Twitter Lust: How the Desire for a Bigger Following Leads Us to Do Cringe Worthy Things

We love the responses we got when we asked friends and colleagues to write about what they consider to be the 7 Deadly Sins of Facebook Admins. Now we’re at it again, helping you avoid cringe worthy Twitter faux pas with our seven part series on the 7 Deadly Sins of Twitter Admins. I’m kicking this series off with our first sin, lust, and the terrible things our desire for more followers drives us to do.

twitter-bird-white-on-blueIn my work there is no suggestion that sends shivers up my spine than “we should look into buying Twitter followers.” On some level I can understand why this idea crosses people’s mind. Followers are one of the few ways for those unfamiliar with an organization or person to get a sense of their popularity. Many users first look to see if others are in the pool before diving into a video, twitter account, or Facebook page. Having a large number of followers appeals to human’s natural inclination to bandwagon and look to the masses to indicate importance. Appearing to have a large following could in this respect help an organization gain real, dedicated followers.

However that’s where the pros end and the deep sea of cons begins. First off, social media users crave authenticity. Nothing will turn away followers in droves quite like someone discovering that you’ve paid for followers. It is considered cheating by many and a social taboo akin to paying for your date to the prom. Buying fake followers tells your audience a) you think they are dumb enough to not be able to tell the difference b) you see them as a number not as a part of your community and c) you care more about your appearance then you do about the quality of your work. None of those perceptions are what you want for your brand. Your return on investment from social media relies on your ability to create connections with your followers not simply on how many people see your tweets.

What to do instead: 

Having 10,000 followers isn’t going to do you any good it doesn’t help you gain volunteers, donors, and supporters for your organization. Before you even think about getting more followers, start instead by setting some goals on the return you want from those followers and start tracking that instead. The number of retweets, @ replies, and sharing is generally going to do a lot more to share your message, mission, and recruit new supporters then having a lot of followers. Here are a couple of tips of getting real, engaged followers:

  • Post good content: Perhaps the most effective way to get more followers is the most obvious. From your Twitter bio, to you twitter picture, to each tweet you need to focus on telling your organization’s story in a way that make’s followers want to be a part of your mission. Develop an engaging voice unique to your organization and only post content that you would respond to as a user. 
  • Engage in other people’s conversations: Participate in tweet chats in your field, contribute to the discussion happening on the hashtags of events you attend, or start a conversation based on a link someone shared. Getting more followers isn’t simply about being responsive to people talking about you but being a good follower yourself and responding to what others are posting. 
  • Engage stakeholders: Get people who are already engaged at your organization to tweet about your work and help with promotion. Send them sample tweets and suggestions for ways they can encourage their audience to follow or retweet your content.

Authentically building your following might not be as quick as buying followers but in the end you are going to be far more rewarded from the followers who join you without having to be paid. Instead of looking at the followers account, look instead at the users you have, those who already support you, and work with them to get the word out about your organization. That’s a far more reliable way to grow your audience and spread your organization’s message.

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