Twitter Numbers: What’s YOUR Ratio?

Twitter Numbers: What's YOUR Ratio?
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Being an intensely upfront person means that I am always more concerned with a customer’s satisfaction than I am with a business’s bottom line.

How does this relate to Twitter? Simple.

I don’t want people to follow me merely because I’m following them. I want their “follow-ship” to be sincere. I want people to follow me because they are actually interested in what I have to say.

You’re Following Me On Twitter!

I used to get all excited when someone followed me on Twitter — particularly someone HUGE, like a celebrity or a full-on famous blogger. I’d jump up and down and shout for my husband to come see what wonderfulness was happening to me.

*and there was much throwing of glitter*

But then came the crash.

On viewing the HUGE person’s Twitter page, I’d see the ridiculously large number of people they were already following, and I would crash. There is no possible way someone can really keep up with more than a couple-hundred followers. It just isn’t humanly, or alien-ly, possible. So I would get all sad and jaded, and then I would consider hating that person for committing fraud on my fragile heart.

Up & Down The Twitter Ride

See, I’m still somewhat of a Twitter newb.

When I first started following people on Twitter, I swore I would only follow those with whom I was sincerely interested in exchanging dialogue, or those whose words inspired me or incited laughter. And I decided my arbitrary number would be 200. If I hit that number of ultra-cool people – so my thinking went – then, ipso facto, I would have to UN-FOLLOW someone else to make room for the new Twits.

Seemed a good plan to me.

As my number of followers increased, and finally surpassed the number of people *I* was following, I saw a wonderful thing happen: My numbers were proportionally beautiful and completely legit. The ratio of my follow-ERS to my follow-ING was such that I appeared to be a very legitimate Twit. I found this pleasing.

But some oddballs cropped up. Eventually I saw a couple Twitter-ers who weren’t following ANYONE (*cough* Seth Godin *cough*). Yet, he still has like a zillion followers. Since he and his ilk are of celebrity or big-blogger status, this isn’t surprising. They likely already had a following on their blogs before they moved over to Twitter, and their fans followed them.

Still, this annoyed me.

I wanted to be able to follow zero people, too. Because it struck me that all those followers of the celeb were completely legit. None of that follow-back nonsense.

Everyone following these guys were truly fans. That seemed way-cool. So I started massively un-following everyone.

OOPS. Bad math ensued.

I couldn’t bring myself to un-follow my actual friends — those with whom I actually spoke on a daily basis, or those with whom I am friends here at home in the Dayton area. Shoot. Time for yet a third strategy, since the first two (“Only follow SOME”, followed by “Don’t follow ANY”) weren’t working for me.

That’s where Lists came in.

So I started following people again. “Screw it. I’m a follower. If I like you, you’ll end up on a List. I’m following you. I’m doing it. I’m following willy-nilly.”

I followed everyone like a whore-hiring sexaholic who couldn’t get enough. Because I’m a follower, baby.

No, I’m not.

I panicked. I felt like willy-nilly following was out of control, irresponsible, and lie-ish. So I un-followed everyone again, going back to my original plan to remain under 200. Doesn’t seem to matter which way I go, because the number of people following me continues to slowly increase. I just want the ratio to remain legit.

You know those auto-response messages that say something along the lines of, “Thank you for following me”? I have received multiple copies from the same people, because their recorded message didn’t realize I was oscillating. It was like walking up to a faulty ATM that kept spitting out twenties, only instead of money, which would be useful, I received generic greetings, with which I could do a whole lot of NOT MUCH.

Bigger Twitter Users Offer Advice

The back and forth is driving me crazy.

I can’t decide which way I’m going here. My new Twitter friend Ralph Rivera told me I’m being too uptight about numbers. He is probably right, if I am this emotionally overwrought over whether or not to follow people.

My husband has a girlfriend named Shama Hyder Kabani.

Okay, she is not really his girlfriend. But he likes her book (The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue) VERY much, and refers to it quite often. She is both pretty and smart, so I find her somewhat intimidating, and was a bit irked when my husband started beginning every social media conversation with, “Shama says…” For a while, I wanted to punch Shama in the nose. Then I took a look at her book.

Here are a few examples of what Shama has to say on the topic of Twitter:

DO: “Follow people you admire, even if they don’t follow you back.”

“Unlike Facebook, following does not have to be mutual. You can follow anyone you want, but they don’t have to follow you back.”

DON’T: “Mass-follow people. (Really LOOK at who you want to follow. This is your chance to create your own human search engine.)”

“It’s still better to focus on a smaller pool of people with whom you have connected rather than thousands with whom you haven’t. You want to manage quality carefully as you increase quantity.”

Interestingly, Shama urges, “Feel free to follow me. I will follow back.”

