Twitter Follower-Building Services – Gain Numbers, Lose Respect?

As time goes on, it feels like more and more people are feeling the allure of Twitter follower-building services. Look at their follower numbers one day and they have a few hundred, and a couple of days later they’re up to several thousand.

It’s easy to see the allure of this. You have the ego boost of believing your tweets are read by thousands of people – that’s pretty cool, right? It takes a really long time to build-up that many readers of a blog.

Personally, while I’ve occasionally been tempted by the dark side, I’ve never used one of those services, for a couple of reasons:

  • Consider how much you care about the people that those services ask you to follow. What’s that? Not at all? That’s how much they care about you, too.
  • If the people who follow you through that scheme don’t care, who are you doing it for? Your existing followers? I think not. Potential followers? Do you really think they care either? Your ego? Maybe that’s it.
  • It feels wrong, and when it comes to social media, I tend to go with my gut (especially when the evidence supports that feeling).

There’s also one big down-side of many follower-building services on Twitter:

They spam your Twitter account.

Glancing at my Twitter stream recently, I spotted a post from someone in my stream (note: I’ve removed the links):

viralwordpress: Want 10,000 Followers FAST? FREE Twitter Followers Software http://tinyurl.com/twitterp… http://bit.ly/LlwDL

Ah, yes – Twitter spam. Out of curiosity I clicked through to their profile to see if this was the first time it had happened (in case they were unaware of it). Here’s what I found:

Twitter spam messages

Is this how you want people to see you? That’s how people see this “SEO pro.”

Why not go about things differently? Why not build a following by providing useful information; by saying useful things; by helping other people? It takes time, but you’ll find yourself with followers who pay attention when you ask a question, and who care when you post.

I guess you’re not hurting anyone else if you use these services, but consider the damage you may do to your own reputation – especially if you tout yourself as a social media expert.

What do you think about follower-building services? Setting this example aside, do you (or would you) use one of these tools?

If you have used one of these tools, am I off-base on this? I haven’t used these follower-building tools, so I’d love your input. Did you get the results you were looking for?

  • JoAnne Casterlin

    Dave,
    Thanks for this blog post on follower building services. I’m new(er) to Twitter and still learning about social media, but I thought my insight might be valuable to others.

    When I was young and naive I tried starting a business using network marketing with the intention of just “giving it a try”. (I got out after 2 years of spending a lot of money, time and credibility for very little return.) After looking at a couple of these social media follower-building services, I find them very similar in feel to Network Marketing. There’s a lot of hype about the money you CAN make. But it looks like they kill your credibility and they don’t really get you anywhere in the long run because you are chasing the wrong goal.
    Both “business building tools” are just not genuine and being real is a big part of social media and a successful business, career and life.

  • Good points. I’ve looked at a few of these out of curiosity, and yes, it’s tempting to the ego, just human nature I guess! But it doesn’t take a genius to think it through. If you don’t want to be seen as a spammer, an ego-maniac or a kid, then best to stick to organic growth.

    It’s also about how you see the point of twitter. I think to those who treat it like a promotions vehicle or broadcast medium, it really is just an extension of their ego/a money making toy. Whereas if you’re in it to forge real contacts with (real) people then you have a different attitude to it.

    Personally I’ve found that if you make an effort to tweet regularly, on a range of subjects, engage with people and say useful stuff, then you’ll attract the kind of followers you want to follow back.

  • Is it really that hard to find Twitter followers? I have to wonder how much of a lack of personality one has to have in order to not find them. I’ve gotten around 6k just by being myself. However, I only pay attention to 500+ of them. All about quality not quantity.

  • greymous

    Would never use these services. I don’t want or need thousands of followers. Twitter is much more meaningful to me if I actually want to read what folks tweet. Even with a couple hundred followers who are moderately active I have a very hard time keeping up with things.

    I’m all for quality over quantity and will continue on that path. Good post!

  • Like Stuart said, it should be about the quality and not quantity at the end of the day. I was surprised to see that I reached just over 800 followers last night.

    I would never use a service like this. I want people to follow me because they are interested in what I’ve to say or we connected in person at some event.I try to help when I can, post stuff related to gaming, technology or even something I think is pretty cool, IMO. It’s starting to pay off as I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with more people online and offline.

    Plus when I went to Vancouver in May for Convergence 09,.. someone referred to me as that guy on Twitter after I did a spot with the people from CBC BC. It felt nerdy cool.

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  • Totally agree with what you all say, I would never use one of these services. Almost as bad though are those that auto follow those that follow them. Sometimes I get a note saying somebody is following me, I click through and see immediately that the person following me is just tweeting spam, i then look and see that they have followers. I cannot believe that somebody would choose to follow these people so can only assume that it is an auto follow back. Coming back to the quality over quantity, why would you choose to automatically follow somebody that follows you without looking to see that they have something to offer. I don’t hold with the “but it’s polite to follow back”, not if it’s going to overload me and prevent me spotting something of value it isn’t, and that’s the risk with auto follow back.

