Larry Lourcey

Professional photographer and lecturer- teaching other artists how to get involved in social media.

Now Accepting Applications for Human Followers

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.

MY PLAN

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.

PLAN B
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!

Comments

  • June 28, 2011

    Great post Larry. I am so glad you tried out these strategies and found out what doesn’t work.

  • June 28, 2011

    I love your experiment! I was curious about those $5 projects; thanks for sharing your results. Makes you wonder if the 10k followers are all of the other $5 project people!

  • June 29, 2011

    “100 engaged, active followers was actually better than 100,000 inactive followers”
    Amen to that!

  • June 29, 2011
    Linda Clay
    @lindamclay

    Great post and so true. I am new at this and have been finding the same thing and wasn’t fully understanding but now I do! Thanks!

  • June 29, 2011

    Love this post! A refreshing change from articles suggesting a zillion ways of increasing traffic, other than letting it happen naturally. And the $5 experiment .. Awesomme !!

  • June 29, 2011

    This is a brilliant post. I get so many random Twitter followers. For example, why would a microwave outlet store follow me?? Random, right? I blame it on the robot.

  • June 29, 2011

    Great post. I appreciate your honesty here. I was hoping you were going to give us a great plan/miracle for getting more followers on twitter. I’ve thought about it as well and I guess it comes down to old fashion networking and meeting people.

  • July 1, 2011

    Interesting post. I’d never heard of fiverr before… sounds kind of silly.

    Either way, you’ve got +1 follower thanks to this post :)

  • July 3, 2011
    Jan Doggen

    Well, isn’t this the intention of social media sites – following interesting people and being followed by people who are interested in you? I never really understood the “I’ll follow you, you follow me” phenomenon as a ‘blind’ rule.
    And never mind the robots. If you don’t follow back you won’t see their spam and some of them (not all, because spammers want to spend as little effort as possible) will automatically unfollow you again if you don’t follow back.
    So we end up where these ‘ spheres’ on Twitter of auto-following spammers following auto-following spammers. The only trouble they cause us is false search results.

  • July 10, 2011

    “100 actively engaged followers is better than 100,000 inactive followers” Those are words to live by. I too jumped on the more followers the better bandwagon and I actually had to just wipe my account and restart fresh.

    I have only been following people related to my niche of freelance writing and people who I can see are real people. I also scan my followers every few days and weed out the robots. I have been seeing some good results, but getting a large good following is real hard. So if you want to make a new friend, please follow me!

  • July 12, 2011

    Thanks. Glad to have learnt this early on.

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