The Quest for 5000 – How many Followers are Enough

This is another guest post from Mark Hayward (follow @mark_hayward) who is co-founder of Train for Humanity and he helps small business owners understand social media at Mark-Hayward.com.

How many followers do you think are enough?

I realize this might sound crazy, but I think if you can answer that simple question above then you can use Twitter more effectively.

The Rationale

Let’s face it; using Twitter by yourself is about as constructive as poking yourself in the eye.

People like Darren, Chris Brogan, Brian Clark, and many others have large influential ‘Twitter villages’ at their disposal. I am by no means suggesting that we all need 10,000 to 30,000 followers, but for those of us who want to use Twitter as a ‘tool,’ I feel the ‘How many followers‘ question is an important one to ask. Particularly, as you shape your goals and overall social media plan.

To be sure, as you can see from the answers below, Twitter has many meanings to many people and we all have different viewpoints on how and WHY we use this application.

twitipfollowers.jpg

When I personally answer the ‘How many follower question,’ I’m not quite certain where the heck the number 5000 comes from, but that’s what is in my head – - I am shooting for 5000 followers.

Initially I think the thought came after reading the Kevin Kelly’s article 1,000 True Fans, which defines the following premise:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.

Of course, Twitter followers are not fans, but following someone (or being followed) can help to create the preliminary stages of a connection.

Why I’m Shooting for 5000

Before you think I am some egotistical jerk for aiming for 5000 followers, please let me explain.

I have been a traveler and expat for over fifteen years and have always truly enjoyed meeting and networking with new people. Additionally, I run a tourism related business that relies upon a constant stream of new customers to help me stay open. However, the primary reason I would like to increase my follower base is because I am co-founder of the nonprofit, Train for Humanity, which raises awareness and funds for orphans and refugees (affected by genocide) and relies solely on social media for promotion.

When I first started using Twitter my main objectives were to:

  • be helpful
  • listen
  • learn
  • network (engage in conversation)
  • support social causes
  • occasionally promote my work

Because only a small fraction of followers on any given day will respond to ‘Tweets,’ for me, I feel, that having a larger number of followers can help to get the word out about Train for Humanity. And it better situates me to assist others with my latest passion, which is to help small businesses to understand social media.

Why this question if important for YOU

I think if you ask yourself, how many followers are enough? The resulting answer can help you to discern why you are using Twitter and what you hope to gain from it.

For example, if you only want to interact with friends, family and possibly a few additional people then you might not really care about or want that many followers.

However, if you like to network or rely on connections for your job or business, then you might like to have many followers.

Now for the million dollar question: How many followers are enough for you 100, 500, 10,000…?

Mark Hayward (follow @mark_hayward) lives in the Caribbean and is co-founder of Train for Humanity. He helps small business owners understand social media at Mark-Hayward.com.

Comments

  • February 10, 2009

    For many folks, 10k is the magic number — so if you’re seeking the magic five-figure follower level, here are five SUREFIRE ways to get there (no, seriously … I mean, really: they work. honest!) http://www.lohad.com/?p=2654

  • February 10, 2009

    Interesting point and not one I’d thought of before! I admire you for stating a target (I’d always be worried that I’d miss it).

    I’d much rather have 10’s of followers that are likely to listen to what I have to say and provide comment rather than 1000’s that are substantially less likely to hear. I like the ‘true fan’ idea but I wonder what the ratio would be in terms of ‘general’ followers to reach that goal?

    Good luck on your 5k challenge!

  • February 10, 2009

    Having a base of approximately 200 should be enough – particularly when you realise that each hub is interconnected by at least once mutual friend, thus conjoining most of us anyway. If you want to pass a message through to all twitters, the means are available without physically linking to all Twitterers!

  • February 10, 2009

    Since they continue to stream in, I think I’d have to answer rather oddly – my goal is the next one. As of this writing, I’m at about 1,265. I’m hoping for 1,266. Then the next. I really hope to converse with each one at some point. Don’t know if that’s possible beyond 5k, but it’s worth a shot.

  • February 10, 2009

    How do you follow 1000+ people without ignoring 99% of their tweets?

  • February 10, 2009

    I use twitter to learn from others and connect. I still prefer to find clients by personal networking. I’m not sure I would be comfortable acquiring clients via twitter whom I’ve never met in person, since designing a great site depends so much on understanding the person behind their business.

  • February 10, 2009

    Unlike others posting comments here, I only have almost 800 followers. But I can honestly say that I’ve managed to interact with each of them on some level. Whether it’s an active conversation (twit-versation) or re-tweeting or commenting on their new posts. My goal for twitter is to not only enjoy the water-cooler chat I miss from my days of working in an office, but to also build relationships.

  • February 10, 2009

    I prefer quality over quantity; so I prefer having people following me for what I tweet, not so I can get another follower to brag about.

    And I do the same as Brandon Cox; as of now I have 67, and looking forward to reach 68.

    I mainly use Twitter as a micro-blog (which is what it is), and if I meet new people that’s great. That I start to get heaps of followers for what I write, that’s just awesome. :)

  • February 10, 2009

    Great explination :) i will tweet this now

  • February 10, 2009

    for my own personal twitter account, i don’t really care. i only follow people i think are interesting and others can follow me if they want. i don’t filter my followers so much in the way i filter who i follow.

    but for my tech blog, i did a little bit of follow-bait to grow my number of followers. i selected people in my niche and followed them hoping that they would follow me back. the ones that don’t follow me back, are deleted within 2-3 days. not sure if that’s a good system or not but i want to grow my twitter network for my blog as big as i can until the number of followers (or their quality) is substantial enough that it can aid my blog’s growth.

    fair enough?

