A Few Honest Questions About Twitter

Not a rant. Actual questions about the benefits of having lots of Twitter followers who probably aren’t listening to you. Those of you who think Twitter is pointless (hi, Mom!*) probably can’t help me out here, but maybe someone else can. Feel free to skip the ruminating and go right to the questions at the end, if you’d like.

I like Twitter. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s a great place to leave my strange thoughts without having to see the way people look at me when I say them out loud.

But I think I’m doing it wrong, at least according to many people. I don’t have a lot of followers. I’m not interested in having followers who aren’t going to read me, because what’s the point of talking to people who aren’t listening? I don’t follow many people for the same reason. I follow accounts that have something to offer, whether that’s interesting links, entertaining thoughts, great conversations, whatever. If you follow me, I’ll usually take a look at your account; if your stuff looks genuine and interesting, great! But if all you’re doing is promoting your book or service ten times a day or recycling the same tweets over and over, I’m not going to follow you back. Likewise, if I find someone interesting and follow them, I don’t expect them to reciprocate if they don’t like what I post. To me, it’s about the content, not the number of follows.

My questions are about people who are about the numbers, at least partially. Case study (which got me thinking about this): I’m following at least one person now who, every day, posts numbers of new followers and numbers of “sneaky” people who unfollowed him/her. I find it extremely annoying, but I can’t unfollow, because I don’t want to be accused of sneakiness.

My question is, why does it matter who unfollows us, unless we’re only looking for reciprocal follows? If someone unfollows me, I assume it’s because they aren’t getting what they want from my tweets (sorry it didn’t work out, thanks for trying me), or they only followed me to get me to follow them back, and I didn’t do it (don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Sweetie). Either way, they’re free to go, and it won’t affect whether I read their tweets or not.

There are apps/programs/whatever that will tell you whether people you’ve followed have followed you back, so you don’t have to keep following them if they didn’t follow you. (Still with me?) Obviously the assumption is that people are only following each other to get more followers, right? And I doubt very much that they’re actually reading each other. They’re either not reading anyone, or are using apps to filter out most of the thousands of accounts they’re following.

As far as I can tell, what we end up with is crowded stadiums full of people yelling their promotions and messages, but no one is listening to each other, even though it looks like they have a whole lot of people listening. It’s like those things you see on Facebook sometimes: Like my page and I’ll like yours, and we’ll all have a lot of likes, YAYS! Except that no one really cares about those pages, and they’re not actually paying attention to each other. They’re empty “likes,” just like these Twitter accounts are offering empty follows.

Am I wrong? Is there actually some benefit to following 5000 people and having 5000 followers when there’s no way you can actually read all of them, and they’re probably not reading you because they’re only following you to get more follows for themselves, which is the same reason you’re following them?

Are we all confused yet?

*head explodes*

So tell me, Twitter people: Do you follow more accounts than you actually read? Do you use a program to filter out people you don’t want to read, and do you think that those un-read people still benefit from having you as a follower? (Honest question, I’m not accusing you of anything). Am I wrong, and people who follow 4000 accounts are actually looking at them all? Is it a big popularity contest that I’m losing by just looking for valuable content and a community I can connect with? Do you only follow people who follow you back?

I’ve purchased Kristen Lamb’s book “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.” Maybe it will answer some of these questions.

Just to clarify: I have nothing against people using twitter however they please. I’m just curious. πŸ™‚

*Did I tell you my mom has a WordPress blog now? She’s pretty nice, if you want to stop by and say “hello.” πŸ™‚


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. www.katesparkes.com www.tanithfrost.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

22 responses to “A Few Honest Questions About Twitter

  • Steven

    I basically use my Twitter to send out a copy of the Morning Eye-opener quote that I also post on Yahoo Groups and Facebook. It’s nice to get a retweet or a follow so that I know some people have found my effort worthwhile. I only follow people back if they are posting tweets that are of interest to me.

  • Alana Terry

    Well, I can only answer one of these questions. Your friend who is posting how many Unfollowed her, etc is doing it just so she can keep using the unfollow service, that’s all. If you want to use their service free, you have to let them post that tweet on your timeline.

    • Kate Sparkes

      That explains the regular posts. I wouldn’t want to use the service (I still don’t understand only wanting reciprocal follows), but that’s an excellent explanation. I’m not accusing anyone of being obsessive; it’s just an approach I need explained to me.

      So she doesn’t really care if people unfollow, except that she’ll be unfollowing them as well?

