100,000 Twitter followers. Now what?

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I used to document my social media journey by writing a post at each increment of 10,000 Twitter followers on my account. I wanted to share what I was learning, how things were changing along the way.

But it became boring for me to write about this and it started to feel like navel-gazing … so I stopped after 40,000 followers.

But I recently hit 100,000 Twitter followers so I thought this would be an appropriate time for a momentary zig from the regular content on {grow} to reflect on how I am keeping up personally with what has become a social media tsunami.

How did this happen?

In my book the The Tao of Twitter, I emphasize the importance of building an audience for the simple reason that if you don’t have at least a couple hundred people in your tribe, Twitter will become boring and you’ll probably quit.

When I entered the Twitterverse in 2008, I was like a kid in a candy store. I could not believe that I could actually follow all of these amazing people and get a glimpse of their lives and their thoughts! Twitter became my favorite place to meet new friends. It was an important news feed. It was my university. And it still is.

I can’t pin it down to a precise time or event, but the number of people following me started to accelerate dramatically some time in 2011. It probably coincided with publishing books and increased public speaking. Today, I get about 400-500 new followers a week, all organically. I have not done any proactive audience building (like I prescribe in the book) since 2009.

How do I keep up with all those Twitter followers?

It has always been important to me to maintain a quality tribe. As far as I know, everybody following me is a real person. Last time I checked, over 98% of my followers were active accounts. If I did not cull spammers and inactive accounts, my audience would easily have 200,000 followers.

I have always blocked spammers and carefully considered who I follow back. Unfortunately with the high rate of new followers every week, I cannot personally keep up with that administration or I would spend all day considering new Twitter followers. Since 2013 I have out-sourced this administration to a trained and trusted associate. I still look through new Twitter followers almost every day though. It’s just fun.

The only way to make sense of this wall of noise is to place people in Twitter Lists. By importing my lists into a tool like Hootsuite I can easily track what groups are talking about — my customers, friends, neighbors, etc. It’s actually not that hard to keep up with all those people if you have a little discipline.

I only spend an average of 20 minutes a day on Twitter, maybe more if something generated a lot of conversation. Twitter Lists makes this very efficient!

Some have asked why I only follow back one-third of the accounts that follow me. The biggest reason is that I rarely follow business accounts back. If you are a real person who seems to have a legitimate interest in what I do, I will follow you. If I missed you somehow, it is just an oversight. Let me know on Twitter and I will follow you back.

How have I changed?

I recently received this tweet: Your Twitter used to be more interesting and authentic. Less links to your blog & generic TY’s, and more soul.

Here is another: I am amazed that u can actually engage with as many people as u do!

Both perspectives carry some truth.

On the positive side, I try to respond to every single tweet directed my way (not every RT of course). Are my responses soul-ful? Probably not.

I do not engage in as many conversations on Twitter compared to a few years ago for a simple reason. They get out of control. If I throw out a question, I might get 50 or more people wanting to engage in simultaneous conversations. Chit chat does not scale.

I do really miss the chit chat though.

Instead of connecting on an intimate basis, I feel like I am standing in a stadium, shaking hands with the people in the front row. I hate not being more conversational and accessible.

To purge or not to purge?

I would say the sweet spot when I had the most fun on Twitter was when I had about 2,000 followers. Would I ever go back?

Last year a number of people had Twitter purges, wiping out their huge number of followers and starting over in a smaller and more manageable way.

I would never do that. I think it is disrespectful. Why do people follow me? Who knows. But at least some people are trying to learn from me. I am a teacher. That is why I am here. I am not going to elevate myself to a place where I wipe out an audience of people who want to learn something because it would be more user-friendly for me.

There is another weird benefit about a high follower count and that is “social proof.” Whether I like it or not, whether it makes sense or not, I know people make judgments about me — and maybe even hire me — based on number of likes, followers, etc. It is what it is, and I can’t change the way the world works.

So, the audience will continue to grow and I will find a way to handle it, hopefully with some grace.

What does the future hold?

Things are changing so fast I think that trying to follow a script would be limiting and counter-productive.

The founders of Twitter never dreamed of the many creative and amazing ways their platform is being used. It is the de facto “second screen” for TV viewing. It a powerful research tool. It is where news breaks. I could go on and on.

Who knows what the future may hold? Let’s just stay loose and enjoy the ride. We’ll figure it out together, as we always do.

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