In 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.