Focusing on Followers

by Jeffrey M. Welch

Probably your first instinct in joining a social network is to connect to everyone you can.

Don't do it.

The first decision you need to make when becoming active on Twitter (and other similar sites) is: What is your purpose in being on the social site? This leads to your second question: Who do you really want to connect with?

My first foray into social media was Facebook. I am still active there, but I use Facebook almost exclusively to connect with people that I know in person. Most of my Facebook friends are people I know, or knew in the past. Some I haven't seen in a very long time, but there was a real life relationship in person at some point. That means friends and family, and this goes back into childhood. I have never really made large numbers of connections to people on Facebook that do not fit this category. I do follow a few well known people, but not many. So my purpose here is to connect to people I know and follow activities of people that have been important to me at some point in my life. So I pretty much friend back everyone who I have met that remembers me whether from school, work, or other social avenues. Having been a teacher for 16 years, there are also a large number of former students that I am connected to on Facebook as well.

I have taken a very different approach to Twitter. I personally know or have met only a handful of the people that I follow or that follow me back. On Twitter, I have focused mostly on specific industries or interests that are important to me. Because I want to keep these somewhat separate, I have several different accounts that I use to keep these interests focused.

So here are my interests:
  • Education
  • Educational Technology
  • Wine, Spirits, Beer
  • Travel and Food
  • Technology
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Apps and Software Development
Here are my Twitter handles and the breakdown of the interests they focus on:
  1. @jeffwelchmod - This is the account that probably is closest to my day to day interests and activities. I focus mostly on education and educational technology and target teachers, administrators, and edtech companies to follow and get followers from. I do throw in the occasional wine references, if you know many teachers you would understand why...
  2. @tastingmap - This is an account that I have been working on that is almost exclusively focused on the wine, spirits, and beer industries, particularly wine and is connected to a web app I have been working on with a partner. There is also a sprinkle of food and travel related tweeting.
  3. @brnwlch - This account is focused on technology, startups, and entrepreneurship. 

I am still finding the legs on the third account, the other two are coming along nicely, are active and building a good following. Building a following is important. There is a huge misconception that having a large following is the most important thing. It isn't. Having the right following is the most important thing. Those that you follow, and your followers should have some kind of common ground that will allow you to connect with them to some degree as a group. Your topics should fit together and be found to be important by those that you connect with. If you put out a seemingly disjointed mess of non-sequiturs people will disappear you from their feeds. People you know from the real world probably won't but Twitter isn't the real world.

A final thought: a lot of follows you will get on Twitter are from people who want to help you grow your followers, or are in "social marketing". I don't follow any of these people, I would recommend that you avoid them as well. See my post of fake followers for why.

Takeaways:
  • Be focused
  • Have a purpose to build influence
  • Use multiple accounts to keep your interests coherent
Check out the Twiterversity guide.