Follow me Dammit!

Dear Twitterite,

We know that it was a bit rude to unfollow you this afternoon, but let’s face it, we seemed to be growing apart these past several months.  Even though I saw you there in my Twitter stream each and every morning, I found myself ignoring you more and more and I just wasn’t listening to what you had to say.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I think that I just need some time alone in my Twitter space to find myself.

I hope you forgive me,

@SkinnyArtist

It’s not you, it’s me!

I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say that this whole Twitter follower thing has gotten way out of control.  Every week we get people following us who somehow have over 3,000 followers but have only posted three updates in their new unbanned profile telling me about how I can get more Twitter followers automatically.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand why it’s happening, but I still can’t help thinking that the entire Twitter ecosystem is a little out of whack.

Look, I know that most of us want to have as many friends/followers as humanly possible so that we can all feel good about ourselves, but do you really want dozens of random people showing up in the middle of the night following you? And I’m not talking about those I-don’t-know-why-I-haven’t-met-you-before kind of strangers, I’m talking about people you would normally cross the street to avoid in real life.

Do you really want every internet marketer in the Twitterverse following you because he’s trying to get over 50,000 followers in less than a month so he can sell his new e-course on how to get more followers?  I actually had to take the words “marketing” and “blogger” out of our Twitter profile because we were attracting every marketer and social media guru west of the Mississippi with their Tweet Adder software set to stun.

Sure in the beginning this all seemed like a better alternative than hanging out with our four “real” Twitter friends listening to the chirping crickets (kind of like our current situation on Facebook) but did I really think these guys with 75,000 followers were actually going to sit down and read our tweets?

C’mon. . . I mean, what exactly is our goal here?

High School Redux

I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone here who may still be trapped in this institutional hellhole, but all of this reminds me of walking around my high school hallway a gazillion years ago in tenth grade desperately searching for someone to sign my yearbook.  [Editor's Note: Do people even do this anymore?!]

I love you and you love me. Say it! ~ Adrienne Forrester (from “The Crush“)

The really sad thing was the fact that you didn’t really care who signed it because it was all about filling the damn thing up as quickly as possible so that everyone would believe that you had friends dripping out of your eyeballs.  In fact, I actually remember asking people who I hadn’t even spoke to the entire year to sign my yearbook just so I could fill up all of that humiliating white space in the back of the book.

Hangin’ with the Popular kids

It wasn’t just the sheer quantity of signatures, however, it was important to get the “right” people to sign it as well.  Sure getting Harry Dorfenburger’s signature from the AV squad with the obligatory “Have a nice summer” was great, but what we really wanted is to have QB1 and the entire cheerleading squad fill up our back page in order to show everyone that we were totally one of the cool kids.

Twitter seems to work the same way, the more followers you have, the more people you get who want to hang out with you just because you’re popular (not that we have to worry about that).  It’s all goes back to this idea of “social proof” that we talked about before, where if enough people think you’re cool, then you suddenly become cool.  It essentially becomes popularity by mob mentality.  Unfortunately in the end, not every mob exists for your benefit (just ask Frankenstein).

How did it all come to this?

  1. We sign up on Twitter and desperately need to find some friends/followers as quickly as possible
  2. Out of the blue some scammy person, who we would never talk to in real life, suddenly becomes our friend
  3. We end up following him back out of a sense of kindness and obligation
  4. We never unfollow him because we don’t want to offend anyone or see our “follower” numbers go down
  5. The guy ends up unfollowing us anyway in order to balance out his “follower ratio” (from all the selfish bastards who don’t follow him back initially) but we never notice because we’ve been ignoring him for so long.
  6. Unfortunately we never get to see what our “real friends” have to say because we now have so much useless crap floating around in our Twitter stream.
  7. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat as necessary

It’s okay to unfollow us!

(just kidding. . . don’t, really)

Most of us are afraid that unfollowing someone will somehow damage our reputation.  We think that if we start kicking people off our friendship boat that everyone will start thinking that we are a total jerkbag, and before long that same mob who used to love us, will grab their pitchforks and start chasing us.  The reality, however, is that most of these big marketing gurus will never notice because they aren’t reading your tweets anyway.  The vast majority of them are using automated computer programs to follow and unfollow you.  In other words, you are little more to them than a mass of tasty little keywords.

Think I’m joking?

Just for fun, try tweeting something using the words “marketing”, “Jesus” ,”making money” ,”blogging”, “social media” —  and I’ll bet that within a few hours you will have picked yourself up dozens of new “friends”.  The really sad part is that you don’t even have to actually say anything, just type in those words and prepare yourself for the tsunami of follower love.

