For the moment, I am one of the most followed non-celebrity / musician, non-media, non-brand, people on Twitter. I follow over 300,000 of my 620,000 Twitter friends, and should Twitter lift the 1,000 follower a day cap, I hope to follow everyone back in the future.
Here are ten thoughts and observations about attempting to interact with 600,000 people.
1. The browser remains the best way to manage Twitter.
I need a quick and efficient way to keep track of many tweets. After using all of the alternatives out there, using a web browser is the best way to go. I always see fresh content, and I can hit the back button in case I miss something.
2. It is impossible to see every single tweet from every single user.
I found it difficult to see every tweet at 1,000 followers, and it became a fool’s errand at 10,000.
What I do, is keep track of individual people, not tweets. You CAN keep track of thousands of individual people. I jump into the conversation’s I see on the stream and if I need to catch up or learn more about someone, I visit their profile.
3. The Suggested User list stigma.
Many in the tech community are upset about the list and have taken shots at Twitter, and what I perceived as shots at some of the folks on there. Yes, I took those personally. Here’s the thing, and why being upset about the list loses the Twitter plot:
If someone follows you, they’re following because you are tweeting about something they’re interested in. Not because someone forced them to. Tweet good content and the followers will come over time.
4. Seth Godin is right, when you form a tribe, the number of members doesn’t matter.
In fact, you might be better off with a smaller, engaged following depending on your goals. Twitter is not Facebook. Those with the most friends do not win.
What I try to do is find members of my tribe and create content they will enjoy. Over time, you’ll get to know your tribe well, no matter how many people are following you.
5. You can’t compete with the celebrities, so don’t try.
Some have access to things we don’t (like a fake feud with CNN), and people will follow a celebrity to follow a celebrity, regardless of the medium. The important thing is not to get hung up on how many followers they have, and whether or not the media gushes over that number.
And for what it’s worth, with one awesome exception (@Alyssa_Milano), none of the celebrities respond to me either.
6. You must have zero spam tolerance.
If it looks like spam or seems like spam, I unfollow immediately. Ditto on the unfollowing for people who Auto-DM. I try to clean the stream as much as possible and doing so makes it easier to follow everyone. It’s important to clean the stream often to focus on the real content.
7. You can’t please everyone, don’t try.
I’ve had people gripe about me talking about my college plans, how often I tweet (which is a lot), and other dumb reasons since getting on the list. The attitude I’ve developed is this: I’ve been on Twitter for a long time now (two years) and I’m not going to change how I tweet because I’m suddenly popular.
Social networking is all about authenticity. So being phony to please one or two people?Not worth it.
8. The new Twitter Fad: !
If I have a reply to a follower that I think is relevant to the larger community, I place the ! symbol in front of my message. This makes it so everyone following me will see the tweet.
Once you’ve taken this role of tribe leader it’s important you are responsible for introducing members of your tribe to each other and making sure everyone is on the same page.Sharing relevant tweets and bits of conversation with the ! symbol is critical.
9. Share Their Content.
When you’re following a large group of people, it can be hard to maintain the personal touch, so if you find great content from them, praise them and share it. It’s not a replacement for missing their tweets, but as it’s impossible to see every tweet, sharing and acknowledging their content will help you maintain a personal connection and successfully build the tribe.
10. Sometimes, you repeat yourself.
The biggest draw back to having a lot of followers is that you need to repeat yourself. This is true for anyone with a large following because not everyone is going to see your tweet the first time it goes out.
These are thoughts and observations I have had in following many people, but the important thing is, you don’t need to be on the Suggested User List to manage a large Twitter following or to gain one. Be authentic, gently remind people of what you’re doing, share their content, and don’t compare yourself to the celebrities.
A large Twitter following is a tremendous resource in terms of web traffic, but that traffic is useless unless they are engaged and actively discussing what you’re doing. Utilizing the suggestions I made above, you can successfully engage that large audience and generate good traffic to your projects.
And of course, if you live in the states and want to volunteer at your local homeless shelter with me this Summer, I hope to see you in August.