An analysis of two kinds of Twitter accounts.
I’ll admit it: I have two Twitter accounts.
One account, mlanger, is the account I opened in March or April of 2007 and have maintained meticulously in the 2+ years since then. I’ve carefully chosen the 100-110 people I follow, adding new ones and trimming away old ones to maintain a total count that never exceeds 120 people. In the meantime, I’ve been followed by over 1,000 people throughout the years — but more about that number in a moment.
The other account, flyingmair, is the one I created when I recorded my Twitter course for Lynda.com. It was a test account, never intended for anything more. A bunch of people who agreed to be in the course followed me and I followed them back. When my work on the course was finished, I allowed it to languish. Later, I set up an TwitterFeed to automatically post news and special offers for helicopter flights from Flying M Air’s Web site to that account. It’s not much — maybe 2 tweets a month. I turned off follower notifications so I wouldn’t be bothered by bots. But more recently, I decided to use that account to experiment with TweetLater, another third party Twitter service. One of the features it offers is auto-follow, where your account will automatically follow anyone who follows you.
Now I need to be clear on something here: I don’t believe in automatically following anyone. This has to do with my personal philosophy of what Twitter is: a social networking tool. What’s social about automation?
I also don’t believe in following everyone who follows me. Twitter is being destroyed by “follower collectors” — people who participate in Twitter solely to build follower count. They’re sucking bandwidth and resources that could be better used to maintain the system for people interested in content. I’m interested in content.
So I would never use an auto-follow tool to follow new followers on my main Twitter account. I keep my follower count to just over 100 because I’ve realized that that’s about all I can follow. I read all the tweets of the people I follow and I interact with them. I build relationships. I learn things. I get links to great content on the Web. Sure, some of the people I follow link to crap and have stupid tweets. But not all the time. And don’t we all?
But the follower collectors don’t care about content. All they care about is building follower count. They do this primarily through automated tools — automatically following people based on keywords or just hits, hoping those people will follow them back — automatically or manually. To avoid their accounts being flagged by Twitter’s monitoring tools, they also automatically unfollow people who don’t reciprocate the follows.
I moment ago, I reported that I’d been followed by over 1,000 people in 2+ years on Twitter. Yet my follower count is under 800. The reason is the automation tools used by the follower collectors. They automatically follow me but I don’t follow back, so they automatically unfollow me. Some of these people have followed me more than once — I reward them for their efforts by blocking them.
Content Is King
So now I’ve got these two accounts:
- The one I monitor, maintain, and interact with daily. The one I enjoy. The one I joined Twitter for.
- The one I allow to languish with occasional automated tweets for my business. The one I reciprocate follows for.
And here’s the difference between them.
The one I maintain has good content. Not perfect, not always crap-free, but good. It has interactions between intelligent, interesting people who link to interesting things on the Web, share good photos, and provide answers to “lazyweb” questions. This Twitter account is the “water cooler” I’ve blogged about so many times. The break from my work, the “friends” who aren’t really close but who know me at least as well as I know them.
The one I’ve fully automated is mostly full of crap. All of the people that account follows are people who followed that account. More than half of the people who follow that account, automatically followed that account. In other words, those accounts may or may not care about interaction. At least 10 of the accounts there release an endless stream of links to content on the Web via RSS feed. They’re just regurgitating links to dozens of new blog posts on other sites — some of which may not even be topic-specific. There are a few accounts there that are connected to real people who are genuinely interesting; I follow some of them on my main account. But, for the most part, the unmaintained, automated account is a gateway into a total waste of bandwidth.
Which would you rather have on your Twitter Home page?
What Would Happen If All the Crap Went Away?
Imagine a Twitter where most of the tweets were interesting or useful or made you think. Imagine it being populated by people who actually cared about the people they followed and interacted with them regularly.
Imagine a Twitter where people didn’t game the trending topics, using all those popular terms in tweets to get their accounts noticed. Imagine automated tools for following, unfollowing, and tweeting vanishing into thin air, requiring people to actually type in the content they want to appear.
You’ve just imagined the Twitter I joined 2+ years ago.