Why Follower Count Doesn't Measure Twitter Performance

Many people seem to live and die by their follower count, triumphantly announcing when they’ve reached their latest milestone. Certainly, the difference between 1,000 followers and 500,000 is substantial, but all it really indicates is someone, at some point, decided to click the follow button. If you truly want a twitter strategy that works, you need to look beyond follower count.

So, why shouldn’t you rely on follower count?

1. It doesn’t tell you anything about engagement. So you have 50,000 followers, you must be a big shot, right? Well, it depends. How many of those people actually read your updates? If someone is following 10,000 people they probably aren’t really paying attention to the majority of them. How many of your “followers” ever @ message you? Retweet you? Click your links? If you still have trouble believing follower count doesn’t always improve these metrics check out Anil Dash’s blog post from a while back on how being on the suggested user list didn’t get him any more engagement.

2. It’s too easy to game. If you measure your performance on twitter based on follower count, it soon becomes clear there are some easy ways to game that system. Why not follow a bunch of people to see if some of them will follow you back? How about giving away a really big prize to new followers, even if those new followers don’t really care about your updates? Side note: contests can sometimes be helpful but it depends on what your goal is and how targeted the contest is. Generally it’s a good idea to be wary of contests that serve just to bring in new followers without being choosy about who those followers are.

3. Not all followers are created equal. This should be obvious but often isn’t taken into account. If you’re followed by the 100 most influential people on twitter (and they actually engage with you) that’s more valuable than even millions of other followers. You need to know how influential your network is to truly understand what your followers mean. Klout measures this as your Network Influence. Furthermore, if you’re trying to measure performance for a business, there are other metrics you should be looking at: How many of your followers look at your website? How many buy something or sign up for your service?

4. It gives you the wrong focus. Is your goal really to get as many followers as possible? More than likely it’s to reach more people who will care about your opinions or product. Setting up the right incentives for yourself (or your business) is critical for achieving your goals.

If follower count isn’t a good metric, what should you be looking at? Since you’re here I’m sure you’re already looking at your Klout Score. Try to dive in deeper into your Klout Report, look at the metrics such as True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Influence (learn more). Check out how many retweets and @ messages you’re getting. How many lists are you on? You should also think about what metrics matter for your goals, whether that be sign-ups, viewers for you blog, or leads.

So let us know, what metrics do you rely on? How do you work to improve your twitter performance?

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