A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted the message “Now accepting applications for actual human followers. No bots please.” I was half-joking, but had several people reply with “I know what you mean!” Apparently I wasn’t the only one with a an army of robots following me.
I’ve had a Twitter account for a while now, but didn’t actively start using it until this summer. I was coming out with a new website for photographers and thought Twitter would be a good way to spread the word, get feedback and generally interact with the photography community.
WHO I WANTED
Before I started, I had a very clear idea of who my ideal follower was. Generally it was one of two people:
Photography types – fans of photography, professional or amateur photographers, people who make photography gear or software – that crowd
Anyone interesting – the type person you would be happy to sit next to during a 2 hour flight. Maybe someone really funny or an expert in an interesting field.
At that point, I went through the same paces most new folks do – trying to build up a nice group of followers.
After reading tons of blog posts and articles on the subject, I set out to try the “I’ll follow you, you follow me” strategy. Sure enough, after a few days I had gone from 20 followers to 100. The problem was, I really only knew about 4 of the followers. I could ask a question and nobody would ever reply. I started noticing that most of my new followers were just sending out ads or links to their websites or services. I don’t mind that in small doses, but I’m not interested in sitting down and reading the online classifieds.
My plan was clearly not working, so it was back to the blogs for more research. Somewhere along the way, I discovered this phenomenon of fiverr.com where you can basically pay someone $5 to do anything from design a logo to calling your girlfriend and breaking up for you. One of the very popular services was the people who would tweet your message to their 100k followers for a month for $5. Curious to try something new, I figured I’d throw five bucks at the problem and see what happened. It might also send some traffic to my new website.
After a few days, I was seeing the tweets, but didn’t notice any increase in my followers or website traffic – strange. These tweets were going out from dozens of accounts – each with 5-10K followers- so why wasn’t I getting flooded with traffic? Out of curiosity, I decided to change the outgoing tweet to “Is anyone actually reading this? If so, DM me and let me know” – kind of a digital message in a bottle. After a week, not a single response. Clearly, these followers were not actual humans looking to interact-just other broadcasters looking for one-way conversations.
SO WHAT NOW?
Although the last idea was clearly a failure, it was a pretty good learning experience for 5 bucks! What became clear is that numbers are not everything. I was under the impression that having 10,000 followers was better than having 100 followers. What I eventually discovered was that 100 engaged, active followers was actually better than 100,000 inactive followers. Unfortunately, the only tried and true way of finding those people is by letting it happen naturally – make friends, then make friends with their friends, and so on. Save your five bucks for when you need someone to break up with your girlfriend. By the way, if you happen to be a photographer, interesting or just willing to interact – we are still accepting new follower applications: @larryphoto
Best of luck!