Dave, here is a question for you. Today I got a Twitter follow from someone who has made a total of 1 tweet, and yet this person already has 3,712 followers. I’ve seen other Twitter accounts with the same high number of followers and hardly any tweets yet. How do they do that? I thought content was important to building followers on Twitter.
This is an interesting question because it highlights one of the problems with social media overall: the system can be manipulated so that it rewards people who exploit the technology rather than a meritocracy where reach is a legitimate measure of influence.
in fact, there’s no logical reason to someone to follow an inactive account, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media network. You don’t attend a church where the pastor stands in the front of the room and remains quiet, so why would you follow someone who doesn’t participate?
And that’s the grand dilemma of social networking: it’s intended to allow participation, to let companies and individuals all engage and interact, but all too many are one way channels, broadcast media where responses or engagement is ignored completely.
That’s why it’s so remarkable when companies like Chevrolet, Chrysler and Comcast (to be alliterative) actually do pay attention on a service like Twitter and where they will respond to customer comments and queries about their products or services, because it is a rare occurrence.
Twitter is an interesting case for another reason too: it turns out that it’s not very scalable and what works really well when you have 38 people you’re following doesn’t work at all when you have 38,000 people you’re following. The result is that you really aren’t following anybody and more likely than not you’re using tools that let you ignore the vast majority of people you “follow”.
The people who are following you face the same dilemma regarding how many people they follow and how much attention they can pay to each one. So those people who have tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of followers? There really aren’t that many people paying attention to them, so that follower count ends up a poor and inaccurate measure of online influence.
Long answer short, before you make the decision to follow someone on Twitter, it’s always a good idea to have a glance at their stats. If it’s wonky, as you noticed, then just say no.