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WHAT THE TWEETING
USE IS TWITTER?

Part I : are you a 'twitter-follower' whore?

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Maybe it's and age thing, but I have to admit that despite being involved in 'e-commerce' - as practitioner, writer and educator - since 1996, the whole social media thing has more of less passed me by. Furthermore, the sceptic in me questions its role in marketing. Certainly, online reviews (for me, an element of social media) have made a massive impact, and there are notable success stories for marketers using the likes of facebook and twitter, but I would say that for 99% of organizations these offer little.

Nevertheless, I am open to conversion - and so when I wanted to keep interested folk aware of updates to the website of my latest book [Internet Marketing: a Practical Approach] I turned to twitter. I had envisaged only a few lecturers and keen students would sign up - realistically this was more an experiment/marketing exercise than it was serious project. However, I was surprised to see dozens of twitterers join me as a 'follower'. Sadly, self-congratulation soon turned to disappointment as they dropped me just as quickly.

A quick check revealed a few 'genuine' followers have stayed with me over the six months I have twittered (around 20 - and six are ex-students). Now, I do appreciate that some (all?) dropped out because they saw no value in my tweets, but (a) they knew what they were signing up for, and (b) a week and two tweets is hardly time to form a judgement before jumping ship.

Some background reading reveals research suggesting: 40% of the messages sent via it are 'pointless babble' (Pear Analytics); 53% of twitterers have no followers, 56% are not following anyone (HubSpot) and no less than the Harvard Business Review says that '10% Of Twitter Users Account For 90% Of Twitter Activity'. Or what about these stats from Barracuda Networks, this analysis of other stats; On Aggregate, Twitter Users Produce About 1/3 Of A Tweet Per Day, this comprehensive research from Pew Internet, this article Twitter Awareness At 92%, But Usage Just A Fraction Of That, or that research from Yahoo found that 50% of all content consumed on Twitter is generated by only 20,000 users. Supposedly, Twitter Users Say Only 36% of Tweets Worth Reading - I think that number is very optimistic, but then the research respondents were all regular users of Twitter - anything less than 'regular' and the 'worth reading' figure must go down.

So why did these folk elect to 'follow' me? My conclusion is that they are all 'follower whores' who are simply trying to achieve high 'follower' numbers. Further analysis of my Twitter account shows that the vast majority of my 'joiners' both follow, and are followed by, significant numbers. They also have little or no interest in Internet marketing. The key to the issue is in the email you receive telling you of a new follower. It says; 'You may follow their name here as well by clicking on the 'follow' button on their profile'. Yes, I'm supposed to reward new followers by following them. I don't - so I'm quickly dropped.

twitter follow bot cartoon And, of course, this is the Internet - where there is software for every occasion. In reality, all these folk don't actually visit my Twitter page to sign up - they send Twitter 'follow bots' to automatically follow users (in my case, it seems randomly, though they can be targeted to demographic data or use of key words) in the hope that users will 'follow' them in return.

Need some numbers? Of my 65 short-term twitterers, the average number of twits they were 'following' was 5,852 and were 'followed by', 6,043. Some bloke in New England topped the list with 43,980 and 44,443 respectively. If each 'followed' member sent him only one tweet a week that is 261 every hour. Are you telling me that this guy has time to read all the tweets that land in his account?

Again, I concede it can work (eg Comcast's 'twitter guy'), but do you really think sending a tweet to these people is going to help your marketing efforts?

UPDATE: March 2011 I wrote this article in the autumn [that's 'fall' if your are in the USA] of 2009, and that December I stopped using my Twitter page and added the message: 'I'm giving up on this twitter malarkey', and I've added nothing since then. I did not, however, close the account. And the fact that another 22 Twits have decided to 'follow me' since then only goes - as far as I am concerned - to prove my point about 'follow-bots' and Twitter whores.

UPDATE: October 2011 those 22 folk who chose to follow a dead twitterer has now risen to 126.

UPDATE: September 2012 now at nearly 300.

Of course, if you want to shortcut this whole process, you could simply buy some Twitter followers. From a site like buyfollowerstwitter.co.uk or fanmenow.com [I am not going to have a link going from my site to either - and there is a good chance neither still exists by the time you read this]. Both are cheap eg 1,000 followers for GBP20, so - I suppose, value for money - but do you really want thousands of followers which are obviously fake accounts? What does that say about you and/or your business? Is that the message you are trying to promote about your product/brand/organization? And here's an article on much the same subject Are your Twitter followers fake, or just quiet?.

UPDATE: January 2017

grimm


Part II of this rant : would you want these tweets?

see also: what's the ROI on tweeting?

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