Social media has created an obsession with numbers, be it followers, views, Klout scores, fans…you get the idea. Some will tell you that the numbers don’t matter and in some contexts that’s true. All those numbers do is represent potential eyeballs on your content because there’s no guarantee that they’re actually paying attention.
Why are we so enamored of these numbers?
The root of this obsession essentially goes back to the human need for acceptance. A follow, like, pageview is perceived as a kind of personal endorsement. Someone is interested in you, wants to hear from you. The more that happens, the more you want it - it’s practically addictive.
This was on my mind as I read Mark Shaefer’s post about a guy who wants to start a twitter account and follow no one, a la Seth Godin. I can only guess that some of the high profile follow purges a few months back have reinforced the notion that following few and being followed by many is a sign that you’re a great and influential leader.
That may be true for some, but everyone who signs up for any social network starts out with zero connections. For the individuals who’ve done work that puts them in the public eye, they will amass a large following in a short time. Their value is already known and membership in this group is extremely small compared to the massive number of people who start out as relative unknowns.
The Bottom Line
You can buy new followers (though I hope you don’t), beg for views and entice new fans by giving an incentive. At the end of the day, you’re no further ahead if the people “following” you are ignoring everything you say. What works for someone like Seth Godin isn’t going to work for others. There’s no single tried-and-true method of doing social media and there never will be. Successful social media users are creative, open to new ideas and work hard at learning (and sometimes creating) the best practices for users.
If you want to grow an audience who’s paying attention, it will take time, effort and patience. The end result is worth it.