Twitter Followers: Quantity or Quality?

JR Griggs (follow them at @jrgriggs) from JR’s 2 Cents looks at the topic of Quality vs Quantity of Twitter Followers.

Recently as I pondered my slowly growing followers on Twitter, something came to mind about who was following me. What was the real importance in the numbers? Was quantity really what was important or was it the quality of my followers? Quality meaning those who will be responding to my tweets or re-tweeting the ones they like. If you’re a business, quality followers would be the ones making purchases or utilizing your services. After much thought on this, I have come to some conclusions on what the difference is and who needs which and why.

Quantity

We’ve all seen the articles out there on how to increase our followers. A few easy ways to increase your quantity is to follow anyone who obviously has an auto follow. Especially companies like @starbucks for example. You can also look for those whose following / followers ratio is about even. They are most likely to have an auto follow as well. These are real simple ways to get a high quantity of followers. But what good does it do you to have @starbucks following you? Chances are whoever is updating it will not be subscribing to your “PC Repair Blog” or purchasing from your custom t-shirt site. So what’s the point?

Why You May Need Quantity

There are some benefits to having quantity. Some would say it gives you a higher “Twitter Authority.” There are a few cases where quantity is a good thing. Of course you could always argue that having the high numbers may cause some to follow you who might be quality followers. One benefit is if you are listed on a site that ranks Twitter accounts in your niche, by the followers you have. For example maybe you are listed on “Top PC Repair Twitters.” Obviously if you are up in the high rankings you can gain some quality followers who may be looking for you. Adding as many followers as possible would certainly give you a top spot on that list.

Quality

Quality followers are no doubt your most important followers. These are the ones who are actually following you to listen to what you have to say. The ones who will purchase the items you advertise. These are the followers that are asking questions, replying to your tweets and are not just filtering you out on TweetDeck. These followers are a bit harder to gain but worth the work. You will have to search them out, follow them and engage in conversation with them. You must also be a “quality follower.” Show them you are worth following. Offer them something more than just another notch in the quantity category and they will not only want to follow you but will want you as a follower.

Why You Definitely Need Quality

Who needs quality? Everyone! No matter what you use Twitter for, you need quality followers. You can bloat your numbers all day but you won’t be selling any of your ebooks to @starbucks or @dunkindonuts. Your quality followers will not only be the ones who are subscribing to your blog or purchasing your services. They will also be the ones gaining you more quality followers. Besides the fact that their followers will see their replies to you, they will also be re-tweeting you. They will be helping you spread the word about a recent post or product. Without quality followers you might as well be tweeting to yourself.

Comments

  • January 29, 2009

    For me its the quality of followers, I rather follow quality followers I am interested in or vice versa, than having followers who are totally opposite from what I wanted my Twitter profile to be. I can imagine that after having 5K-15K or 50K followers can be very disturbing sometimes because you have different attitudes and not many will understand what you are tweeting about yet they follow you because somebody told them to

  • January 29, 2009

    I prefer quality – I don’t need thousands of followers who won’t even say a word, and I love these two or three persons I can talk to via Twitter. At least this is what I prefer regarding personal account, in case of professional account it’s quite the reverse :)

  • January 29, 2009

    This is an eternal topic for Twitterers. Why? Because the number and type of users who you follow determines the nature of your Twitter experience. Remember GIGO? The same principle applies. You will have people follow you just in the hopes that you will follow them back and boost the number of their followers. So it becomes just a game.

    But the value of Twitter lies far beyond an occasional ego massage. From a practical standpoint, it is about connections, knowledge and immediacy. For those with a philosophical turn of mind, I like to think that Twitter (and the wellspring of emerging microblog applications) is a social phenomenon, a reflection of the collective conscious, what I call panconsciousness.

    Can I suggest you visit my blog post on this topic, written some time ago? Follow You, Follow Me, where I assert “As with so many things in life, what “counts” is quality, not quantity. ” This was focused on the other perspective, not caring so much about who followed you, but who you are following.

  • January 29, 2009

    Quality, of course. But some of the value of Twitter comes from following the public_timeline to get the “pulse” of what’s going on in the world. And, using “follow-me” tags on my websites and blogs helps meet new potential contacts and customers. And, lastly, I use Twitter to stay in contact with my family, friends, and co-workers. It’s sort of an instant email.

  • January 29, 2009

    Good article and something which everyone who twitters must, at some time, wonder.

