By Neil Patrick
I’m on Twitter daily, so I get to observe in sometimes gory detail how various folk use and abuse it. And lately I've noticed a nasty and cynical tactic getting more prevalent.
It’s the latest incarnation of what I call “binge and purge”.
It’s easy to spot when a Twitter account is doing this. When they follow you, scroll down their time line and you'll see how many people they followed at the same time they followed you. Binge and purgers will typically follow accounts en masse. Several hundred a day. Day after day. I’m sorry to tell you that despite following you, they are not interested in you and what you think or have to say. They just want to get as many people as possible to follow them back.
They have naively concluded that having a zillion followers trumps everything else. Big mistake.
It’s a bit like having a rather lame party or event to organise for 100 people and knowing that few people will really want to come. So you send out 1,000 invitations, because if you only sent 100, only 10 people would actually show up.
If you want to go to a lame party, be my guest.
The binge and purgers’ error is that they see celebrities and famous people as their role models.
As I talked about here, there’s a mass of celebrities and other famous people who follow very few people on Twitter. But because of their high public profile, they don’t actually need to do very much to get a lot of followers on any social media platform. They don’t really engage; they just tweet all about their daily lives. And their followers are essentially engaging in a form of voyeurism. It’s a lucrative formula which is exploited by thousands of gossip and celebrity magazines and websites all over the world.
And whilst I think this is a completed wasted opportunity, I get it. They see it as a low cost and easy way to help keep their face out there.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. They are social media role models for no-one.
But sadly, many ‘normal’ organisations and people who ought to know better, have taken this non-typical and flawed model and assumed that social media success is about having a zillion followers, whilst following as few people as possible. I recently read a post which asserted that unless a Twitter account had 10 followers for every person they followed, it was not worthy of being followed.
This is absolute nonsense.
Because it makes a second flawed assumption that social media is like old media. In other words, a newspaper which has a higher circulation deserves to be paid more for its advertising space than one with a lower circulation. In old media this was more or less true. In social media, it’s also complete nonsense.
Because social media is about relationships and people, not old school advertising. It’s active not passive. It’s real time not scheduled. It is collaborative. And it is not, repeat NOT about me, me, me. It’s about US, US ,US.
It’s not an advertising vehicle.
It’s a place where we can grow our networks of friends, learn from each other, get feedback from our customers, share information, build communities, watch our rivals, help our friends and best of all sometimes just chew the fat…together.
Binge and purgers neither desire nor find any of this. Because they are on an ego trip.
Goodwill not reach is the measure of online influence - unless you are using social media in completely the wrong way. And you do not acquire goodwill by dumping your followers within a day or two of them following you back. It just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
It’s the industrialisation of social media. A cynical and exploitative attitude where connections (that’s you and me) are viewed as raw material. And this mechanical approach kills the very thing every genuine decent person or organisation wants; real relationships, based on trust and mutual goodwill.
I can only see this cynical, exploitative and idiotic trend continuing. But all is not lost. Just keep an eye in your new followers for a few days and watch which ones have quickly unfollowed you. There’s your proof they are a binge and purger. Dump them immediately.
And don’t get sucked in to the mythology that you can’t be awesome unless you have a zillion followers.