Over in the US it is said that Twitter is struggling. It failed to add any new users for the second quarter in a row. At the end of September, Twitter had a core audience of 307 million active users, adding just 3 million worldwide during the three months since June. It seems mass market appeal is no longer there.
That could all be related to things like this.
@MrBobBusinessMentor is now following you!
(Sorry if you exist @MrBobBusinessMentor).
When alerted to a new Twitter follower these days, it tends to elicit instant cynicism. I am fairly confident about what /who I will see.
This isn’t unchartered subject matter for the pages of this blog, but my established prejudgement about almost every new follower is that they are a boring robot churning out probably programmed updates. At a rough guestimate, I’d say nine times out of ten this is the case.
Business profiles on Twitter often look like an utterly impenetrable wall of turgid noise. Especially if they have several thousand followers, and even if they don’t follow that many in return, and even more if they are supposedly verified with the blue tick.
Why would someone with the sacred blue tick of truth follow me – someone with not that many followers and not much influence?
Perhaps because their account is managed by a team of people, PR account executives, or programmed to follow other Twitter accounts if they should tweet an update containing a certain word.
Perhaps because it’s part of an ongoing project to rapidly scale numbers by following a lot of people then unfollowing a lot of people. This is a strategy many users employ in the hope of achieving a big looking number of followers. People can point to the large number in a boardroom and use it as ‘evidence of reach’ (or some such) to someone senior, or indeed the named person in question, who doesn’t know or care any different.
Numbers Of Instagram
Naturally people do still judge accounts and other people based on those key numbers. But in the realms of business they can be misleading, or devoid of any meaning at all. Equally bewildering is an image sharing platform like Instagram, said to be the fastest growing with the biggest numbers of active users, 400 million and counting.
Within a minute of posting an Instagrammed photo which has been hashtagged with relevant tags, hundreds or thousands of ‘likes’ can be instantly registered.
Plenty of users have thousands of followers. My ten year old cousin has hundreds more followers than me. This is upsetting because he’s been alive for much less time than me and his photos aren’t quite as good. It doesn’t seem fair, but does it really matter?
Are all these impressively high numbers all that significant to the world of business? Not really. How many of these users are influential businesspeople with budgets? I’d bet not many. Still, you get sucked in and start quietly hating yourself for hashtagging, enjoying the red heart hit of Likes from mostly spammy accounts.
“Hey, Mark! Thanks for the follow. Looking forward to sharing some thoughts and ideas via Twitter!”
Also slightly ridiculous are automated direct messages. Eurgh. No, really. I can’t wait. (Me and the guy who sent this DM haven’t shared any thoughts and ideas via Twitter yet). Automation is partly to blame in the dwindling power of Twitter, scheduling of updates which may, but probably will not interest a following, a lack of value given to interaction and personality.
Outside of business, there remains purpose. Like Facebook, plenty of users barely ever post an update but read the platform a lot, following celebrities or media outlets, or people they know, as if it’s a passive online television channel. For those people it’s not such an issue.
For people who did once upon a time use it for business, it’s dying. Strangely, you could argue that it’s the number of social media gurus, all the agencies and commercialisation of social media itself which is largely responsible.
So is this irreversible or can it be checked? In terms of solutions, might it be possible to make programming harder, for Twitter to try defending it more keenly, culling the robots? I don’t know. Might it be possible to promote the idea that having thousands of followers, regardless of how many people you’re following, looks fake, alienating and boring? That too is probably impossible, such is the broad desire to be followed by thousands and millions, to appear a big deal, and to be a big deal.
Ultimately the real proof of quality or humanity is in the tweets themselves – and it must be remembered this will always be subjective so I could be totally wrong about everything.
Now excuse me, I have to rush off and tweet a link to this totally amazing blog post you simply must read.
Please tweet @mawkins if you’d like to comment on this post.