    I’m interested in so many subjects, primarily, writing, games, technology, and spirituality but I’m much more interested in people. I don’t have an auto -follow, I’m not using Twitter to make money, raise my profile or exploit anyone or anything. When people follow me, if I think they are interesting, I’ll follow them back, if not.. well that’s why my follower/following ratio is slightly out of sync – some dumb tweeple out there.

    The volume of tweets is an issue too, if you see someone with 1500 updates and around two hundred followers – you surely know that all you will receive is noise, not info, nor wisdom nor any kind of valid/positive interaction. Hey keep up the good work.

  • January 29, 2009

    Today I’ve posted an article in this line… (more & less ;-)
    [Spanish]
    Regards!!

  • January 29, 2009

    Good Post, this seems to be an ongoing conversation. One that I posted on early last year, my post was directed more to Linkedin and face to face networking but it is the same principal. Kyle Lacy had an excellent post in this regard today also. Keep up the good work.

  • January 29, 2009

    If it wasn’t for my *quality* followers, Twitter would not be a *quality* experience for me and therefore I wouldn’t be able to justify spending time on it. Yes, my follower numbers are low but the value I get from the conversations we have is very high. Numbers have never been a good substitute for value or quality of contribution.

    I’m happy with the way Twitter is working out for me which is why I use it almost every day. The followers I do have, have been with me a long time. And, although we’ve never met in person, I do feel as if I’ve come to know them and they me. Consequently, should they ever be in Toronto, I’d look forward to a meetup.

    Linda M. Lopeke
    The SMARTSTART Coach

  • January 29, 2009

    Thanks JR, you certainly have a good point: If they don’t purchase your goods or services, why do you want them to follow you? It surely reemphasizes the point that you need to build relationships with your target audience to be successful.

  • January 29, 2009

    It’s a great discussion… You might be interested also in a post I wrote the other day about the same topic that takes the opposite perspective. Without discounting quality as a critical factor, there is a rational reason to try for more followers.

    I won’t get into all of it here, but the post looks at the concept of “preferential attachment” to suggest that people with high follower counts are more likely to continue to grow than those with low counts. Obviously, the high quality followers need to be in this group to succeed.

    Here’s the analysis on preferential attachment in Twitter:
    http://digitalbodylanguage.blogspot.com/2009/01/twitter-chris-brogan-and-black-swans.html

    The conclusion is that all else being equal, having more followers leads to having even more followers. Good content and authentic relationships are key, yes, but preferential attachment makes follower growth more likely for those with large follower counts.

    Interested in your comments on this.

  • January 29, 2009

    I definitely think it’s a mix of both. Like you said, the number of people following you does give you a certain lever of Twitter “authority”. And if you using Twitter to create a dialogue with new, interesting people then having a large amount of followers can facilitate that. But if you are using Twitter to promote a business, quality is definitely a better barometer. Don’t worry about the number of people following you; worry about the number of people following you who are interested in what you and your company are doing.

  • January 29, 2009

    It would be cool to have a quantity of quality followers!

  • January 29, 2009

    Quality, of course. However, does the quantity of followers really matter on Twitter? People who you follow matter of course, you want to be even semi-interested in the people, but does it matter if you have a lot of followers who say nothing? I wouldn’t work to get them, but I wouldn’t worry about them either, let’s put it that way. I’m the type that on every other networking site, apart from Twitter, think “what are you friending me for punk?” when I get a friend request… :D On Twitter, I’m happy to have followers and add them back gladly. (I can always drop them later if they turn out to be not worth following.)

  • January 29, 2009

    It’s simple:

    Follow quality, be followed in quantity.

    You never know how people listening to you will make use of that information. Sure, you can say that Starbucks as a business doesn’t want to buy your t-shirt, but the person behind the Twitter account might.

    In terms of reputation, when you browse someone’s profile the people they follow are shown in a gallery – not the people they follow.

  • January 29, 2009

    Words of wisdom Darren!

  • January 29, 2009

    I’m with Scott here – a “quantity of quality” is no doubt the best.

    Personally, I’m dismayed how much stock people put into how many followers someone has. I have to say, I’m a little bit scared of following someone with a ridiculously high number and I certainly don’t expect them to be hanging on my every word.

    From the standpoint of listening-in – watching the tweets roll by and getting great info – quality definitely aces quantity.

    However, when you want to get the word out about something, I’ve found that if you have only a small quantity of followers – albeit wonderful people – your word doesn’t reach very far.

    I guess there’s a critical point here somewhere – a tipping point where a certain number of quality followers becomes effective.

  • January 29, 2009

    It is a mix of both, but to really get some juice out of Twitter, you need to focus on how to engage the people who are following your followers – those who are 2 and 3 degrees away from you. That’s the real trick!

