Why You Don’t Want 20,000 Twitter Followers

Crowd of PeopleIn the forums I visit regularly I constantly see people asking how to get more Twitter followers, or the best way to get more Facebook friends.

Inevitably they’re looking for a system that will rack up hundreds (if not thousands) of new friends or followers in the blink of an eye. For no effort.

Those systems are out there, for sure. I get followed regularly by people who’ve made about 20 tweets and have 20,000 followers.

Needless to say I don’t follow back. After all, if they’ve only made 20 tweets (which are probably automated) what value can they offer me?

And, on the flip side, how can they meaningfully engage with 20,000 people? I mean, come on

Successful businesses are built on relationships, but no one can have a relationship of trust with 20,000 people. You’d burn out.

And, if you need a bit of proof, Chris Brogan, who built his brand (and a huge following) on being accessible, wrote a very personal article recently explaining why he’s changing his business model: he can’t keep up.

No.  Thousands and thousands of followers may be good for the ego but, if you’re planning to use Twitter or Facebook as channels to build your business, you’re better off with a few hundred.

People you can engage with, who you recognise when they send you a DM or re-tweet an article, and who appreciate and interact with you and what you write.

If you have a few hundred followers, 20% of whom actually do business with you, you’re way better off than having 20,000 followers who don’t have a clue who you are because you got them via some system.

I’ve used a similar analogy in relation to website traffic: I’d rather have 20 visitors a day, one of whom buys something, than 10,000 a day who just eat up my bandwidth.

We live in a time of broken promises, lies and deceptions. Look at Bernie Madoff, or WorldCom, or Enron. The days of believing what you read because it’s in the paper, or on a prospectus, are long gone.

People are sceptical – and with good reason.

Which brings me back to my earlier point: successful businesses are built on relationships of trust. And to earn that trust you need to interact with people. Let them see who you really are.

The common cry is ‘give them something of value’ and they’ll begin to trust you. Maybe.

But I think you need to go further than that. You have to prove you’re trustworthy and that’s most easily done by keeping your word.

If you say you’re going to get back to someone within 24 hours, do so. If you promise to create a header graphic by Saturday, do so. Or get in touch before Saturday and explain why you can’t.

But you can’t do that with 20,000 people.

So quit looking for systems that create thousands of followers overnight. Use the search function (on Twitter) to seek out people who need what you’re offering, look out for their questions and answer them.

Some will appreciate your input and may give you the opportunity to start building a relationship of trust. Take it, and don’t abuse it.

Build up a trusting tribe in this way, one follower at a time, and you’ll have a far more valuable following (even if it’s only 300) than you will by getting 20,000 followers via some automated system.


Martin Malden

What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karin H Mar 25, 2010 @ 19:05

    Hear hear Martin!

    Quality over quantity – but then starting with the quality of your own interaction with others, not with finding the most quality followers/contacts. One follows – excuse the pun – the other 😉

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

    • Martin Mar 25, 2010 @ 19:19

      Hi Karin,

      Thanks – and good to see that things are going well for you, from reading your tweets – excellent news!

      I hope you weren’t too affected by the cold weather and snow a while back – Kent and the South East seemed to be hit quite badly.



  • Karin H Mar 25, 2010 @ 19:39

    Just a bit – at one point the roads were drivable again so Ton went out, delayed for two days, to a client to install the floor, only to discover the steeper road to the client’s house could not be reached so he had to turn back again!

    Lovely views though on the hills

    Karin H
    .-= Karin H´s last blog ..Introducing the Age of Conversation 3 Authors | Age of Conversation =-.

    • Martin Mar 26, 2010 @ 7:02

      Must have been frustrating! But yes, the snow looks great until it starts to melt 🙂


  • Paul Apr 2, 2010 @ 22:14

    You’ve encapsulated exactly how I feel about twitter. I started on twitter about six months ago and stopped shortly after because I didn’t see the point of following people for the sake of following them and having thousands of people following me who I didn’t know.
    It didn’t sit right ethically with me. Like you I agree that business (and life) is built on trust. I built my ecommerce business on trust and solid ethics, on keeping my word. Now I’m building an internet marketing business on the same principles. I believe what we give out comes back, so I always move ethically.
    I don’t think I understood twitter really. I got thousands of followers but what was the point I asked myself. What value was I getting or adding. I see the value of twitter when used right. By right I mean linking with people trying to achieve similar things.
    I stopped my earlier twitter account because I thought it was a waste of time and with so many projects on the go I try to utilize my time productively.
    I think I’ll give twitter another go, this time I’ll do some reading about it first and approach it differently.
    Great post

    .-= Paul´s last blog ..How I started My Internet Business =-.

    • Martin Apr 2, 2010 @ 22:30

      Hi Paul,

      Twitter definitely has its uses and it’s been good to me.

      This article describes both how I use Twitter and (in the comments) has an enthusiastic discussion on the pros, cons and how to’s. It’s worth a read 🙂



  • Tile Apr 9, 2010 @ 22:29

    You do make sound Twitter as the next best thing to driving a bicycle. Kudos to that.

    • Martin Apr 9, 2010 @ 22:48

      I have to say that particular analogy completely escapes me..!

      But thanks for chipping in. 🙂



  • Conservatory Designers Apr 21, 2010 @ 17:23

    The best basis is to seek out those people who require what we are offering and then target them through Twitter. But thats a catch-22 situation as it is.

    • Martin Apr 22, 2010 @ 8:05

      I don’t see how it’s a catch-22…

      Use the Twitter search function to find people asking questions on conservatories or getting conservatories etc and answer their questions.

      Don’t sell to them – just answer their questions. First build the relationship and then you can sell to them.



  • MBA May 21, 2010 @ 21:19

    I think its difficult to maintain the pretense of answering questions, when all you want to do is sell your product!

    • Martin May 22, 2010 @ 21:06

      Not sure I’d agree with that!

      Answering questions is one of the better ways of demonstrating your knowledge, which can only help to create trust and enable you to sell your product more easily.



    • Karin H May 22, 2010 @ 21:53

      If that’s your opinion then you are not aware of the true givers gain principle – or, as a typical Dutch expression would say: as the landlord is, so does he trusts his guests – verbatim translation.

      I suggest you follow Martin on twitter and see how, when, why and which questions he answers. I’m sure you will start to realise there is absolutely no pretence of answering to be found – only genuine generosity.

      We grow our own business in a similar way, using our blog and website for Q&A’s without any pretence.

      Karin H (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  • HRD MBA Pune May 22, 2010 @ 14:25

    Well, Martin, Twitter does seem so inane and banal and yet it is as powerful as FaceBook. The paradox is as acute as its real.

  • Universal Consulting May 22, 2010 @ 17:44

    The people drawn to Twitter are people on the cutting edge, the real nerds who are resentful of the fact that the general population have found and taken over Facebook