Yesterday an exchange on Twitter got me thinking about the whole concept of "followers" and "following" and how crazy the whole thing is.
I saw Chris Brogan tweet this:
I have to say I'm surprised and weirdly offended. I'm so tired of hearing (ok, reading) all the talk in social media world about authenticity and transparency and it's all about personal interaction...when it reality, it's clearly all about numbers. Not to bash Chris Brogan but, sorry, in this case I can't help it: the whole notion of "Truth Agent" is kind of dinged when I realize his warm fuzzy feelings for people--his "it's all about you-ness" comes with the caveat that they have to be following him in order to count. Otherwise they're just "dead weight."
I use Twitter to actually USE it--I read every single tweet in my stream (much to the chagrin of my husband and kids) and follow only those people or brands I'm genuinely interested in. I have no idea how many people I follow don't follow me back; the value of the stuff they tweet is not contingent upon whether or not they follow me.
From a pure social media strategy point of view I'm definitely doing it wrong--I only follow 181 people and have 409 followers (as of this writing). Not the way you're supposed to do it if you're a business or a brand, I know--but guess what? I'm not a brand, I'm a person. I'm a person who has a full-time job, a husband and two kids and a life to balance. Should I do the "right" thing and follow back everyone who's following me? If I had something to sell or stood somehow to gain from sheer number of followers, probably yes.
Here's the thing: the rationale behind following everyone back who follows you-- according to Guy Kawasaki--is about reciprocating. Not reciprocating means you don't care about your followers. I think he has it backwards, though; I think that only following people/brands you genuinely are interested in shows you DO actually care about them, as opposed to just autofollowing them because they were following you.
I used to think that celebs like the King of Twitter--Ashton Kutcher--were doing it "wrong"--I thought it was just arrogant to have a million followers yet only follow 179 yourself. But you know what? If you think about it, that's actually a lot more genuine than if he followed back all million people. If he did that, you'd know he was just doing it to be able to say that he follows back everyone who follows him--and is therefore more genuine and authentic and all the kinds of things internet celebs claim they are. In reality, isn't it more geniune to be a person who doesn't have to make excuses for why he just isn't interested in following back everyone who follows him? Granted, we might be talking about genuine arrogance...but at least it's not arrogance disguised as authenticity (or would that be the other way around?).
Ok, I'm backing away from the keyboard now...