Stop asking for more followers: try being interesting instead

Just about once a day, usually more often than that, I see a Twitter post (or a Facebook ‘Like us!’ campaign) that looks something like this:

We’re almost at x followers! Help us get there by retweeting this!

At which point, a bunch of their followers retweet this crap and clog up everyone’s stream with what is ultimately, a ridiculous and vain attempt at popularity.

What I’ve often wondered is: what happens at 1,000 or 400 or 3,500 followers? What benefit does that entity receive from the additional followers? Virtually everyone who follows that account is hoping for a follow-back, which in the end is a net-zero contribution to the social media ecosystem. At x follower count, does that Twitter account immediately get pushed into entirely new territory, where the wine tastes better and the projects are more lucrative?

Not a chance. In fact, what you end up with is a Twitter account that’s quite possibly even more useless, because the owner of said account now thinks that the path to growth is to simply ask for more friends. Instead of being useful or interesting, they’ve chosen to be needy. My immediate reaction is generally to unfollow these users right away, as they obviously don’t get it.

Some say that social media is a lot like high school (in other words, I should hate social media). In lots of ways, it is—ever see the comment threads on the popular page of Instagram? But, the people who truly make a difference in their community are the ones who post valuable, interesting and useful content. That’s who’s worth following.

This is the case with a lot of ‘metrics’ in social media, such as Klout, the world’s stupidest metric (I also unfollow anyone who posts anything related to Klout). In the end they measure nothing useful if you’ve put nothing useful on the table. What does it matter if you have a thousand followers if all those people can expect to see is requests for more followers and other navel-gazing? You’ve given nothing to the community.

That’s not what social media is about. Social media is about contribution, more-so than consumption. What value are you providing? Why should I follow you? Sure, it’s a relatively painless thing to see these inane tweets go by—but what expectation does it set? I certainly don’t expect to see great content from someone who isn’t willing to post great, useful stuff in order to grow their following. Most people won’t take the time to unfollow an account like this, and so the owner of said account thinks that what they’re doing is good.

Here’s the truth: don’t worry about how many people follow you. Sure, it’s great to have a large number of followers as an ego boost every time you look at your Twitter profile, but how many of those people actually give a shit what you’re saying? If you grow your follower count by asking for more followers instead of gaining them organically by posting great content, helping people who need your knowledge and/or being funny and interesting, you’ll find they’re significantly less engaged and interested in you. In the end, you’re of little value to them, and that all-important warm connection never materializes.

In short, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Start being interesting, and find the droids you want instead.

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