Not to long ago Darren Rowse of Problogger had a similar post in regards to his personal Facebook account.  In Darren’s case, however, he was in the process of booting out his “professional” followers in order to make it a more personal account.

One of the benefits of Twitter, as most of you already know, is the fact that you’re able to follow and unfollow almost anyone regardless of what they think of you.  This is nice (especially for us) because, unlike Facebook, you don’t have to beg someone else to be your “friend”.  Because of this, I can still follow someone who’s advice I value (like Darren’s) even though I realize that he isn’t very likely to follow us back.  In fact, I have a whole list of wise Twitter folks who I listen to very closely but who have no idea that I’m out there lurking in their Twitter feed.  I know that they probably won’t ever follow me back, but that’s okay because I’m not looking for a date to the prom.  I just want to be able to listen in on the conversations of some of the smartest people I know.

In the end it all comes down to. . .

What are you using Twitter for?

Myth: Twitter is a popularity contest – the more followers you have, the more popular you become and the more people will listen to you.

Fact: People will listen to you when you got something to say that benefits them. .  . Give them something.  Don’t tell them what you had for breakfast. . . give them a link to an article or a website that you found helpful in your shared niche.  Give them something to think about.  Yes, it’s nice to talk about your personal life once in awhile, but if you’re an artist who is trying to connect with other artists, try spending the majority of your time talking about being an artist and the niche that brought you together in the first place.

People will listen to you when you got something to say that benefits them

That’s one of the biggest reasons that we wanted to create a site like Skinny Artist.  We wanted to give a small but passionate community of working artists a place where we could all come together and share our ideas about selling our work as creative professionals.  That’s also the reason that we’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about politics, religion, environmental issues, or even gourmet coooking.  Don’t get us wrong, these are all things that we enjoy talking about (well except politics) but this is a site for working artists.  Maybe someday we’ll start up a site called Skinny Suppers and talk about our favorite risotto recipes but right now we want to focus on coming together as artists in a profession that is often filled with a lot of fear, doubt, and loneliness.

We may need to cull the herd in order to unify the Tribe

Ever since Seth Godin came out with his “Tribes” book it seems as if every guru blogger in the universe is required to use the term “tribe” to describe their niche community at least once or twice in every post.  Yes, Seth Godin is a genius and an acute trendspotter, but it’s no longer a secret that the internet has driven us to a more niche oriented society.  Whatever our interest, there is bound to be a community of like-minded individuals congregating somewhere on the web.  What this means is that you need to find your online “tribe” and then look for a way to contribute to that community.

As for us, we’re not looking for mass followers, but we are constantly looking for the right followers.  We are always looking for people who share our interest and our passion for the creative process.  If you like what we’re saying and sharing, please follow us. . .but if we’re not your thing, that’s okay too.  Don’t get the wrong idea, we are extremely grateful (and a little surprised) at every new follower on Twitter and Facebook that we get, and as long as our message resounds with you, we welcome you and hope that you enjoy your stay. At the same time, if we don’t follow you back, please don’t get offended.

It’s not you, it’s me

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Comments

  1. says

    Hey guys thought this was a great article, (I know what you mean….) might try the key words to see what comes up. I have been trying to make a point of checking out the website/blog of everyone who signs on to my tweets at the moment its do-able, but it’s begining to feel like a full time job and I do have to question myself about the purpose of twitter from time to time, but to date have come across some cool people who have got some really interesting things to say that I wouldn’t have under normal circumstances come across. Oh yeh, by the way, thanks for following me, check out my blog – if you have the time :) one day – http://realityarts-creativity.blogspot.com

  2. Drew says

    Thanks Kimberley for stopping by and taking the time to read my Twitter rant :) If you get a chance, drop me a line and let me know where you are on Twitter. I checked out your website (which was very cool by the way), but I couldn’t find your link to the Twitterverse.

    You know it’s funny because after I sat down and reread this post again, I can see how it might come off as a bit offensive to some depending on if their snarky detector is turned on or not. Well as they say, there’s always a bit of truth in jest . . . at least I think that’s what they say

  3. says

    I followed this through a RT from LearnToArt…and am so glad I did! I’m fairly new to Twitter and still trying to grasp the scope of this whole “follower” thing. I’m used to a personal FB page where I would carefully limit friend requests. (Not anymore, but that’s another story.)

