The myth around selected Twitter followers

I find it kind of amusing when I meet self-defined “experts” in social media who declare to have a (usually small) selected numbers of followers on Twitter. This post is about explaining why this is merely a myth and should not be taken seriously.

Let’s start from a practical example and first look at the most popular social network: Facebook. When I accept a friendship on Facebook I agree to exchange some of the information I put on my profile with that person. Each friendship is a mutual, one-to-one, relationship and both parties must agree to the connection; e.g. I cannot be your friend unless you accept my request.

When looking at Twitter we should remember how different it is; here is how it works: Twitter is a micro blogging platform; when somebody decides to follow me on Twitter it is an indication, at least in theory, that this person is interested in reading my tweets in a similar fashion to somebody subscribing to a blog or a news letter. I can subsequently decide to follow this person back or not but this is irrelevant for the sake of this post.

So if Tweeting is a way of publishing information vaguely similar to a newspaper, we should ask ourselves for a moment how editors “select” their readership; they decide on the quality of the content and style of publishing that suits their audience. Could you imagine how Lionel Barber, editor of Financial Times, could otherwise choose his readers? Could you picture in your mind a newsagent asking questions to his customers before selling a copy of a news paper? Of course not!

There are ways of dissuading spammers or other time-wasters from following you on Twitter but in general the best way of “selecting” your followers is to have a consistent style of Tweets that encourage a certain audience to follow you and, possibly, take action on what you tweet about.

So next time you hear somebody who says or writes about having a “small and selected” number of followers, ask again “how can you achieve that?” It all makes little sense and this myth is usually a way of masking the reality; those people define themselves as expert but they cannot demonstrate their skills with an adequate number of followers. Good news is that, being twitter public and open, there is an easy way of checking how “selected” those followers are; simply check how many reactions such as comments, re-tweets and mentions, this person receives every time he/she tweets.

This article is not about discouraging people from building a high quality list of followers on Twitter or any other publishing media; it is about understanding how social media works. Once you understand how it all works, then you will know that often people use the phrase “selected followers” inappropriately and as an excuse for not having a larger number of followers. My opinion is simple: you can work toward building a niche list on social media but ultimately, the only way to achieve real results, including quality, is to have many followers.

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