  • January 29, 2009

    Good topic as I think many people are struggling with twitter ‘noise.’ Additionally, I think the fear of noise is the #1 reason people don’t sign up for twitter. As the others have said, I think it’s a balance…you need enough quantity to attract people, but enough quality that you and they can exchange meaningful conversation.

  • January 29, 2009

    I always read the most recent updates on a profile before I decide whether or not to follow someone. I like to get updates from people who share my interests and outlook, and I don’t just follow everyone who follows me.

    I’m pleased if anyone wants to follow me because they are interested in what I’m posting. If they appear to be someone whose updates I will value, enjoy and will want to respond to, then I am happy to follow.

  • January 29, 2009

    Great advice! Despite the Twemptation, I refuse to be a Twitter whore.

  • January 29, 2009

    This is NOT an either / or question. It is not a “six of one, half-a-dozen of the other” question. It’s a chicken-and-egg question, albeit one whose priority should be readily discernible: Quality before Quantity.

    The trouble with placing emphasis on Quantity is that it presupposes a reciprocity of interest in your content. While it’s certainly true that some people will follow you because they think you are providing Quality, others will follow for misguided reasons. As a result, you actually have a fragmented Quantity, of which only a fraction can be considered your audience.

    Quality is subjective and depends on your goals with Twitter.
    Quantity is objective and is outside of your direct influence. I’m sure that is debatable, but let’s not quibble :)

    Quantity is subordinate to Quality, to the extent that your perspective matches that of your followers. For example, the importance of Quantity is inversely proportional to the egocentricity of your tweets.
    If you are tweeting about your lunch preparations, I doubt that you care how many people actually read that. Quality being what it is, YOU may feel that the tweet is important, and your friends may agree; however, a large quantity of your followers won’t care.

    If you are tweeting about a fantastic post on a topic that you are passionate about, obviously, you hope lots of people read the post. In this case, Quality – from YOUR perspective – rests, not with the tweet, but with the link to the post. Whereas, from your followers’ perspective, Quality rests with their perception of your authority to provide useful information. That’s why you won’t get a large Quantity of followers simply by linking and retweeting once or twice a day.

    Consistent Quality is the key to a meaningful Quantity.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

  • January 29, 2009

    Twitter for me has never been about the number of followers you have. Its about being able to connect deeply with the people in your circle. So really, its time to trim the herd and start communicating with the people you know in your industry.

  • January 29, 2009

    I agree the quality is what we strive to have in our followers. Using twitter search tools to find other in your niche is a great start. Engaging your followers with useful information will help you become a quality twitter follower as well. It’s all full circle.

  • January 29, 2009

    I’m all about quality… I’ll rarely follow someone back whose followed me if they don’t send me a hello message, unless they have a REALLY cool website. But then again there’s the “super engagers”–those that post every 10 minutes and respond to EVERY tweet you make. I call them, get ready for it…. Twalkers. hahahaha

  • January 29, 2009

    I agree with those who say it’s a combination of both quality and quantity followers. Quantity helps get more @ replies and RT’s to questions or tweets you send out, as opposed to having only “quality” followers who may not respond at all or may not be online when you are. It’s always interesting in a somewhat weird way the number of followers that are on complete opposite time zones and don’t engage you at all because they’re probably asleep when you’re awake and vice versa. Which makes sending private DM’s very useful.

    It’s the Quality followers who actually take the time to engage and converse with you, and those are the ones I care most about, am most interested in Re-tweeting what they say, linking to their posts etc.

  • January 29, 2009

    I’m not on Twitter to sell anything – Quality is more important to me. I’m using Twitter to help me focus on my top goal for 2009. And I enjoy hearing about life in other parts of the US and the world.

  • January 29, 2009

    I am really trying to go for the quality path. For me i see absolutely no benefit in having a large number of people i am following, as i have trouble keeping up at the moment, however with the people i am following i find that i am gaining a lot of good information through their tweets. Additionally i slowing (maybe 1 or 2 a day) and gaining followers, which is happening more naturally and i think natural growth over a longer period will provide much more quality followers then trying to maximize my followers ASAP.

  • January 29, 2009

    I would apply the 80/20 principle and choose my 20% based on quality to enable my village on twitter – see my thoughts at http://tinyurl.com/9tvwyz

  • January 29, 2009

    JR
    Thanks for the tips, I believe that the quality of your followers would be more important.
    Like you said, is the guy @starbucks really going to vist or buy from your site.
    I would think you want people who actually have an interest in what you have to say.
    Is’nt that how we gauge our friends in the offline world.

