Part ONE.  The curtain rises.

There was a brouhaha on the Twitterstream recently when Spike Jones, a blogger and SVP at Fleishmann-Hilliard, challenged some people by name to delete their huge Twitter accounts and start over.  The original (excellent) article sparking the discussion by Leah Jones can be found HERE and a follow-up post by Spike, HERE.  The idea of eliminating followers created a  … stir.

Part TWO.  What’s the fuss?

I presented this drama because … well, I couldn’t resist it.  Antagonist, protagonist, love, hate, a leading lady, conflict and resolution in 10 tweets? Give me a break. Who doesn’t enjoy a good drama? Plus I found it refreshing that a few folks on Twitter actually showed up as real people.

So besides the question of honor and bileful little men, what raised this ruckus?

The idea that “numbers don’t matter” is one of the most emotional subjects I’ve witnessed on the social web.  It’s our precious little secret: Most people pretend they don’t care, but they do.  Here is the yin and yang of the social media “numbers.”

YIN

The number of friends or followers might be a reasonable indication of a person’s presence on the social web.

… YANG

But for Pete’s sakes, treat EVERYBODY with respect.  All too often I see people forgetting that there is a real person behind that little icon.

YIN

Larger numbers of followers can enhance reputation. I recently saw Chris Brogan present and he admitted honestly that he has 180,000 followers “but half of them are spammers and porn stars.” In some (rare) cases, quality of followers really doesn’t matter. It’s a badge.

… YANG

Quality of followers should matter in most cases. Why would you knowingly surround yourself with porn stars …. unless you’re a porn star? I want to surround myself with relevant, interesting people.  My audience is a public record of who I am.

YIN

In many cases, large number of followers can deliver higher numbers of potential connections, business benefits and information.

… YANG

Even with wonderful utilities like Tweetdeck, it’s a stretch to have a meaningful connection with more than a couple hundred people.

Part THREE. A simple truth about followers.

So, there are arguments both ways.  But let me give you another perspective.

When I became active on Twitter, a young lady followed me with a provocative profile picture. This was at a time when porn folks were absolutely over-running Twitter and I was blocking them as fast as I could. The next day this same young lady wrote to tell me she was a university student in the U.K. and was following me to learn from me. She was disappointed that I had proven to be so elitist by blocking her and not including her in my audience.

Obviously I corrected the situation and apologized, but here’s the lesson I learned — I need to consider it an HONOR to have interested followers.

I realized that Twitter is not necessarily about me, what I gain out of it, and what’s convenient to meet my needs.   Every person on the other end of the tweet has their own reason to connect to me too. Eliminating them wholesale as Leah and Spike suggests seems disrespectful to good people who followed me in good faith.

I realize this is a very personal point of view and may not fit for you, but what are your thoughts about cleaning house on your followers?

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