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#SMsceptic: True Twitter Authority Is All About Follow Ratio

100,000 CupcakesLet’s begin with a (slightly rude/NSFW) quote:

“Having the most followers on Twitter is akin to having the most imaginary friends, the biggest Gamerscore, or the world’s longest e-penis. In other words, what does it mean in the real world? Precisely f*** all.”

A friend of mine wrote that on his Facebook profile a while back. He was annoyed because a friend of his was paying a lot of money to see a social media professional for social media training. This professional’s big, bold unique selling point was that he had a lot of followers, the most in his chosen field and area of expertise, apparently. So he must know what he’s talking about and be good at what he does if he’s that popular, right? And fair enough, he did have a lot of followers. I saw his profile and he had about 100,000 followers on Twitter. Nice!

The only problem? He was also following about 100,000 in return. His Follow Ratio was pretty much 1:1.

Why do I have a problem with this? A few reasons:

Quantity can be gamed: Auto-follow tools such as TweetAdder make it easy for someone to obtain a large number of followers. Set it to automatically follow people based on various criteria (e.g. their location, keywords in their profile’s Bio, etc.). Eventually, as you’ve gone to the effort of following these people, some will follow you back – and you can even automatically unfollow those who do not reciprocate after a certain amount of time. Rinse, repeat, and after a while, voilà: you’re “popular” (read: you look more popular).

Why do I say “look more popular” when they could be genuine followers? Well…

You could be preaching to following the choir: What if the 100k that you’re following – to get 100k people to follow you back – are doing exactly what you’re doing? Then it’s purely a numbers game – you’re not reading their tweets, they’re not reading yours.

…And why do I say that? Well…

It’s impersonal: I think it’s pretty safe to say that if someone is following 100k people, they’re not actually reading the tweets in their Twitter feed. I follow 200+ people I genuinely care about as I type this, and I struggle to keep up! In fact, at an event I went to a while ago, one of the speakers – who gave a talk on Twitter – said that you should just follow lots of people from your business profile, and use a separate/personal profile or a Twitter List to follow the people you actually want to keep up-to-date with. Umm… no thanks, that’s not for me.

Scrambled NumbersQuantity isn’t everything: Social media isn’t necessarily about having lots of (or the most) followers. As I’ve said before (point #12), I’d much rather have 10 followers who care about what I have to say than have 10,000 followers who don’t and who only follow me so that I follow them back and beef up their stats. As always, quality trumps quantity.

And at the end of the day…

It’s snake oil – it’s tricking potential customers/clients: I know all this, and I’m assuming most other online marketing professionals reading this know all this, but does your average Joe Bloggs – who wants to learn how to use Twitter for business use – know to watch out for it? Probably not. My friend’s friend didn’t.

So why is Follow Ratio (FR) important? Well compare the above gent’s ratio of 1:1 (followed by 100k, following 100k) to someone who truly is an authority. If someone is followed by 100,000 people but is only following 100 in return – their FR being 1:1,000 – then it seems a lot more legitimate that this individual is genuinely being followed because people care about them. The person doesn’t have to follow people back and they will still follow him/her.

Fortunately, contrary to what I’ve said above, I think people are gradually getting wise to this. SEO has had a similar problem: it seems logical to think that the people ranking at the top of Google for a keyword like “SEO agency” are the best at what they do, but what if they’ve gotten via dodgy/spammy means, or it’s a keyword that looks good but doesn’t even get much search volume? Meanwhile, Twitter does have Klout as a metric, but then it isn’t exactly accurate (and I believe Klout doesn’t currently take followers into account)…

To me, what’s important are things like reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth. Fair enough if this social media trainer with a 1:1 FR is actually really good at giving social media training, but in my opinion, they shouldn’t use “I have lots of followers” as a USP when such a thing can be easily manipulated (and – judging by his profile – probably has).

Funnily enough, as I was going to publish this post, someone on my Twitter feed complained about how people he knows are falling for follower numbers. Using Storify Wakelet, I’ve included the tweets and @mentions between me and two others: @NeilCocker and @tombeardshaw. (More people and tweets were involved in the discussion, but as some of the tweets went a bit off-topic and became quite negative – pin-pointing a particular individual guilty of the practice – I’ve only included a few of them.)

[Image credits: 100,000 cupcakes by Adam Tinworth (because everyone loves cupcakes!); “Scrambled” by Nick Humphries]

SEOno Returns

Just a quick bit of news…

In my last post, I said that SEOno would be on hiatus until June. However it looks as though my circumstances have changed, with my CAM Diploma deadline moving from May to September, which should give me some time in-between in order to blog on here again.

I also realise that it’s been a while (August) since I wrote a post listing guest blog posts and articles I’ve written for other sites, but I think there’s only been the one since then anyway, which appeared on Fresh Business Thinking in October: How to Find Opportunities and Mentions of Your Business Using Google Alerts and Twitter. Should be a few more in the pipeline though…

And that’s all there is to say for now really… I’m not used to typing posts that are this short!

