Why do I need 10,000 followers?

Photo credit: I don’t know. Probably some porn site. This is an actual Twitter follower of the guy mentioned in the article. If this is a picture of you and you’re not in the porn industry, I apologize. I was just trying to make a point. Now go put on a tee shirt.

The other day I received a direct message on my Twitter account that gave me pause:

Mark – why so few followers when it seems you have great content? Is that part of your strategy? Just looked-thought it would be more …

At first I felt defensive. Well — I LIKE my 400 followers. I’ve only been doing this a few weeks. That seems pretty good. Right??

So I decided to check out the guy who sent me the message. He has over 12,000 followers and 700 connections on Linked-in. I felt Twitter Envy swelling in my chest. Is it possible to exhibit alpha male behavior on Twitter?

I looked over his list of followers and what I found astounded me. Many of them had names like “HelpYouMakeCash” or “Psychic123.” Tons of them had names like “pS5bo1g6” with no photos. And a very high number featured icon photos with women baring their chest, or nearly so. Who would brag about a community filled with this stuff?

When I get followers bearing (baring?) those attributes I knock ’em out. First, I’m not in the same game that they are. Second, I would not want any one in my Twitter community I would not proudly introduce to my kids.

What’s the point of all of this social media stuff anyway? I’m writing this blog and Twittering on a regular basis to contribute to the dialogue with a group of insanely cool people. I have learned SO MUCH from you guys out there. I like my new online peeps. I get excited when you respond to a blog post or RT one of my Tweets.

I genuinely want to CONNECT with my growing community but already have some concerns as the followers grow each week. At some point I think it will become too much and I haven’t thought of a next step. I want to be a good community member. Is that possible with a thousand followers? How do we build a sustainable, manageable community with a meaningful dialogue?

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  • Anita Macklin

    Twitter followers are not air miles! I've been so wanting to spread that word. When I first signed up for Twitter a couple of months ago I called up a friend the next day and shouted into the phone, "I have 2 followers!" I didn't even know them, but it felt good! One of them had a brown background and two loops for an avatar which I only figured out later meant no picture.

    Several weeks later I'm approaching 1,200 followers. In moments of distorted self-worth I might imagine that there are over a thousand people caring about what I say. But alas, the picture of the girl in your post seems familiar. And I recall too many followers with names that look like they were taken from a UPC code on a cereal box. My bright shiny false sense of importance fades as I realize that the bare (well, semi-bare) chested girls probably don't listen to a word I say. They just want another Air Mile.

    How many Twitter followers are enough? That depends. If 2 peeps hear what I say and find value in it, what do I need the other thousand for?

    The other day @MariSmith tweeted that we should grow our followers organically. I'll go with that. She's always got the greatest, coolest advice. (and she also has about 41,000 followers)


    Great insight Anita. But how do you even contribute to 41,000 followers? I'll start following her to find out!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Ken Baker


    Great post. I look at twitter as reciprocal and there is simply no way for me to keep up with even a few hundred. I do not twitter a lot, but following the 50 or so followers that I have is a lot. My idea of the social media community is to maintain relationships to people, which is impossible for 10,000 followers, even with a few thousand ad links.

  • Nate Towne


    Thanks for getting this out there, I feel like I've been shouting the same message into the wind. It's not about quantity, it's about quality. That's why I no longer automatically "friend" everyone who friends me. If I haven't heard of them and they don't have an interesting name, I assume they're a spammer that's just using a few lines of news before hitting me with their Tiny URL for the latest Twitter populator application. I don't care if I ever get more than 150 followers – in fact, it's getting hard to read everyone's Tweets now that I'm over 100. And if I'm following you, I DO want to read your Tweets. Even if it's about you drinking a coffee. Why? Because I'm your Twitter friend now and it's part of our bizarre yet rewarding online courtship of sorts. TBFF?


    All great insights. Thank you so much!

    I guess due to the blog, I seem to be attracting quite a few people every week. I view this as a PRIVILEGE. So, I don't want to turn people down or turn them away, but I do need a follower "management strategy" to stay relevant, tuned-in to what's going on, and, as Nate said, keep it rewarding for everyone.

    It's my observation that most people who have that many followers preach to them like cattle. You can't possibly connect. Can you?

