Twitter first-impression.

If the engagement seems shallow, perhaps it’s time to look at your Twitter follow-strategy and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I following people without reason?
  • Do I follow people simply because they follow me?
  • Do the people I follow interest me?  (It’s possible that they might be interesting at first and become uninteresting based on where your life is heading.)
  • Am I following people that are engaging on Twitter through @mentions?  [Hint: I will rarely follow anyone who doesn't use @mentions regularly.  This is an easy sign of whether someone sees Twitter as a 2-way street or a 1-way method of self-promotion.]

Remember Twitter is a “double opt-in” platform which means that while people may follow you, you are under no obligation to follow back.  Use the power of that choice wisely and develop a group of people from which you can enjoy a rich flow of useful and actionable information.

Remember, Ashton Kutcher?  Check out his twitter feed.  Despite having 6 million followers, he only follows about 600 himself.  He shares information about what he’s doing, highlights things in the community that he likes to see and talks openly with people who interest him.

There’s no real magic formula.  The key is in your hands to tune the incoming channel to what you want to listen to and engage with.  Don’t clutter your sphere with a million, faceless followers.  They will only ever be a static number unless you engage and connect.

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