SEOno More (For Now)…

Sadface Bath imageDue to other commitments, I have made the difficult decision to postpone blogging on SEOno for at least 6 months.

In September, I was put on the CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing for work. With the way things have worked out, a colleague and I have only 9 months to complete all 3 modules, whereas I believe most people have at least 1 year. For my current module, I have 4 weeks to do the 1st drafts of 3 assignments, which has me just a teeny-tiny little bit scared (read: absolutely petrified). Throw in a full-time job and attempts at hobbies and a social life to stay sane and I’m starting to enter ‘juggling-too-much’ territory.

To be honest, since starting this blog about 9 months ago, I feel as though I have not given it 100%. For a start, I’ve hosted it on WordPress.com and not .org, which means I do not even have full control over it for SEO purposes – and someone talking about SEO who doesn’t even have an optimised blog is a little bit… well… bland. (Even though my area of expertise is off-site SEO and not on-site SEO, but regardless…) I’ve also not written as much content as I’d like – I wanted to write a post every week, but at the moment I’m lucky to write one post per month, if that.

Once my course is over, I should have more free time on my hands in order to write for SEOno once again. In the meantime, I still plan to make the move to .org – with the help of the mighty Andrew Isidoro of SEOfosho – plus I will be guest blogging pretty heavily for Liberty Marketing and also writing for their corporate online marketing blog. I also plan to keep attending the wonderful Cardiff Blogs, even though I won’t be blogging in a personal capacity.

So… Thanks to those who’ve read, linked, tweeted and commented my posts so far. Godspeed and happy blogging!

[Sadface Bath image credit: Edgar Sousa]

Recent posts on other sites and SEOno news

Just a quick post covering two things…

Recent posts on other websites

Just like with SEOno’s first post, every now and again I want to link to blog posts that I’ve written for other sites. There’s only two this time round…

Firstly, I’ve written another post for the online marketing blog of Liberty (my employer). It examines the difference in search volume between head terms vs. the long-tail. For example, a keyword like “shoes” may get a lot of people searching on it, but it may be more important for a business to focus on less popular (but less competitive, cheaper, easier-to-convert) keywords, such as the likes of “buy mens shoes.”

The second is a YOUmoz post, which is the UGC (User-Generated Content) section of SEOmoz, one of the world’s biggest SEO resources and my personal favourite. I’m a massive SEOmoz fan (read: I’m a massive geek), so it’s an absolute pleasure and honour to have had my post accepted. It’s about the word limit affecting the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, which could majorly affect people’s SEO keyword research, especially if they’re looking into short terms and phrases.

In the pipeline, there’ll be more content for the Liberty blog, another YOUmoz post and a guest article for Fresh Business Thinking. I’m also hoping to do a post for Cardiff Blogs (@cdfblogs on Twitter), after having attended their most recent event last month. If any of the above come off then I’ll be sure to link to them in a future post.

News about the blog

The main reason I wanted to update was to say that this’ll probably be the last post on the SEOno blog for a good month or two. The reason for the break in blogging is simply due to the fact that I’m getting married next week!

However, when I’m back, I have great plans for the blog, including a redesign (something I’ve had in mind for a while) as well as more SEO and #SMsceptic posts.

Until then, ciao…*

* A hint as to the honeymoon’s location (in fact, this font should too)! It’s my first time there, so if anyone could help out with a few vital phrases then that’d be appreciated!

My intentions for the SEOno blog

I started the SEOno blog a month ago now and an SEO worth their salt should be able to quickly and easily identify that the blog itself hasn’t been very well optimised as of yet. The usual on-page suspects (page titles, META data, etc.) are basic and – in some cases – not unique, while the template I’ve chosen has a ton of errors in the code because of the chosen font.

I’m fairly new to WordPress and I guess I’ve been a little naïve when it’s come to setting it up. I went ahead with WP’s own hosting (.com, not .org) and didn’t realise that I wouldn’t be allowed to use plug-ins. The plan is to change the hosting, from WP’s own to another alternative, opening up the use of plug-ins and allowing me to have greater control over the feel and aesthetics of the blog.

I’m waiting for a colleague at Liberty to show me how best to go about this, as he’s more experienced at using WP and doing this type of thing, at which point I’ll apply it to the SEOno blog. Hopefully this will happen sometime in the next few weeks.

Until then, I may limit or restrict the amount of blog posts that I write. I’ll want to go back and make changes to the previous posts (only 3 at this point, 4 including this one), so I’d rather do it while the number’s low than continue to add to it and create more work for myself in the future.

Don’t worry… I have some great ideas for future blog posts, covering many topics, thoughts and ideas that have not been covered anywhere else. Stay tuned…