    Always helpful to find someone else’s take on this…and especially nice to find one with which I agree!

  4. says

    Okay. I agree with you about the spammers and suspicious 3 tweet/3,000 follower people and some other great points listed above. But I am guilty of some of the things you referenced…I sometimes tweet that I had Nutella on toast for breakfast, my dining experience at a local restaurant, or computer issues. And I will probably tweet about today’s World Cup soccer game between Germany and Spain. Looking back at my profile timeline, I have maybe a 50/50 mix of art and “stuff”.

    You are not alone out there in thinking that off-topic tweets should be kept to a minimum. A certain fire-bowl-making-like-minded individual in fact recently commented about that fact because his timeline was getting filled up with tweets about soccer, rather than art-related topics. Here is part of my response to him “… that denies a person to be more than just about one thing. The sum of all of me is what I am as an artist.” I personally like knowing that the artists that I follow are multi-dimensional and not automatons who just spit out one piece of art after another.

    Twitter is about learning and sharing. Some of my followers are non-artsy people, but my tweets about art gives them insight into the art world and maybe one day they will buy my art or pickup a paintbrush themselves. Many of my followers are not from Oregon, but my tweets about the local area give them insight into the beauty of this state and maybe one day they’ll want to visit. And if they do and they happen to be going through Bandon, they’ll know that McFarlin’s has really great food.

    So I hope that I’m not one of those you decide to unfollow, but I’d understand. And if you do decide to stick around, you will almost certainly see me tweet about more than the painting I just completed. As for me, well, I look forward to once day seeing those risotta recipes, whether it’s via @SkinnyArtist or SkinnySuppers. :-)

  5. Drew says

    First of all, Lisa thank you for taking the time to drop by and check out the site. I’m going to have to give Miranda over at @learntoArt a big thank you as well for sharing our link with you.

    I just stopped by your blog to get a feel for it, and was entranced by your description of your “Done” painting. The fact that you’ve worked with Connie over at DirtyFootprints only confirmed the fact that you are an artist to watch! I’ll be back to visit soon. . .

    Ms. Donaldson – You are exactly right!

    The truth is that everyone uses Twitter differently and for anyone to expect us all to adhere to one set of Twitter etiquette rules is of course completely ridiculous. Everyone has their own exotic criteria for choosing who to follow and who to unfollow including myself. We all have different interests outside of the art world, and that to imply otherwise, is to not fully accept the other person as a complete human being. I realized all of this, of course when I wrote this post, but I couldn’t help myself from stirring the pot.

    Honestly, I make most of my follow/unfollow decisions fairly quickly. I’ll generally look at someone’s profile and then read through the last twenty or so tweets to see what this person has been talking about. It usually takes me about fifteen seconds to tell me if this person is being genuine or if they are trying to shove their thinly-veiled affiliate links down my throat.

    If the person is being genuine, I’ll usually take a few extra minutes and check out their blog or website to see what they’re all about. I’m not looking for perfection or on-topic conversation, all I’m really looking for is a real person who I can connect with. In other words, I’m looking for someone exactly like yourself, which is why you’re going to be stuck with us for the foreseeable future, and any amount of World Cup or Nutella tweets is not going to change that fact.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, I’m glad to see that you were able to escape the evil internet proxies this time ;)

  6. says

    I came across Skinny Artist this morning by following a RT from AnnieStrack, and now I’m wishing I had found you sooner. Not only does this article help clarify my own Twitter “mission” but it was enjoyable to read, too. Although there may be a lot of useful information on the web for artists, sometimes is can be a bit dry. I’m looking forward to reading through your other posts. Keep up the good work—and thanks.

  7. Drew says

    I appreciate your kind words Brett, and I’m going to have to give Annie an extra shout-out for leading you our way!

    I know for myself, I had to sit down and think about what I really wanted to get out of these social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. When you first join up, it’s like being the new kid at school–you don’t know anyone and the first person or spambot who says they want to be your friend your first instinct is to jump on it.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time on these sites, however, it’s that the numbers really don’t matter. I’ve met some fantastic artists with 20,000+ followers as well as some who had less than 50. It’s all about making the connection. Just like in real life, some people you’ll naturally connect with and some people you won’t.

    It also turns out that some of the most interesting people I’ve met on Twitter and Facebook were referred to me by other people I have already connected with (like Annie). That’s simply how real friendships seem to work.

    Sorry for rambling on but I did want to thank you again for stopping by and I really enjoyed reading through your blog!

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