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  • Unfortunately the people on Twitter who promote these schemes and have tweet streams full of nothing but the garbage you outlined above probably won’t be reading this post and getting the message!

    It always blows my mind to see “SEO experts” or “marketing gurus” who have thousands of followers but all of their tweets are pure noise and MLM-like promotion. No value whatsoever, and I can’t begin to imagine for whom those tweets actually would hold value.

    We don’t need hoards of Amway salesmen on Twitter. Thank goodness for the unfollow button.

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  • I am totally with you on this. I’ve been on Twitter for over a year and have slowly built up to over 2500 followers, something I’ve done myself. I’ve never used a follower-building tool, though I have to admit, I’ve been tempted. So that number is something to me that I have earned, and it tells me something fairly authentic about my value. Sure, it could be bigger, but so what?

    Like you, quality and care are really important to me. I see Twitter as a great place to give and to receive, that’s what I use it for, so what’s the point of diluting that utility just so I have a bigger “number”? I do know many people who use these services and have creative workarounds to keep their content clear, but personally, it’s much more gratifying to actually choose the people I will follow individually – it helps me connect, to really build relationships, and to have a high quality of ideas in my stream.

    Good post – sure many will disagree with you, but I think many share your POV too.

  • Dave,

    Couldn’t agree more. If I post a link on Twitter and no one clicks, a few possible problems:

    (a) I’m providing no value
    (b) People have bailed on Twitter
    (c) I’m being followed by bots.

    I’d rather connect with 100 quality people than have 10,000 un-engaged/spammy followers.

    The “follower” numbers game is only important to the egos of people who measure their worth with such online currency.

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  • I don’t understand the temptation of a simple high number of followers because I know they are not planning on listening to me and I know I will not learn anything from them. Feedback feeds my ego far more than the number of followers I have. It is even hard for me to justify following somebody with thousands of followers unless I am positive they have information I can benefit from because I know they are unlikely to interact with me.

    Thanks for the post; it is dead on,

    -Scott

  • I’m just about twittered-out, Dave. I’ve spent several months on it, and while I’ve gained some useful information, none of it comes close to my RSS feed. Yes, Twitter is instant, and has a place in certain situations. But if you’re about substance, then a blog’s the place to be. I keep my Twitter followers to a minimum by regularly culling them. And someone doesn’t have a bio, they get the chop immediately. And here’s an interesting article on blogging: http://mediabullseye.com/mb/2009/06/four-reasons-to-get-back-to-bl.html
    @prlab

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  • Utilising these services is most definetly a battle of quality of quantity. Having 200 followers who are users of your product or who fit within your target audience is naturally far more effective. I fail to see the benefits of using these services, other than an ego-boost.

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  • I have 13,000 followers without using any such “services.” I stopped auto following. I now check every new follower and only follow those who don’t actively use these spamming programs.

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  • I hope this doesn’t overlap much with what’s already been said but I’ve been compiling data on the different techniques for the past few weeks and thought I’d share… I put everything up here: http://themetricsystem.rjmetrics.com/2009/07/21/how-to-get-twitter-followers-the-definitive-guide/

  • Great post and well said.

    Unfortunatley the ol’ numbers game doesn’t work in this space. I think people would benefit from a Come To Jesus, Social Media course to understand that this is a definite shift in how we do things.

    It’s not for everyone as most people are conditioned by society to get rich quick or lose weight fast or build your numbers to see results.

    Ironically, it’s this approach that sets you back indefinitely.

    I love this space because it forces marketers, brands and the rest of em’ to play nice. This is a democratization of information, content and more – so it appeals to many, but it also ensures a far more level playing field.

    The East Coast chap who had his guitar broke by United and took his woes to YouTube… perfect warning to spammers, bully brands and the 2 minute salesmen who think they can treat this space like their 3 column, full color, half page ad in the Toronto Star!

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  • Dave, nice post man! I was searching Google for follower builders. Innocently enough, I just thought I could find a tool to help me automate the process. Last thing I want to do is be considered a spammer.

    I have made mistakes in the past by using tools that automatically post weird offers. On some occasions, I didn’t even realize it was happening.

    I am trying to build a following that I can add value to. So, thanks for this post. You saved me some hard ache.

  • Thank you for a great summary of this issue. I taught a social media class last week for small business owners (non-profit for the local library) and although it was on Facebook, the questions drifted to Twitter, which is coming up this week.

    I’m trying to get through to people that it’s not a popularity contest and 100 target market followers are better than 1,000 random people… but then I have these SEO and social media “experts” attending just to try to brag about their 7,000 followers and how they can do that for these business owners. It’s frustrating because the mass follow appeals to a lot of people who don’t yet understand how Twitter is beneficial when used properly.

    Thank you again for summing it up so nicely.

  • Ja. Das ist richtig. Dein Twitter-Account verliert alles

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