Ok, so it’s been hard to escape the news lately about fake followers on Twitter. We had Republican candidate Mitt Romney collared for seeming to massively inflate his follower numbers with bot accounts. This was followed by Status People releasing an app that let people analyse their own and other accounts to see just how many fake followers they had. The answer seemed to be lots, with Obama having around 70% fake followers and Lady Gaga 71%.
With Twitter trying to get ad revenue it is obviously not in their interests to let this belief that their site is full of bot accounts persist, so they’ve come out fighting this week with claims that they have around 140 million active users. Their claim is based upon the rationale that many online community members read content but don’t contribute content, ie they’re passive users. Twitter can tell that readers are active by measuring how often they login, but 3rd party apps such as Status People cannot, thus relying purely on publically available measures such as followers.
Ok, so the point of this blog. Fun though it is for us all to willy wave and compare the size of our followers, Twitter is right. That isn’t a sign of how engaged your community is, nor is it a sign that this community is delivering anything of value to your business.
Lets get back to basics here. The 90:9:1 rule suggests that way more people passively consume content than will ever produce stuff of their own. The ratio might differ depending on the community and the platform, and indeed when contributions are as simple as a ‘like’ or a retweet then it does raise the ratio of those contributing, but still you’re gonna have more passive readers than active contributors.
And that’s fine, but you still need some way of measuring the success of what you’re doing, and counting followers isn’t going to cut it. So here’s a simple two step process for you to determine the success of your Twitter account.
Step 1: This is a nice simple one. The first thing you need to do is figure out the purpose of your Twitter account. What does it exist to do? How will it benefit your followers? The key to all of this is that this purpose has to be something you can measure. If you can’t measure it then worthwhile though it may be, it’s useless to you and you should think again.
It’s also important at this stage to critically think if Twitter is the right platform for achieving this purpose. If there are better alternatives upon which you can devote your time and energies, don’t feel bad about using those instead of Twitter. Twitter is just a tool – don’t forget that.
Step 2: Ok, the next step is to turn your purpose into dollars and cents. You’ve figured out what a ‘win’ looks like for your Twitter account. Have you just helped an unhappy customer? That’s a win. Have you got a story into a major trade publication? That’s a win. What you need to do now is convert those wins into financial terms so you can determine the ROI of your time on Twitter. You’ll need this to convince the financial folks in your business that what you’re doing is worthwhile.
Do those two things well and you can leave worrying about whether your followers are real or fake to people that have nothing better to do.