  • February 10, 2009

    Forgot to add my Twitter handle; NealWiser.

  • February 10, 2009

    Somehow the blog lost my original comment, but to restate;
    I really enjoyed your post. It’s an issue I’ve been thinking about as my numbers continue to grow. Personally, I’m more concerned about the value that my Followers add to my life and what value I add to theirs then actual numbers of followers. Although not all of them tweet at the same frequency, one has to wonder at what point will I begin to experience diminishing returns? The current Twitter management tools and techniques do help, but there is much that needs to be done.

  • February 10, 2009

    Than you for the pots, i prefer have good twitter fallowers that juts twitter user that dont sya a thing. and that its a matter that you have to keep in ming some time your fallowes like in my case dont give athing to you so its bored. You dont even know if they are lestnight to you.

  • February 10, 2009

    I figure people will follow @heblogssheblogs if they 1) know us & like us 2) want to get to know us 3) find our links & info about how to improve your writing, blogging, and marketing valuable. Currently, we have 442 followers. 500 sounds like a nice round number to shoot for.

    I’ve seen many a tweeter who follows 18,000 people in hopes that 18,000 people will follow them in return. That’s fine for them, if they need to fulfill that longing to be loved (or at least, followed). Personally, I enjoy having fewer, “quality” followers, because I have more of an opportunity to interact with them and get to know them, virtually speaking.

    Laura Christianson
    Co-owner, http://heblogssheblogs.com
    Taking biz blogs from “potential” to “influential”

  • February 10, 2009

    I struggle to keep up with the 130 or so follows that I have. It is almost like having to dip in to the stream periodically to see what is there right now and ignore the rest. Respond to the replies and direct messages and set up searches for the people who’s tweets are really important to you. I guess its like almost all media — I can’t watch 200 TV channels at once either, or read all the newspapers and magazines, or the books, or …

    Twitter and its users will continue to evolve as people find things that work and things that don’t.

  • February 10, 2009

    I think 5000 is a good number to start with, if everyone that looked at your tweet and passed it on you would have a million people before you know it that looked at your tweet. Putting out quality tweets is what its all about.

  • February 10, 2009

    500 is a good start, but 1000 is nice. This is assuming that these are ‘true fans’ and not all spammers and bots. You could find the service useful with only 100 followers if you had a strong connection with them all and they are likely to reply to you.

  • February 10, 2009

    Interesting thoughts, even in terms of just prompting people to set a goal. I’ve still no idea how many followers I’d want though! ;)

    Thanks for the shout too.

  • February 10, 2009

    How many followers truly depends on what you’re using each Twitter account for and the size of your niche. I prefer to have one “power account” with as many followers as possible. I use that account to share the best Tweets related to blogging, ecommerce, usability, and Web design. I follow everyone and spend a lot of time ReTweeting the best of what others have shared.

    That account is stuck at following 2000 so if what I Tweet there is of interest I will be eternally grateful to all those who follow and recommend @GrowMap so I can stop wasting my time figuring out who to unfollow and spend it instead on blogging, research, and sharing. I follow everyone back except for SPAMMERS whose only purpose is to send us to some link where they’re selling something. Those I block. :-)

    I use other Twitter accounts to reach specific Niches and in those I follow only those interested in that subject – and hope those who follow me back are too. For example, @NoBogies is about Golf, @ExecGifts is about Personalized Gifts for Business, Pleasure or Groomsmen, @MoreSales is specific to increasing sales for online stores and ecommerce.

    The reason for multiple accounts is to keep followers happy by only Tweeting what they’re interested in. It is not much fun trying to keep up with multiple accounts so I’m still hoping for that killer Twitter app that allows me to be signed in to all of them at once – something like a cross between Splitweet and Tweetburner. (And another for FriendFeed too!) If anyone knows of one do please let me know.

  • February 10, 2009

    Mark,
    I didn’t even know that my answer was going to be on a post. It shows that you should always respond on twitter if you think that you can offer something. The followers that you are talking about seems to be more like godin’s tribes. If you get some devoted followers you will get word of mouth and personal referrals. This is the key….also don’t forget the book, “marketing to the affluent.” Great book about becoming an expert in a niche by letting people know that you care.

    Caring in the twitter-verse is about responding to anything that you can help with along with connecting those that you think would be a good connect with one another. On an number of occasions I have referred on follower with another when a need came around.

    It’s not the quantity that will get you the true on going money and connections but the quality. do your followers believe and trust in you and what you have to offer.

    Great post mark.

  • February 10, 2009

    640 followers should be enough for anyone.

  • February 16, 2009

    In reading these comments a question was asked that immediately caught my attention.
    Question: How do you follow 1000+ people without ignoring 99% of their tweets? This is also a question that may be familiar to others who use Linkedin.com or Plaxo to stay connected and the answer is “commitment.” What I mean by this is “while it is important to pay attention to your followers tweets”, many of them also include links which if they have immediate value to you “Bookmark” them and revisit them at your leisure or subscribe immediately to the Rss to visit them again at your leisure. Reading or revisiting your followers sites,blogs or content shows commitment and posting comments re-enforces the commitment to them. Is every single tweet made by someone going to be socially relevant and immediately impacting to you? Probably not, as many Tweets as you know, may be directed specifically from one follower to another and not you. Is your relationship with a follower immediately worthless if you miss or fail to reply to one of their tweets? Again, I certainly wouldn’t think so. Followers will come irregardless, either by natural or unnatural means, but it is inevitably your choice as to how many you can follow and commit to!

  • August 10, 2009

    I think 5000 is a good number to start with!

    BTW how do you follow 1000+ people without ignoring 99% of their tweets?

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