I’ve been a participant on Twitter for several months now. In that time, I’ve read dozens of articles on how to and how not to interact within the Twitter community. It’s certainly safe to say that there are as many opinions as there are participants on how Twitter can best be utilized. And, for each individual or company who chooses to set up shop, goals can certainly vary. Heck, ask 14 people to describe Twitter and you’ll get nearly 14 different answers.
When it comes to traditional brands, a handful are content to strictly abide by the Twitter mantra, “What are you doing?” Their tweets are often a continuous stream of broadcasts. In other words, an on-going, one-way conversation. Rare are the responses, or @replies, to the questions or comments from others.
Most would agree that companies using Twitter in this way would be better off not showing up at all. No one wants a product constantly pushed in their face while at the same time feeling company X is oblivious to what’s going on around them. Thankfully, it seems more and more companies are putting a great deal of thought into their Twitter strategy.
Are You Not Entertained?
I often wonder though why similar, traditional brand behavior seems to be the rule and not the exception for many of the public figures I follow on Twitter. While I’ve been encouraged by the number of Christian musicians, authors, radio personalities and consultants I’ve discovered on Twitter, with most there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of interaction taking place between them and their followers. In fact, the sense I often get from their tweets is, “Isn’t it cool being a fly on the wall of my life?”
If you’re a public figure who uses Twitter in this way then that’s your call. And I’ll be the first to say that, for some of your fans, it might be enough. But have you ever given any thought to what it says about your personal brand?
Having said this, I realize that in the Twitterverse it’s entirely possible that those I perceive as not interacting very often with fans are indeed doing so via DM, or direct message (a message that can be sent only to people who follow you that no one else can see). Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) is a good example. When he responds to a tweet from me he often does so by firing back a DM. My experience though shows that he’s likely the exception.
Engagement vs. Convenience
This limited interaction on Twitter is often coupled with another phenomenon. Most artists, authors and radio personalities I see on Twitter aren’t following even 5% as many people as are following them. In fact, many seem to be following only other people within the industry (and maybe personal friends).
When asked about it, one artist I talked to expressed the difficulty in choosing one fan over another. I wonder if some worry about being inundated with DMs from followers. There are certainly plenty of cons when it comes to DMs. How about following everyone by default, then leaving yourself the option of blocking the occasional nut case if and when necessary?
To me there seems to be a desire for the best of both worlds as long as those worlds don’t intertwine. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George’s two worlds – the world of “relationship” George and that of “independent” George – threaten to do just that. George views his independent world as his sanctuary and Elaine’s decision to develop a friendship with George’s girlfriend Susan may ultimately mean the demise of that sanctuary.
I recently received an e-mail from a record label rep touting the popularity of a particular artist’s Twitter stream. According to TwitterGrader, this particular artist ranked in the top 2,000 out of over a million twitterers. Now, I don’t pretend to understand all the algorithms TwitterGrader uses to calculate their rankings, however I do know your number of followers and the power of their networks plays into it heavily. What is truly unfortunate though is that the number of people you’re following along with the frequency and quality of your engagement with them has little to nothing to do with it. Shame on Twitter.
Is Twitter a passing fad? Possibly. Will it exist in even 5 years? Probably not in the same way it does today. In the meantime then, I hope this post can serve not as an indictment, but a challenge. While Twitter is in the mix and growing more popular by the day, why not make the most of it? If you see some of yourself in this post, I hope you’ll accept the challenge and venture outside your comfort zone a little more.
Twitter’s Pied Pipers?
Finally, for fear of not delivering on the title of my post, I’ve compiled a couple of lists, in alphabetical order by first name. The first is a list of those I think need to be challenged to follow more fans; fans they’ll attempt to regularly engage. Keep in mind this list is by no means exhaustive. Remember too that the opinions I’ve expressed here may in fact be mine and mine alone. If you disagree, then say so by all means. If you agree, tell me that too.
Please understand that I believe every public figure mentioned below is an absolute pro. I’m confident each and every one of them goes out of their way for their fans/readers/listeners/clients. All I’m saying is I’d like to see them take what they’re already doing in the real world and consider applying more of it to this platform. That’s all.
Some you’ll recognize as recording artists, while others are radio personalities, authors and colleagues. In each case, note their following to follower (F2F) ratio. The number of people they personally follow is first. The number of people following them is second.
- Aaron Shust (recording artist) – 13 to 701
- Alan Mason (Consultant, Good Ratings Strategic Services) – 3 to 90
- Bart Millard (recording artist, Mercy Me) – 26 to 2,250
- Bebo Norman (recording artist) – 21 to 856
- Carmen Brown, Dave Cruse, Bill Martin, Jayar and “The Morning Cruise” combined (On-air Talent, The Joy FM / Tampa, Florida) – 140 to 1,843
- The David Crowder Band (recording artist) – 18 to 1,697
- Jeremy Camp (recording artist) – 92 to 2,481
- Leeland (recording artist)- 24 to 1,574
- Michael W. Smith (recording artist) – 10 to 2,105
- Phil Wickham (recording artist) – 25 to 2,582
- Rebecca St. James (recording artist) – 61 to 1,287
I’ve noticed too that not everyone who strives to follow more than a few people is actually doing a lot of listening. Glenn Lavender of Downhere, Shaun Groves, Bryan White, Melinda Doolittle and Phil Stacey have decent F2F ratios, however, all do quite a bit more broadcasting than actual engaging, at least right now.
Lastly, here is a list of a few folks I think are doing a pretty good job of engaging and listening to their followers/fans. Again, note their F2F ratio.
- Cameron Strang (publisher) – 552 to 2,127
- Charlie Neese (Newschannel 5 Meteorologist) – 209 to 304
- Jeff Cruz (Music Director, Z88.3 / Orlando) – 132 to 145
- Mark Lee (recording artist, Third Day) – 2,078 to 2,143
- Matthew Paul Turner (author) – 1,827 to 1,747
- MC Hammer (former recording artist) – 20,349 to 31,047
- Michael Hyatt (CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishing) – 4,948 to 4,700
- Pete Wilson (Pastor, Cross Point Church) – 1,220 t0 2,034
- Star 99.1 FM / New York (radio station) – 1,999 to 715
Max Lucado, Charlie Lowell (Jars of Clay), Stephen Mason (Jars of Clay) and Vicky Beeching don’t follow many people relative to the number following them, but they’re interacting with others constantly. This is great to see! Natalie Grant and Mark Hall are two others I’d like to see follow more people, but recently they both seem to be deliberately interacting more. Same goes for Fee.
Still, for much of the industry, the focus seems to be on gathering more followers and not necessarly the conversations along the way. I predict that if you’ll put more effort into the engagement part of the process, at least one residual affect will be exponentially more followers. They’ll also likely be a lot more loyal and passionate about who you are and what you do than if you continue to view them as customers you can sell your message to.