I won’t even try to act cool, I get excited every time I get that email from Twitter letting me know that I have a new follower. I have even bragged to my friends about my massive (ha!) 400+ follower count. The notion that random strangers find my musings interesting enough to subscribe to my updates can be intoxicating.
The dirty little secret of Twitter though is once a person follows more than several hundred people their tweet stream turns into a waterfall. Not that I don’t appreciate every follower that I have but when I click through and see that they are following more than 1,000 users I know that it is unlikely that my tweets are even seen let alone have any impact on them. Should these people count as followers? What if they have no intention of reading your tweets and are following you for the simple purpose of getting return follows? Everyone on Twitter has experienced the spam follower and the abandoned accounts, should these people count as followers? An industry has even popped up around buying Twitter followers.
We believe you have to go far deeper than simply looking at follower count to understand how influential a person is on Twitter. Follower count is valuable in giving you a starting point to understand a person’s possible reach but doesn’t give you a sense of how shallow or deep their influence is with that audience. When I step back and look at my own 400 followers I can only truthful say my tweets impact 75-100 of them. So if you only had 150 followers but all 150 where actually engaged in your updates wouldn’t you actually be more influential than I am even though I have more followers?
Like I said before, I would take more followers any day (you can find me at @joefernandez) but measuring influence is about more than just tickling the ego. Follower count is only a very small piece of the puzzle and we predict it will actually become less important as more people join Twitter and everyone’s social graph rides the boom. If you want to be influential, build deep connections and don’t worry about your follower count.