Reflections on Reaching a Twitter Milestone

This past Saturday, I reached 20,000 followers on Twitter. Which, along with about five dollars, would probably buy me a coffee at Starbucks. In other words, I’m pleased and feel I’ve reached some sort of milestone, but it’s hardly significant in the big scheme of things.

You could say it's still just a "big whoopty doo."

These numbers might qualify me to sit in the cheap seats among other Twitter users who have tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands of followers) more than I do. So I’m trying to put some serious thoughts down without coming off like I am "all full of myself."

(That’s a Southern expression that means I don’t want to appear “too big for my britches”).

Anyway, a milestone only has significance if one learns some things along the way. And that is what I want to write about today.

The very next day, I was sitting in an auditorium that holds about three to five thousand people, and it hit me that my Twitter followers would not fit in that place. I tried to visualize what 20,000 people would look like, and all I could do was realize that it was a lot of folks.

Now let’s get this straight. Only a tiny few of my followers actually pay any attention to what I have to say on Twitter. Most of us have other things we have to do in our lives besides tweet and retweet all day long.

So it's not as though I have 20,000 people hanging on my every word, taking notes and paying big bucks for my sage advice.

It hit me though, that one thing this milestone does mean is that these people made a conscious decision to follow me, for whatever reason they may have had at the time.

And that means I don’t want to waste their time.

20,000 followers is an incredible opportunity, but it is an even greater responsibility. It means I have to make sure I add value to my Twitter activities so that the people who actually do read my tweets will gain from them.

That thought led to another thought: What am I all about online and why should someone follow me? What value can I add to other busy people who have chosen to let me into a corner of their lives?

After all, I really can’t expect people to read my chatter if I don’t give them tangible reasons to follow my tweets and read my blog.

Which led me to pull out a piece of paper and jot down some notes about what themes I represent. It turned out this was surprisingly easy to do. My themes are a combination of my beliefs about social media and the subject matter I write about.

  1. I believe social networking is first and foremost an act of generosity. It is sharing ideas and information with a lot of people who will never become my clients or put money in my pocket. Nevertheless, I want to continue to share because it makes this community better and more fun.

  2. Another way social networking is about generosity is in promoting others. Recommending others who can never return the favor. Retweeting, or spotlighting others’ quality content, helping others build up their own followings through conventions like #followfridays or just bringing a good person to light because it is the right thing to do. It is a lot like making business or social introductions in the offline world.

  3. Social networking is an act of making friends, building trust and credibility and believing that profits will follow these actions.

  4. Social networking is intimately connected to creating and sharing quality content that solves other people’s problems. As David Meerman Scott puts it, it is a matter of “thinking like a publisher.” Activities that are “All tweet and no meat” are not productive.

  5. Accordingly, social media is a delivery system, not the message itself. But the message is never “Me, me, me.” Instead it is “You, you, you.”

  6. Quality content, when delivered with true generosity, is what builds brands. This is true regardless of whether the brand is a company, product or a person.

  7. One of the themes that I want to explore more is about building and growing communities. My thoughts on communities are still formulating, but the idea of communities communicating and helping each other via social media is very intriguing to me. It is where social networking diverges from mere marketing.

  8. Nurturing communities is having the faith to empower your "audience" to do your marketing for you, even if it means giving up some control.

I just realized this article is more of an essay than a how-to article. But I was in a reflective mood and wanted to take stock of where I've been and where I want to go in social networking.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to see your comments and get your ideas on what responsibilities we owe the people who read our blogs, watch our videos or follow us on social media platforms.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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August 27, 2009 at 10:29 AM Kat said...

Very nice post! I agree 100% about the idea of community. That's why many of my twitter posts are replies to what others have posted and I re-tweet when I find helpful, useful information (or if it just amuses me). I was initially opposed to Twitter when I first heard of it a year ago, but then I discovered an entire community and a quick and easy way to communicate with them. You should check out #ideaparty every Thursday. It's a small but greatly appreciative and helpful group.

August 28, 2009 at 8:13 AM Angelique said...

I think 20,000 followers is, indeed, significant, and here's why: With the exception of a few hundred auto-bots, all of those followers opted-in. They are deliberately signing up to receive your tweets, and the two main reasons for wanting to receive your tweets are a.) wanting to know when you update your blog, and b.) wanting to know your recommendations for articles to read and services to use. Unlike a newspaper columnist who officially has hundreds of thousands of readers but who has no idea if anyone ever glances at his column, you know that 20k people, give or take, have gone out of their way to make sure they hear from you.

August 28, 2009 at 5:57 PM Charles Brown said...

Thank you Kat, I will definitely check out #idea party.

August 31, 2009 at 4:19 AM Charles Brown said...

Thank you Angelique, that's a pretty cool way to look at it. It doesn't take away the responsibility I have to earn their readership again every day.

Amassing followers does give me a voice, which I am very grateful for, but it also gives me thousands of people to learn from as well.

Or to put it another way, thousands of conversations I can engage in. And after all, isn't social media really all about two-way conversations?