This suggestion seems to go against her own advice. However, note that Shama’s reason for giving her readers a follow-back is different from others. She is specifically a social media expert pushing an open-door policy; she isn’t trying to buttress her numbers for an inflated sense of celebrity. Shama follows back in order to build relationships, whereas most people follow back in order to appear more massive than they actually are.

And this is where I keep going back and forth. I want to interact with the people I follow. I don’t see how I can really do that if I’m following several hundred people!

Never mind the fact that I’m also supposed to be engaging my followers, too. Thus far I have been able to do an okay job keeping up. But I worry. How will I manage when the list becomes too large, as it inevitably will?

This is what Ralph, who writes excellent and informative material has to say about the subject:

“If you gain Twitter followers slowly, at a pace of a few each day or each week, it’s not so difficult to interact one-on-one by responding to each person. But what happens when that number mushrooms and you’re adding dozens or hundreds each day and week? Keeping up with your new followers and engaging them individually becomes more than difficult; it becomes nearly impossible. Time is an asset that you only have so much of and as your list grows at an increasing rate, you may not have enough time to engage new followers.”

I know, right? That’s what I’m saying!

That’s where the afore-mentioned auto-responses come in, which Ralph discusses in more depth in his article entitled “Does Twitter Engagement Fail When It’s Automated?” You should give it a read because it’s chock full of advice!

Dave Taylor, whom Shama quotes in her book, says this: “Now there are so many (spammy) tools to garner followers (none of whom are actually paying any attention to you) that it’s common to see newbies who have thousands of followers and no clue how Twitter works.”

OMG. I don’t want to be this guy. Girl. Whatever. I don’t want this to be who I am: someone you can tell at first glance is just a silly ninny. And I’m afraid that merely by worrying so much over this topic (it really does stress me out!), I am EXACTLY the person Dave describes. Someone shoot me.

What Twitter Has Taught Me Thus Far

So maybe I am that annoying person, just adding to the noise and making a public nuisance of myself. I guess as long as I own it, I can be okay with that. I’m still learning. And I haven’t come up with the perfect solution.

  1. If I come to your Twitter page, and you have a billion-trillion followers, but you are following a similar number of people, or even more than that, your number of followers means nothing, and you might as well be following nobody. I’m not impressed. I liken it to this analogy: If I give you a dollar for a pack of gum, we have made an even exchange of goods; our interaction was mutually positive, and we are both the better for it. This is equivalent to a decent conversation in which we are following each other because we are interested in continuing that conversation. But if we merely trade dollars, all we’ve done is wind up back where we were before we bumped into each other. Why bother having faked that interaction? We don’t ever plan to talk again, and the only thing we’ve managed to accomplish is faking our numbers. To what end? No one is fooled! It’s like a Twitter Ponzi scheme!
  2. If I come to your Twitter page, and you have over a billion-trillion followers, and you aren’t following anyone, your number of followers means a lot. Your ratio looks legit to me. But you also look like an elitist snob who doesn’t interact with anyone and you are trying too hard to show off how many fans you have. I am impressed, but equally repulsed. Depending upon your material, I might stop following you. I might decide I’m not interested in contributing to your arrogant aristocracy. Unless you are like a news source or celeb or something, in which case, I wouldn’t really expect you to interact with the likes of little ol’ me anyway. But I don’t typically follow that sort, so it’s somewhat of a moot point. Jerk.
  3. If I come to your Twitter page, and you have over a billion-trillion followers, and you are following WAY fewer than that number, your number of followers means much more. Your ratio looks legit to me. I am impressed. For the record this is the group to which I would like to belong.

I like what Amy Rose Brown, who often writes at Shama’s website, has to say about Twitter interactions in her article 4 Reasons Why Your Twitter Marketing Isn’t Working:

“Start replying to people who are talking to you. This is the cornerstone of social media: having conversations.”

I am limited by my ability to carry on conversations with only so many people.

Therefore, I’m going back to where I started. I will continue to be extremely selective about which users I follow, though my number will slowly keep growing. Currently it’s well over 300. I feel like that’s too many people with which to keep up, but I will strive to do my best. I guess in the end, that’s all any of us can do. And I have begun playing around with Lists, but even those can get out of control. Too many is still too many.

That Twitter — it is a slippery beast.

Andi Brunett-Libecap
Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) can be found at The World 4 Realz.com, where she rants about the “arbitrivial” nature of human beings, begs for Coke, and attempts to embrace social media. Currently at work on her first novel, Green Market, and an advocate for abused teens, Andi-Roo lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a polydactyl, and a shark.
Andi Brunett-Libecap
Andi Brunett-Libecap
Andi Brunett-Libecap

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