Seems that lately, everyone I meet wants to know the secret to getting more followers. Some of the most commonly clicked links are those that offer the top ten tips to getting more Twitter followers, readers or blog subscribers. There's a vague sense that somehow all of this will lead to fame, riches, and a book deal. Hey, if it worked for "Shit My Dad Says," it should work for you and me, right?
Well... hmm. Let's take a step back and think about this for a moment. True, there are some tricks you can use to drive more traffic to your blog or to garner more Twitter followers. I'm happy to share some of these, and I certainly don't see the harm in trying them. (For example, write a blog post offering ten tips on how to get more Twitter followers, and then tweet about it!) But this whole thing can be a huge trap. Page metrics aren't the be all and end all. Think about it -- if you have 1500 porn spammers following you on Twitter, what is this doing for you or your reputation?
Look, if your main reason for seeking out more followers is because you're still wishing you had been elected class president in the seventh grade--and figure getting 10,000 followers on Twitter will redeem you, then you're probably wasting your own and a lot of other people's time. Or, perhaps you're trying to raise money for charity, and have made it your goal to beat Ashton Kutcher at his own game? No? Well, then what is your reasoning?
Most people, when I press them on this question, don't really have much of an answer. They just know that they're supposed to "drive traffic" to their blog or "expand their social media footprint." They've heard this, or perhaps assumed it based on the fact that there are so many posts out there about how to do it. But when we get talking, it soon becomes apparent than they're unclear why, or how this is going to benefit them.
Usually the best way to get to the bottom of things is to find out what their overall goal was in starting a blog. A new job? Meeting new people? Finding a mate? Getting a book deal? Once in awhile, the answer is something like, "I had a passion for goldfish mating habits/World War II history/spelunking equipment and decided I had to blog about it." But that's rare--and those folks tend to be the ones who aren't so concerned about analytics. They're doing what they love, and don't much care whether anyone else is going to join them on the ride.
In fact, all the social media experts and consultants I know are wary of putting too much emphasis on metrics. Louis Gray says so--just watch this video of him on this blog. He says, "Often people get excited because they started a controversy." They rush to their analytics and count the hits. But that, he warns, is not necessarily going to have the long-term effect you're looking for. He also says that the number of Twitter followers isn't important to him -- "I just need the right people, whoever they are."
Meanwhile, Francine Hardaway, another of my video guests says that she herself doesn't even look at her Google Analytics to find out how much traffic her blog is garnering. It's not important to her. She also warns against the so-called "TechCrunch 50 buzz." That is, the huge spike in traffic you get if you're one of those chosen by TechCrunch. As she says, "After that if you don't know what to do with it, or if it's the wrong kind of traffic it goes away."
I know a company that got a whopping half million hits when a project they did went viral--it hit all the front pages many people can only dream about, Techmeme, Digg, and so on. Did this change everything for them? No. The hits dropped back to normal soon enough, and they had to go on with the difficult task of building a startup. That doesn't mean it was necessarily a negative thing, but it wasn't going to be the determining factor in their success either.
But what about "Shit My Dad Says?" with its million + Twitter followers, TV and book deal? That's gotta be a sign that getting followers has a purpose. No, not really. In fact to me this is an example of the reverse. That is, this is a funny Twitter feed, and therefore people are going to follow it. It's a great platform for these folks and their twisted sense of humor, but it's just that. If you have something that funny to say, you won't be asking anyone how to get more followers--you'll be getting them.
All this is to say that rather than focusing on how many (clicks, followers, subscribers) you have, why not look at the quality of the following? Are these the potential employers, customers, mates, friends and so on that you were hoping to attract when you planted a flag on some piece of social media terrain? If so, great. Keep doing whatever you're doing. If not, well, then you may need to do some strategic thinking in order to get there. But forget the numbers. And while you're at it, forget that scheme you had for writing down everything your grandma says.