If there was a contrived tutorial on how to use Twitter, it might start out in the usual way: “So, you decided to start a Twitter account, huh?” Well, there isn’t any other way to start out talking about Twitter when everybody and their distant relations are joining the tweeting fray. And when someone starts a Twitter account, they’re either happy about the simplicity and consolidation of everything they care about (yep, that is undeniably cool beans), or they’re miserable that it’s too simple with short-lived incentive to really tweet anything of significance about what they’re currently doing. Unless you’re running a business, it’s easy to get bored fast with Twitter, especially when writing about the mundane for some people comes dangerously close to needing parental supervision.
But out of all the analysis over tweeting, one thing usually gets overlooked: The value and annoyance of the follow.
When I first saw the word “follow” being used there, I found it slightly intrusive in its insinuation. Yet, as most of us recent Twitter users know, the art of the follow is all the process of symbiosis as social networking sites already made to a sometimes fault. Just as MySpace users once used to spend too much time trying to gather as many amigos as they could pile up without even knowing who 90% of the people even are, so too have Twitter users begun the same process in earnest. In the world of Twitter, it’s arguably exponentially worse in thinking the more viewable followers you have, the better.
Let’s all raise our hand in honesty and admit that more than half of the followers we get on Twitter are businesses trying to get us to follow them in return or buy a product. All of that is probably done via a site called Monitter which looks out for tweets with certain keywords. No matter what you say on Twitter in that little 140-character box, a certain word (or even an adjective or verb) will tip off a business offering you everything from sex to well, sex…and perhaps a few other things somewhere in the middle. Once you experience the chagrin of seeing someone named Mr. Fix-It Man following you for no discernable reason, it becomes apparent that there’s a Twitter page for everything that can logically make money if fodder for snark in our own tweets.
The only problem is that if those with a million followers deleted all of these people, there wouldn’t be headlines stating that a particular notable had a million followers in 24 hours.
Yes, there is a problem there in people leaving these particular followers on their follow lists just to pad their numbers to feel they’re competing successfully in the Twitter world. Even I admit that I’ve kept a few of them due to that uncontrollable, unconscious desire to pad our follower numbers and think someone is truly paying attention. Based on recent statistics, though, you can probably rest easy that most of those people won’t be following you anyway and inviting you to have an online liaison with a Britney Spears impersonator.
So does that place this new Twitter reality as some kind of existentialist crisis in the social networking world?
Well, not really when you realize that anybody can follow you without having to sign up for a Twitter account.
Should you already have a well-known name on the net or refrain from changing your name specifically for Twitter and specifically allow your page to be public, any follower of your work elsewhere can easily Google up your Twitter page to check in whenever they want. Not that there’s any definitive proof these anonymous people are looking in. I’d nevertheless wager to guess that anybody with an already familiar name has more loyal followers from the outside looking in rather than those same people signing up for a Twitter account.
You’re right if you think that’s an insinuation Twitter has a lot of existential angst going on internally and heading toward being a passing fad once it spreads past the illusion of usefulness. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have some legit followers, even if they only check in once in a while rather than follow every tweet by you religiously. In those scenarios, how do you go about keeping those followers so they don’t do a quick-trigger block or delete of you, ultimately leaving you feeling that existential angst again over who’s really following you or in it to win business.
Since I consider my page to be a promotional part of my writing career, I’m frequently slipping in links and sometimes making attempts to be entertaining to keep things alive when lulls occur in having new material published. Any of those things can be taken the wrong way by a follower in the forced pithiness we have to deal with at Twitter. Unfortunately, some people are overly prone to be taken as sarcastic or looking aloof when communicating with only 140 characters. Consider myself one of those veering toward that misunderstood edge.
The obvious steps in forever keeping a legit follower are having a symbiotic repartee in sharing information and recurrent witty asides about anything in particular. The less obvious way to keep them is in making sure they understand where you’re coming from in your tweets. That might mean being more specific in what you’re saying in the beginning so there isn’t a misinterpretation. It helps if you’re a writer and already identified with a certain approach to how you view things so there isn’t a feeling a follower felt they wasted two seconds of their life adding you to their follow list.
Once the uninitiated public understands the realities of following on Twitter, you probably won’t be hearing all the salivating over a certain celebrity gloating over having a million or more followers. When the balloon of all that supposed glory is popped, you’re left with wondering where your followers are really coming from.
All the ones out there who say they don’t get the appeal of Twitter and refuse to sign up aren’t necessarily saying they don’t go there to read. Those particular individuals may be fans of you and are bookmarking your Twitter page on Google privately so they won’t have the baggage of pedaling their or someone else’s cyber wares.
If you’re curious how well your Twitter-invested author deals with the Twitter follow, either join or peek in here: