Value and narcissism in Twitter followers

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Today’s news on the shake-up at Twitter HQ, and the stock’s continued malaise has me thinking again about the value of the social media platform as an enduring business and to the individual Twitter user.

The one Twitter behavior that I’m most negatively struck by, and that causes the most value destruction, is the follow/unfollow. I did a little experiment for a while where I followed back everyone that followed me. To date, almost to a one, these people still follow me. Then I started not following back people who followed me. Almost every single one of those folks unfollowed me within 48 hours.

So what’s the real value in a follower? I could have many more, personally, if I simply followed everyone back who initially followed me. Obviously they were not that interested in my specific tweets; they just wanted another follower for their own status. I recently read a job description for a senior marketer at a local, VC-funded startup. One of the requirements for that position was to have over 2000 followers on Twitter. How valuable is that? Probably not very. Maybe a very, very weak indicator of connections and influence that would need to be associated with real connections and evidence of influence to be taken as a proof point.

I know as a marketer, though maybe less so as a management consultant, Twitter is a required component of any social media campaign. What I’m left wondering is whether the narcissistic nature of the follower game makes the social media platform’s inherent, long-term value somewhere close to zero.

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