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,
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?
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.
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).
(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. . .
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.
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
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.