If you didn’t know how many social media followers I had would you still be interested in me?

Hmmm. You had to think about that for a minute – am I right?

With over three billion social media users across the world, follower status is a big deal.

And it’s competitive out there.

Large numbers of followers, friends, shares, and likes are markers of status in the world of social media and for celebrities and entrepreneurs the greater that status, the more opportunities for monetization.

High follower counts are essential for the “influencers,” a growing market of amateur standard-setters and YouTube stars that receive billions of dollars annually from advertisers through sponsorship deals. The more people influencers reach, the more money they make. An influencer with a million followers could make $20 K with one promotional tweet.

Even someone with only 100,000 followers could earn $2,000 for a promotional tweet. Not bad for 280 characters.[i]

How do Influencers and standard-setters get so many followers?

They buy them. From shady companies like Devumi, according to the New York Times exposé titled, The Follower Factory.

Devumi sold hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter followers and bots along with stimulations of engagement that “like” and retweet targeted accounts automatically.

The company often sold the same accounts to different purchasers.

Many account holders buy followers to pad their numbers and exponentially increase the popularity and value of their brand or persona but Twitter and Facebook have been purging those fake accounts since the beginning of 2018.

And while the social media giants didn’t condone the fakes accounts, or bots, nothing was done about their existence until the controversy surrounding Russia’s alleged involvement in manipulating the USA 2016 election.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, committed in March 2018, to “increasing the collective health, openness and civility of public conversation,” saying that its leaders “didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences” of what they had built.[ii]

Now they’ve come down hard.

Twitter has purged millions of fake accounts this year leaving some celebs bewildered at huge losses of followers and certain politicians annoyed. Not everyone buys followers and bots, but the accounts of famous folks are prime targets of bots.

Some accounts with followers in the hundreds of thousands or millions didn’t mind if some of their followers were fake. The numbers were up, and that was important.

How important are followers to you?

Social Media Camp recently polled readers on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and asked if they thought the numbers of followers on social media accounts should be invisible.

  • 67% responded NO.
  • 21% said YES.
  • A few – 12% – were undecided.

Some reasons why we might want follower account numbers to be visible:

  1. We want to know how many followers you have so we can decide if following you will further our own agenda.
  2. We’re more likely to retweet, share, and like your post if you have lots of followers. Maybe they’ll notice us.
  3. If we follow you we are hoping you’ll follow us back, especially if you have lots of followers yourself. (see number one)
  4. Our follower count is an indicator of status and success.
  5. Follower visibility helps to promote our business.

Scott Stratten, @unmarketing has a pragmatic view of social media. An avid believer in and practitioner of “being real” he said,

“If you want to build a presence in the social media platform, then you need to be present.” – @unmarketing

On social media, people want to interact with real people. Not bots.

And social media success does indeed appeal to our vanity.

One of Social Media Camp’s Keynote speakers, Scott Stratten addresses the topic in his post titled, The Vanity of Going Viral on Facebook.

Here, in Scott’s words, is an introduction to what happened.

“A few months ago, I went viral. It was all my ego could hope for and more. Tens of millions of views of me on stage. What else could a keynote speaker ask for?

Metrics that matter, that’s what.

In this day and age, “Reach” is a metric. Not how many people you actually reached, but some mythical inflated number that looks good but means next to nothing. Let me break down the numbers for you:

32,000,000 reached: That’s how many times the video was served up into a newsfeed on Facebook. Not how many watched it, but more of the old school ‘your banner ad was served on a website that nobody looked at.’

13,000,000 views: Facebook counts a video as viewed if it plays for more than 3 seconds. That’s not a view to me, that’s a whiff, like you think you smelled something off, so you pause for a second, then carry on with your day. Or one of those billboards that say “You just proved billboard advertising works.”

You’ll want to read the rest of Scott’s story. You can find it here.

Not everyone buys followers and bots.

There are real people – sports teams, actors, writers, and politicians who are famous, and have followers that genuinely like them or are genuinely interested in them – for example Harry Potter author, @jk_rowling (14.5 M followers), Documentary filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, @MMFlint (6.05 M followers), Toronto’s awesome basketball team @Raptors (1.73 M) and the prolific and controversial tweeter US President @realDonaldTrump (56 M), to name a few.

Although Trump along with other personalities did lose many followers in the great Twitter purge, they hadn’t bought them.

You’ll probably find some fakes in your own account if you audit it with Twitteraudit.com.

I did.

But I didn’t keep them.

In conclusion, it’s important to have visible followers especially if you are an entrepreneur or promoting a business.

However instead of focusing on the numbers, keep your mind on engagement rates. It’s better to have fewer followers that are real, that you have conversations with, and that you provide great content to, than masses of disinterested people who don’t care about what you are offering.

These are the followers that will want your product or service.

Whether you are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, build your brand with heart for the people that are interested in you. More will come, because they’ll want to.

(The writer is still waiting for J.K. Rowling to follow her back on Twitter.)

[i] According to data collected by Captiv8

[ii] https://twitter.com/jack/status/969234275420655616

Rosemary White

A compulsive writer, word nerd, typo spotter, and information seeker, Rosemary satisfies her creative urges by crafting marketing and social media content for bWEST Interactive, Victoria. When she’s not mining the wide web for content ideas and facts, you’ll find her touring Canada's best riding roads on her motorcycle, applying watercolour paint to paper, or snuggled up with a good book and her dog.

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