A Twitizen of High Quality, Who Should I Follow?

As a Community Manager, an expert in all things social, what do you look for in people you choose to follow on Twitter? What qualities constitute a Twitizen of high quality worthy of taking up time and space in your personal Twitterverse?

Is a person with a huge following truly an influencer?

Granted, most people are really impressed by that HUGE follower number. Certainly, if you are Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Dr. Phil, or Disney Pixar, there is an element of name recognition. Lots of people will follow simply because they’ve heard of them. Question is, are those followers REALLY paying attention to what any of these big-wig celebrities have to say? Is there anything really meaningful going on here, or is it a case of a bunch of mind-numbed minions following whatever happens to be the most sensational in pop culture at the moment.

As pointed out by a young blogger for Techipedia.com, a mega following certainly contributes to earning the label of “Power Twitter User.” There is potential to affect the way of thinking for a very large group of people. But potential is meaningless in and of itself. It’s what is done with this massive following that matters.

Unfortunately, even the “Power Users” don’t really seem to get it. There are plenty of examples of the completely pointless, utterly ridiculous, and down-right shameful among celebrity and corporate accounts.

This is one of my personal favorites:

“You don’t interact with anyone. And the only person you RT is one of your directors. | @DisneyPixar

It’s mildly understandable why people like @BritneySpears have gazillions of followers and get away with merely tweeting (or ghost-tweeting) about their day-to-day and comeback concerts. But it’s difficult to imagine waking up and thinking, “I must know what Disney Pixar is up to! To the Twitterfeed!” What makes companies fun to follow on Twitter is when they engage their audience in a meaningful way.”

Lauren Litwinka, “Why Your 4,243,564 Twitter Followers Don’t Mean Jack”

 

Does a low follow to followers ratio give you a good indication?

In the case of an account like @DaveJMatthews, not so much. But for a savvy blogger like Lisa Barone, there is a method to her madness.

She explains, thusly:

“Following Everyone = Following No One

The biggest reason I don’t follow thousands of people on Twitter is because I can’t handle the noise. I view following everyone as following no one because when your stream is being updated lightening fast, there’s no way to keep up. If I followed a thousand people, I may miss the everyday, human tweets from my followers. I’d miss the tweets about how much they love their dog, what book their reading, where they’re going on vacation, etc. And, as the great Aerosmith once said, I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to be actively engaged with the people that I choose to invite into my network. I think that’s sort of the point of following something. That may mean I follow less, but I’m guaranteed to interact more with those that I do choose to follow.

Also worth noting is that I don’t use any tools to manage my personal Twitter account – not Tweetdeck, not Seesmic, nothing. I get everything from the Web version. That means that following a thousand people would turn my Twitter feed into a complete mess. It also means that I am as adorable and outdated as a typewriter.”

Lisa Barone, “Go Ahead, Call Me A Twitter Snob”

Lisa also points out that she doesn’t like relying on Twitter lists. Personally, if I do see that someone is following a large number of people, I also want to see a significant use of lists. This is one of my personal preferences. I’ll give someone a follow to check them out. If they really are making the grade with me, they will wind up in a list that I can easily keep track of and not miss something valuable they had to say.

Has Klout got it all figured out?

As professionals we depend on a means of measurement to help our clients see what is working and what is not. Klout seems to have this wrapped up nicely. They offer lots of great graphs and tons of information on just what each measurement means.

For fun I ran a few influential people I follow to see how much “Klout” they carry.

As you can see for Chris, Tamar, and Lisa their overall Klout Scores are very close. Looking at the graphs you will also see that they are very consistent. By comparison, I am not doing too badly with my own little following, although that very small audience causes big changes in my day to day numbers.

 

What does it all mean? Even though I can find tons of Klout scores similar to these, do I really want to follow them all?
 
 

It all comes down to content.

Is there a real living breathing person on the other end?

It’s so easy to fall for the temptation of automated tweets. It has it’s place, don’t get me wrong here, but broadcasting is not what social media is about. Twitter is about the conversation. You cannot converse with anything automated. Twitter is very much like a party with lots of great hand-picked guests. You already know you have a lot in common. But that party isn’t going to do you any good if you’re not showing up. Constant automated tweeting is like constantly sending a note to the party because you were too busy to attend.

Is this person genuine? Are they sharing a passion for a particular topic?

This is easy to determine, really. Does the account you’re interested in just blast out information and links? If that’s the sum total of what goes on with that account, then no matter how huge the following, that Twitizen is missing the point. Some one who is genuine will reach out to others to offer help. They will answer questions. They will engage their following. And if they are truly passionate, they won’t ever stop sharing, conversing, and helping.

Would I hit it off with them in real life?

As marketers and community managers we tend to lose sight of why Twitter and social media in general strike a nerve with people. As human beings we a have a driving need for relationship, connection to other people. Social media gives us the chance to meet people and become friends without restriction. In light of that, why would anyone want to fill their Twitter stream with accounts that do nothing but hock their wares? I would much rather follow someone that I actually want to talk to and become friends with.

What I concern myself most with when choosing someone to follow on Twitter is not their huge following or how often others retweet their links. Those things naturally happen when the comments and information regularly shared add value to the lives of others. For me, that value might simply be that they consistently put a smile on my face. Certainly there is value in the conversation that can be generated.

True influencers become influential because what they have to say is consistently valuable to their audience. They remain influential because of the connections forged in conversation and engagement.

That’s exactly what we should be looking for when choosing someone to follow on Twitter. It’s what we need to remind ourselves of daily as we strive to influence our own following. And it should be the constant mantra we chant for our clients.

Be REAL,

Be PASSIONATE,

Be VALUABLE.

About Michelle Stinson Ross

"Relationship building is the key difference between social media marketing and more traditional marketing forms. Social media is personal." Founded on a lifelong passion for communication and fortified with a Degree in Business Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1997, Michelle facilitates business communications solutions for small and mid-size business clients across several industries. Her primary emphasis is on empowering clients so they can become self-sufficient in their efforts to achieve success. Whether the subject is internal corporate communications, marketing, or more recently, social networking, Michelle has the passion, talent and expertise to get the job done.

Read more from