    Gary McElwain

  • January 29, 2009

    I find it interesting that this is such a hot topic. I suppose one could leverage all these social media sites and tools to do whatever it is you are trying to do. I think people get caught up in collecting followers and “keeping score,” as it were. I tend to use Twitter somewhat naturally, the way I would network offline. I listen to conversations, when they are interesting, I pipe in… follow people that pique my interest for some reason, say “Nice to meet you!” to those that follow me. I’ve developed some great friendships through Twitter, actually. That’s where the gold is… not in reaching some magic follower number.

    And thanks @johnhaydon for Tweeting this post!

  • January 29, 2009

    It’s like apples and oranges .. or rather, fresh fruit and frozen fruit. One can say that the fresh fruit is much nicer to eat but takes longer to nourish and grow. If you buy the frozen fruit you can often find that it is just as nice to eat if you allow it to thaw out.

    And, what does that mean? Probably nothing. What you will find out (in most cases) that the twitter people thinking ‘quality is better than quantity’ usually don’t follow alot of people and is also usually not being followed as much. On the other hand, the twitter people thinking ‘quantity is better than quality’ usually have a lot of followers and follow a lot of people.

    It’s a well-known fact that the “rich get richer” and “it takes money to make money” and there’s nothing different here with twitter. It’s like Steven Woods said above .. all else being equal, having more followers leads to having even more followers. With more followers, you can find quality within the quantity.

    It’s not 2007 or 2008 anymore. Twitter has evolved soooooo much in the past 3-6 months that there are literally TONS of applications out there that can help you filter through the noise and get benefit out of using twitter. I believe that.

  • January 30, 2009

    There is more than one way to use Twitter. If people mostly follow you because of your authority, i.e. they want to get content and perhaps interact with you every so often, Twitter becomes a numbers game. The more followers, the more people are going to click on links you promote, including your own, and visit your site/blog.

    On the other hand, if you main intention is to network with other social media marketers and hope they notice your work (and perhaps RT and promote it) then quality is the only thing I care about. Although it is great to have 1,000 influencers, everyone has to admit it is hard to build relationship with so many people overnight.

  • January 30, 2009

    In my case I love quality, than you for the post.

  • January 30, 2009

    I’ve made a lot of friends on this site, and love it when I can get to know someone, and I can reply to their twitter updates with a good chance that they’ll reply back. I don’t block anyone who appears as spam, but do love it when people I’m interested in who I follow, follow me back. Through this I have gotten to know a fair few people. Sure, quantity looks nice, but quality is definitely the way to go.

  • January 31, 2009

    Looks like thee days people randomly add you and if they don’t find you back as follower they remove you from the list. I’ve seen plenty of users following out of my niche and then they unfollowed me when they find out that i’m not following them back. So it’s game of numbers started. So don’t think that when people follow you then they mean they like your content or site they do that for their numbers game.

  • February 4, 2009

    Quality most definitely. I think Tweeter is a meeting of the minds. Everyone shares their thoughts ab out anything, not just business. I also think it’s a good place to brainstorm if you have a product you want to put out there and need help doing that.

  • February 4, 2009

    Only 1 Day old with Twitter, do you just follow everyone that follows you as a general rule?

  • February 5, 2009

    that is a good question that i dont know. the same people who tell me to follow less they themselves follow alot so i question the whole sense in delving into this chicken and egg type of theory. it depends if you want it to be an extension of the web or your closest contacts. me personally like twitter because i can collect info reguardless of whether i know the people or not. on the other hand twitter is a great way to easily get some people to virally disperse the ole content so i would say more is bettar and if someone questions who my real friends are i will tell em all

  • February 13, 2009

    Quantity and quality. If you want people to keep following you, you need to have updates with content they find interesting. If you have too few posts, people may stop following as well.

  • February 14, 2009

    Is this a good system to determine to follow someone who is following you?

    (1) They should have at least week/monthly updates to contribute to the conversation
    (2) They should have “message” on – the ability to Direct Message them
    (3) They should have a more complete profile (pic, short description and link to their website)

    To me it’s not about following everyone that follows me. It’s about finding people who really use twitter and participate. Without participation then there’s no relationship building.

    Thoughts?

  • February 21, 2009

    I think that’s a good strategy overall. After going through some profiles I’ve noticed that some are filled with content links and others seem to be as if I’m peeping in on personal conversations. If a profile doesn’t possess much content then I don’t follow. Also I’m trying to tailor my tweets to be a mix of helpful tips regarding online marketing and more casual but interesting information. I’m new, so hoping to get more followers that way.

