I wrote a blog post last month on how I artificially grew my Twitter followers by over 1000 in 30 days. After the experiment, and over the last 7 or 8 months, I have continued to tweet between 1 and 3 times per day. I have also followed back any new followers that weren't spam accounts, knowing that the followback would probably secure them as a long term follower.
Whilst I haven't been following lots of accounts for the sake of gaining new followers, I know that continuing to follow people back is another effective way of growing and maintaining followers, but it's not a technique that generates genuine fans who actually want to read my tweets.
It's also meant that I've struggled to really utilise Twitter for its main purpose (being social, in case you were wondering!) as I was following way too many accounts and missing tweets from people I genuinely wanted to engage with. For example, my clients, my network of local contacts, and key, influential industry peers.
So, on 13th August 2016, I made the bold decision to begin the cull of Twitter accounts I was following just for the sake of it. I began with 200 accounts that hadn't been active on Twitter for 3 months or more. I have to admit, it felt liberating!
I continued over the next 2 weeks to unfollow accounts that I knew I wasn't likely to engage with and who were hogging my news feed.
By the end of August, I had reduced the number of accounts I was following from 3000 down to around 250. I know what you're thinking - surely you're going to lose a ton of followers?! Yep, you can see from the below screenshot of my Twitter Analytics that follower numbers dropped by 847 in the first 30 days.
To be honest, I don't feel I have lost anything, merely gained more control over my account and an opportunity to start using Twitter more effectively.
I then set about creating Twitter Lists - one for clients, one for my local network, one for industry leaders, etc. It's probably the best thing I have done in managing social media for my business. It's meant that the time I now spend on Twitter is productive; I can see the tweets from people I want to engage with and I feel more certain that people who are now following me are doing so because they are genuinely interested in what I have to say and not just the follow back.
When I'm delivering Twitter training and explain the tactics people use to gain followers, I love it when I meet people who have no idea that this happens. They don't even know this technique exists, they simply use Twitter as it was originally intended. I think we all need to go back to this way of thinking, back to the innocence of sharing updates and getting excited when we get a mention, a follower or a retweet.
I think Twitter has such a potential to be a great platform, but us marketeers ruin it with games and tactics with the sole purpose of manipulating the numbers. If we stop obsessing over the numbers for just a short time, we will start to create genuine connections and build relationships on a much more meaningful level. Quality over quantity, as they say.