    One thing that is happening — I tend to form a connection with the people (like you) who reach out to connect to me. That helps keep the opportunity manageable for now.

    Ironically, the people who have thousands of followers would never take the time to comment on a blog, so we won't hear their opinion.

    It's all making me re-think what's going on here and where I need to be.

  • John Bottom

    Agree, agree, agree. It is reassuring to hear others who believe that it's about quality not quantity, but I fear we're in the minority and that vast tracts of the social media landscape are dominated by follow-freaks, wannabe-web-millionaires and other unsavoury creatures. But what can you do? There's so much out there we can't control, all we can do is focus on our own areas of value and make it work for us. I could quote Voltaire and say "Il faut cultiver notre jardin", but that would be pretentious and I want you guys to like and follow me.

  • jungleman

    Twitter is about quality, not quantity.

    I have been on Twitter since mid-2007, having Tweeted 2000+ times. And I only have a pitiful 600 and something followers. How lame. Why don't I just give up?

    But if you look at people who are following me, they are influencers, early adopters, social media experts and other people I want to connect with. And that's the point of Twitter.

    Notice that I only follow about half the number of those that follow me. I have blogged about Dunbar's Limit — how many people we can realistically interact with. So the best way to manage users is to share what you consider interesting and useful, enjoy the serendipity of what your community chooses to share with you and keep an eye on the truly important things in life: love, trust, honesty, loyalty, courage.

  • Saul Young

    I block a whole lot more than I allow to follow.

    Personally it's an issue of reciprocity. I just spent about an hour reading through 17 hours of unread twitters. I only follow 200 people, and let's assume that more than half do not twitter regularly, if any at all. An hour a day is a lot of time to dedicate to one social media platform and only about 100 active users. In fact, twitter has almost completely eliminated my facebook time.

    With this in mind, I feel that many twitter users who follow more than 500 people are only adding me so that I would add them in return and enlarge their social network.

    I genuinely enjoy the content of the 200 people I follow. That's why I'm willing to look back at 17 hours worth of tweets. So in thanks for their content, I try to publish enjoyable, albeit sometimes twisted, content in return. I rather not waste my good stuff on someone who let's my tweets get lost on the twitter stream of 10,000 followers.

  • Marketing Brillo

    Well said, Jungleman… and it's encouraging! I cherish my 190 followers, and haven't been frantic to grow that number. More than that, I cherish the 150 people I follow because, by reading their blogs, I know their knowledge and their perspective will be a gift. I think this following dilemma may come down to what Kellie Andrea is talking about when she refers to many of us looking to connect with our "Mastermind Groups." http://bit.ly/ckCpt Chris Brogan is calling these folks his "pirates." In short, at least for some of us, I expect Twitter will trend to each of us finding our own global tribe.

  • Karen Skidmore

    Great article – thanks for writing about what is exactly on my mind this morning on twitter. I have started to block my spammer twitters now. I know it drops my numbers but, like you, when you start you see who is following the peps with high following numbers, I would love to know exactly how many "true" followers these guys have.

  • Laura

    I appreciate that people like Mark have to cut the wheat form the chaff in a sense, but I found him on this blog and decided to follow him. Obviously, I was not worthy of what he has to say on Twitter (I was blocked :o() as I am not someone he wants to 'connect' with meaningfully but that was not why I wanted to follow him. My primary purpose is because from this blog he is writing very logical reasoning to use social media and I am just learning about it myself, but have been cut down in my prime due to other profiles not being trustworthy! It is definitely not about quantity it is about quality but it feels harsh that this communication tool such as Twitter has been compromised for me because of an elitest attitude almost!


    Laura, I can't explain why I blocked you. I don't recall it. I have looked you up and requested a follow. I would be really happy if you gave me another chance. Thanks for teaching me a lesson in humility. — Mark

  • Claire Brown

    i've been on Twitter 5 months now and love it, but I can't manage to follow and interact with all the people I follow, even with only 120, and it means if people tweet too much then I unfollow them, I do keep details of their blogs so that I can go back if I see them mentioned by someone else, and i'm starting to block followers too if they are obviously not interested in me (i.e following 600 people, 21 followers, no tweets!)

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