    • Kate Sparkes

      (and thank you for responding- it’s nice knowing that people aren’t actually that gleeful about rooting out unfollowers. Maybe I’ll let it slide and keep following them)

  • Alana Terry

    It doesn’t necessarily mean she’s obsessed with her follower numbers

  • sknicholls

    I don’t have a twitter account. Everyone I know who has written a book or blogs has a twitter account and has suggested that I get one. I don’t get it for the same reasons that you described. I want to engage and be engaged in meaningful conversation. I hate TV commercials so much that I only watch the DVR or reruns on netflix. Why do I need someone tweeting at me ten times a day, “Buy My Book?” I would have to tune them out. When I started blogging, it wasn’t to promote my book and I know that blogging everyday has not equated into more book sells. I understand that if you follow and have lots of followers, you exponentially increase your chances of reaching people who will be interested in buying your book (so THEY say). I have Facebook and my blog. With FB, I mostly share pics with family, and my blog is connected to my author page (for what that’s worth). But most FB followers that I have I don’t interact with. I occasionally “like” their posts, and they occasionally “like” mine. Every once in a blue moon I will actually have a conversation with somebody. When I started blogging, I simply wanted to get to know both readers and writers, to learn and to teach. That I can promote my book on here is just icing on the cake. I know I probably didn’t answer your questions…but I got my two cents worth in if that’s okay. Sorry I took up so much space on your blog. If you really want me to follow you engage me in comments, I’ll even add you to my email and at least glance at your posts every time you post if I really like what you have to say. πŸ™‚

    • Kate Sparkes

      You never have to apologize about putting you two cents in here, as long as you’re nice about it. πŸ˜‰

      I don’t do any of it to build an audience/sell things, either, and I don’t use social media unless I enjoy it. I do love making connections, though.

      Twitter can be good for that, if you mention people and have conversations. There are just a lot of things about it that still confuse me (and it can be a huge time-waster, too…)

  • L. Marie

    I feel sheepish, because I have a Twitter account, but I’m hardly on it. My blog is automatically uploaded to it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of time to look at every feed. I’ve been dropped by people who simply wanted large numbers, and I didn’t leap on Twitter fast enough to follow them when they elected to follow me. It’s the same with Facebook. Because I know a lot of people, I don’t get to a quarter of the feeds. I’m not trying to insult anyone by this. I just don’t have time to look at read the status updates of every person I know. Some of the people I know update their status five or six times a day, which means I don’t get to the updates of people farther down the list.

    I probably communicate better by email than Twitter.

  • Emily Witt

    I have no idea! I have trouble keeping up with the 150 or so people I follow, and I get followed by people with counts in the 5 or 6 digits, and I’m like, “…buh?!” Come to think of it, I think I could actually do with a bit of a clean-out of my following list.

    And those tweets about follows/unfollows really annoy me, too, though after reading Alana’s comment above, I s’pose I can understand it. *shrug*

  • Dave

    This isn’t very helpful, but since you brought up twitter … I don’t get it. I never have, and I probably never will. Really the only way it makes sense to me is when following celebrities. Other than that, I don’t get it. Did I say that already?

  • mysticcooking

    I don’t really get twitter – I’m on it, but barely, and I totally agree that having lots of followers who aren’t really listening doesn’t seem to make a bunch of sense. Love the image of the crowded stadium! πŸ™‚

  • AreYouFinishedYet

    Ugh. I struggle with Twitter all the time. It’s my least favorite way to communicate with people, but I feel like I have to have it. I started following back everyone who followed me, but now I regret that decision because my Twitterfeed is full of crap I don’t want to read. So I think I’m going to be unfollowing a good chunk. And I’m with you…I only want followers who enjoy what I post. I think I’m just going to adopt the attitude you have…only follow people I’m interested in, only post when I have something to say, and let the rest be.

    • AreYouFinishedYet

      Oh, and I feel like a lot of the same mentality applies to blogging as well. Follow me, I’ll follow you. Dude, I don’t have time to read 500 blogs. I read what I can and what I enjoy. But it’s a hard balance.

      • Kate Sparkes

        It’s true. I do follow a lot of blogs, but most of them don’t post frequently (some less than once a month). I find that the WordPress reader filters a lot of them out (even when I don’t want it to), but I like it because I can scroll through once or twice a day and only read whatever seems relevant to my interests. With Twitter, people post multiple times a day, which I don’t mind except when it’s the same self-promotional stuff over and over. You kind of have to read every tweet to see if it’s interesting, so following thousands of people would be impossible for me. Hundreds, even. :/

    • Kate Sparkes

      It’s an approach that works for me. It means that most of the people who follow me don’t stick around because I don’t follow them back (because they only want to promote to me, anyway), but losing them’s no loss to me. πŸ™‚

  • One Last Night (WIPpet Wednesday and ROW80) | disregard the prologue

    […] look at the dynamics of how we interact with people on social media, and it answered a lot of the questions I’ve had about Twitter and other sites. She explains why it’s more important than ever to make a personal connection […]

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