Keeping count

We were all set to get into a meeting and the phone rang. I had a few minutes. I picked the call to hear a lady with an impeccable accent speak.  She cut through the basics as only accomplished professionals can. “We work on getting you more followers on twitter” she said.

In another few minutes of conversation, it was widely apparent that she not only knew what she was talking about but was also good at speaking about it. It boiled down to this: For a fixed fee, my follower count will magically increase. It was a tiered approach. Different fee for different slabs!

I was more than intrigued for several reasons. For one, she gave me stats about my twitter account that I hadn’t quite bothered to keep up with.

Second, ‘enhancing follower count’ was a ‘business model’ that merited an outbound call to an individual (and not a brand). After all, getting marketer friends to think and talk beyond buying ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on Facebook and Twitter has been an uphill trudge of sorts.

But to an individual?

An individual buying more followers (“Grow the follower count inorganically” as the lady put it) seems very creative but doesn’t cut much respect. This of course is my perspective and I can frankly do with some education here.

Forgive me if this sounds clichéd and you can’t help letting go of a yawn. I come to twitter to learn. That learning is from conversations. And benefiting from all the stuff people around the world are sharing on a continual basis. The follower count and all the statistics thereon, matter much less, relative to all that I am garnering from the place. It is a fantastic market place of sorts filled with rich conversations often blossoming into relationships and influence beyond borders.

Short cuts come with compromises.

“Isn’t it easy”, I asked her, after recovering from the initial surprise, “for anyone to click on the “followers” you are promising to get, to figure out that most of the followers are eggheads”?  Or at best, a smorgasbord of flotsam and jetsam. Or people with absolutely no relation to what I tweet about usually. Isnt it a sure fire way of destroying reputation? Wasn’t it flirting with disaster?

By now, I guess she realised, that there wasn’t much of a point to her continuing the conversation with me. “Look, who has the time to click into your follower list and verify?”, she said with mild irritation. “And lots of people are doing it”. That was the last straw. Of course, I know people who are doing this to themselves. It saddens me, but then, who am I to judge.  Perhaps a few calls like this one went lured them or tipped them over. Whatever! I hung up soon after, thanking her for the midweek lesson and politely told her that I have no names to offer her as ‘leads’ (after she asked).

The ask on twitter is simple, it is to give! It is to participate in conversations and exchange ideas. Or at least that’s how I work it. If there is an interesting point of view or a conversation thats on, I relish and jump in. Irrespective of follower count.


From Hugh MacLeods @gapingvoid Daily Cartoon for March 10, 2010

Euan Semple wrote a fantastic post on ‘agency’.  The stuff that he didn’t write about there, is that it takes time to build relevance and agency. It takes hard work. Buying your way into ‘relevance’ doesn’t work. For in most cases, it so easy to lose what you build when word spreads!

Another fantastic post that I came across some time ago is this.  Do give this a read. It is about crafting your story. Not just the story, but to live a life that is worthy enough to tell that story with pride!

The lady was right. I dont have the time (and more importantly the inclination) to peer into anybody’s follower count to check if we should chat. A point of view, a pointer to a resource with respect and fun is nevertheless going to get me and most people started on a conversation.

I guess the classic ‘goals & measures’ debate applies. The goal in some quarters is to ‘have fun / influence / learn etc’ on twitter. Sometimes that gets measured through follower count. In the melee to get more “followers” the goal of being ‘really successful’ in twitter is missed. And slowly the primary goal becomes increasing the ‘follower’ count and voila, the measure has morphed to become the goal. When measures become the goal, mayhem follows.

Am not sure if there is anything more than a sustained enthusiasm to evolve and revolve around sharing and being of help in the stream. Wichever stream. Followers and reputation will happen, with engagement and relationships over time. “Pay to magically grow your twitter followers” doesn’t quite add up in my mind. At any point in time, it can singularly ruin a reputation.

I am sorry if this post takes a ‘holier than thou’ hue. Thats not my intention. To experience a marketing campaign that attempts to lure people down the wrong road (or so I think) raises a few heckles in me.

Sometime later, I read this “Eulogy for Twitter” (with a subtitle which read “The beloved social publishing platform enters its twilight.”) and this response to it on Slate. Of course all via twitter.  I thought again of the impeccable accent and the call. Several things began to fall in place.

Now that the rant is over, here’s wishing you a fantastic week ahead. May we all work at the arc of possibility and create futures that we can be truly proud of.