Should You Care How Many Followers Someone Has On Twitter And StockTwits?

Last week I received a tweet from someone who was aghast that I had been publically taking issue with a rather well known “trader”.  His argument basically boiled down to this…

….he has 18K+ followers on Twitter/Stock Twits!

Well that’s it I guess? Time for me to fold up my cyber-tent and go quietly into the sunset with my paltry 608 followers (one of which is my mom, so that doesn’t even count). The masses have voted, and I have lost.

Come on, are we really playing the “quantity not quality” game here?  Is it really relevant how many followers someone has, and does that say anything about the quality of their tweets and if you should follow them?  I mean every time I tweet about how much I like my HTC EVO or about my ongoing battle with erectile dysfunction I am deluged with new follows offering me free smart phones and cut-rate Viagra.

In order to illustrate how easily someone can get twitter followers, I decided to conduct a quick experiment in the science of follower acquisition.  My goal was to see how fast I could go from zero to one hundred followers while putting in the least amount of time, effort, or quality content.

I needed to start with a name that would catch potential follower’s attention.  Things like @HardWork4Success and @10Years2LearnTrading probably would not get too much attention, so instead I chose @PornTraderChick.  I wrote up a quick bio and uploaded a photo of one of the most well-known porn stars of the past decade, Asia Carrera (a friend I know told me about that part as I would not be familiar with such things).  Stopwatch in hand, I was now ready to make my run at the century mark.

“..oh won’t somebody help me in the ways of trading?”

The first thing I did was Google “top 20 follow backs on twitter”.  I got an article entitled “Top 237 Users Who Will Follow You Back” which was already conveniently hyperlinked for easy follow access.  I was a bit surprised to see that President Obama was the number one name on that list, and thought to myself how cool it was that with his re-election campaign in full swing he took the time out to keep up with his twitter followers.  Maybe I will vote for him this time, especially since Mitt Romney only follows 235 people (what a snob).

I quickly followed the top twenty and turned my computer off and went to sleep. The whole process took me a total of two minutes and thirty-seven seconds.

The next day I had 32 followers, so I followed the new ones back and threw out a few quick tweets with hash tags such as…

#TeamFollowback

#INSTANTFOLLOWBACK

#FOLLOW4FOLLOW

Then once again I turned the computer off.  I repeated this process for a couple more days, never spending more than two minutes on it each time.  Next thing I know I had 201 followers, nine marriage proposals, and various offers to help resume my “career”.  It took me a total of five days (two of which I did absolutely nothing), about six minutes of actual work, and zero quality tweets.

” Thank you to all my new followers, the vast majority I am sure were not horney computer nerds.”

Now 201 followers may not be earth shattering, but imagine how fast I could build that number if I was putting real effort into it.  In fact, what if I hired a couple interns to do the job, I could probably get those numbers up into the thousands very quickly.  And then what if I changed my twitter name to @TradingStud, uploaded a different profile picture, and deleted my past tweets?  I could very easily assume a completely new identity, with a built-in following, and start marketing my Trading Stud pay subscription service.  I could say to people who questioned my expertise..

…hey, I have 18K+ followers on Twitter!

One of the phenomenon’s of Twitter is that people confuse the concept of “followers” with the concept of having a quality referral network.  That is something that traditionally takes years and sometimes decades to develop, and depends on individual interaction in order to deepen the quality and the value of your real world “followers”.

There is no doubt that Twitter allows you to build solid connections with quality people, and in fact can help speed that process up, but it also allows for an easy accumulation of less desirable followers whose only benefit is a numeric one.

@PornTraderChick really made the number of followers “rise”. Get it…”rise”. You get it?

StockTwits is a different story because what they do is “curate” the content of their streams.

Curate is derived from the Medieval Latin cūrātus, equivalent to the Latin cūr or to care for; but basically it means keeping the crap out of the streams.  I don’t know how they do it, but if I had to guess, I would say it is 75% algorithmic and 25% good old fashioned hard work by the editorial staff.

However it is done, it is so efficient and seamlessly that you actually forget how spam free they are.  This curating process raises the quality of content and makes it harder for someone like @PornTraderChick to build a following, since auto-follow hash tags and “hugs and kisses” would never make it into the streams.

As wacky as it may seem, on StockTwits you actually have to produce quality content to get a larger following. Go figure!

Don’t get me wrong; at the end of the day, the quality of someone’s tweets should be the number one factor in deciding if you should follow them and there are people at both ends of the follower scale who fit that bill.  But all things being equal, when selecting whom to follow, I would assign much more weight to someone who has a large following on StockTwits (relatively speaking), than to someone who has a large following on Twitter.

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