  • March 3, 2009
    Nochipra aka Nora and Chip
    @Nochipra

    For me it is quality of the tweets. Sure it’s fun to type in what you are doing whether it’s just eating a sandwich and see if you get a response of something like “Hey I like those kinda sandwiches too” but you more than likely not gonna get a response to something like that. To tell the truth, if I’m really bored and I see someone tweet something like that, I will respond back just to see if I can get a conversation started but the more quality tweets are what I like. If someone tweets something that is informative then I will usually either RT it or let them know I appreciate the info.

  • March 26, 2009

    definitely quality i say.

  • May 19, 2009

    Since the inception of our twitter account 2 months ago, I have begun to realize my dilemma falls within bounds of a quality/quantity debate….We are a sound company that does local and regional small rentals(such as small PAs and DJ rigs) AND we provide large sound reinforcement in the region for a multitude of festivals, concert series and national touring acts.
    As a company we really want to expand outside of the Erie, PA region and into largest markets, thus a national presence on twitter following industry professionals, artists, vendors, and other sound companies would be relevant.

    BUT
    We also want to increase our local rentals and sales, thus following local events, organizations, calenders, artists, and business would be advantageous.

    When I update the feed, we run the risk of giving the wrong message to the wrong followers by promoting local DJ rentals (rendering us illegitimate in the national scene) or by saying we are on stage with a name act such as Lifehouse (portraying the company as too big to rent a graduation party system from).

    Just like any other marketing initiative, there needs to be a planned strategy that aligns with the overall plan of action for the business. Quantity and Quality of followers are incorporated into that marketing plan, just like any other variable. The bottom line is that you must understand the goal of utilizing this medium in order to determine how you are going to about using it.

  • May 28, 2009

    For me it’s actually a duopoly. For this one of my (two) Twitter accounts I want to get get literally a million ‘followers’ As much to prove how vacuous, banal and spam infested Twitter is as anything else. I am working on the very real probability that 99% of Twitter is now bots, mlm/pyramid scams to get followers and snake oil affiliates.

    In adding (and removing) several thousand on this account and (manually) flipping through countless pages based on keywords I found barely a dozen people worth knowing, and that was a fluke as half a dozen of us landed on the same thread.

    As these things go, I’d say Twitter is already dieing, it just doesn’t know it! It still has life in it and potential, but the phishers and spammers wallowing in the trough of obfuscated links own it now. Darren and others are doing OK and I’m having fun in my own way, but you have to ask yourself, how many of the decent followers are those who already know ‘you’.

    For instance, of the hundred or so I follow on my proper twitter id several I’ve know for a great many years, frequent their websites and blogs, meet at trade venues, get the mailings and so forth. Following me on that account with either get you ignored or blocked.

    Ultimately, as ever, it comes to what you use Twitter for. For me I’m retired, I have no targets, no conversions, nothing to sell, and if you do, I ain’t interested. That said, as a result of several threads on Twitter I eventually bought the Thesis Wordpress theme – even then, it was only because I’ve followed and subscribed to Copyblogger for several years.

    In the end it comes to this – the ineptitude and oversights of Twitter’s owners have currently beggered it. Whether they can repair things is another matter. As it stands to get quality followers purely from Twitter you’ll need to sift though an unthinkable quantity of pond scum first.

    The solution, as Problogger and others experts will attest, is to use your websites, newsletters, adverts etc to direct your existing customers to your Twitter and rely on their Retweets to expand your base. Any and all methods based on randomly pulling followers will, I guarantee, have a negative affect on any branding you have!

  • September 7, 2009

    For now I’m playing the numbers game. For every 100 people I follow I hope to gain 2 people that are quality. I prefer quality over quantity but what I have found interesting is the accidently finding quality followers. People I didn’t think I would have an interest in have shown themselves to be very conversational. I randomly follow people and if they follow back in a few days then either they are interested in reading my tweets or it’s just someone gaining followers. If they don’t follow back then I don’t believe they are very interested in me and I unfollow so I can follow someone else that might be interested. I wish I just could have like one million followers to start with and be done with it.

    Im currently at 17,000 followers and twitter is now becoming useful for me. I now have hundreds of interesting people I can communicate to. I don’t care for the twitter app with it’s many limitations. I don’t care for Face Book for it’s becoming like Myspace which I can’t stand. I love Friend Feed but not everyone is on it. So for now I’m stuck on twitter. I’m waiting for the next killer social app that will replace them all. Maybe Google Wave or some Cloud computing app will replace it all.

    ___/)_____*_____

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