June 27, 2011

Why Your Twitter Follower Count Does Matter

Dave Kerpen

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of talk from social media expert-types and novices alike, arguing that the number of Twitter followers you have or Facebook fans you have doesn’t matter. It’s all about the quality of the followers and how engaged you are with them, they say. While I’d be the 1st person to agree with the importance of building a highly engaged, well-targeted community across social networks, quantity matters too.

Numbers count, a lot.

The main reason that both quality and quantity of followers matters is that quality alone doesn’t scale. No large organization on the planet or employee of a large organization can claim that a highly engaged, high quality,small social network community is anywhere near as valuable as a highly engaged, high quality large social network community. Can you?

Two months ago I launched a challenge to my entire staff: Demonstrate your thought leadership. Grow your follower count on Twitter as much as possible. Use Twitter’s new ad products Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets and see what you can do. I awarded prizes to the top 5 in number of followers gained. Of the 28 individuals in the competition, everyone gained at least 200 followers. Two people, Brian Murray and Amy Kattan, each gained over 4,000 followers. They also gained lots of insight. Here are a few of my staffs’ thoughts about gaining followers, quantity vs quantity, & thought leadership on Twitter:

Brian Murray: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Engage with everyone who seeks you out. You never know where the #GameChanger is going to come from!

Amy Kattan: You are your own brand, so promote yourself creatively. Utilize the resources you have, both on Twitter and off. Think outside the box.

Jenna Lebel: Anyone who provides valuable, relevant content and has an outlet for getting it out there can be a thought leader. You get what you give.

Allie Herzog: There are a lot of crazy Beiber fans on Twitter!…oh & be yourself, converse, share, RT & people will want to follow you!

Dhara Naik: Quality of followers that will actually engage with your brand is more important than the number of followers.

We got lots of great feedback on this competition for our staff, clients, and community. But we also got negative feedback from the competition, and from a similar Twitter follower competition we host for interns. Most of that was from rival agencies. Kaitlin Maud, a social media strategist at Sapient Nitro, wrote of the competition, “They’ve demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of social strategy from the CEO down and they’re one of the many vendors and social media “agencies” giving other social media professionals a bad rep.”

Sheesh. Onward…

It seems to me that as important as engagement and quality of followers is, if you’re going to use social media to drive business results, you need a lot of followers as well. Here are four examples of relatively high Twitter follower accounts across different use cases driving real business impact:

1) Dell: @DellOutlet’s over 1 million followers led directly to over $6.5 million in sales.

2) Jet Blue: @JetBlueCheeps has over 230,000 followers and have used the account to generate thousands of flash sales.

3) Ashton Kutcher: He has used his over 6 million followers to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for several causes.

4) Likeable Book: On a much smaller but not inconsequential note, we amassed 1800 followers on Twitter in just 6 weeks, part of the reason we launched a New York Times bestseller.

According to Google, there are over 2.4 million “social media experts” out there. Unfortunately, too many of them are either preaching “it’s all about quality” OR “it’s all about quantity.” I say the numbers do matter. Both quality AND quantity matter on Twitter and in social media.

Tags: Twitter

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