8,000 Twitter followers. Now what?

Something amazing has happened.  I have nearly 8,000 Twitter followers in eight months.  How does somebody maintain a meaningful presence on Twitter with a crowd like that?  I’m a work in progress, but here’s what’s going on with me.  Maybe it will help you too!

First, after I block out the creeps, I consider it an honor to have somebody follow me.  Sure, they still might be trying to spam me, but my underlying assumption is that a new follower has genuine interest in me and I generally follow them back.  I want to treat anybody who follows me with respect. My intent is to connect with you if you sincerely want to connect with me.

The wave of noise

Obviously there is no way to have a meaningful dialogue with 8,000 — or even 1,000 — people.  It is a wave of noise.  As my followers grew, I realized that I was simply not going to be “engaged” with most of them.

The compromise is, I try to stay engaged in a meaningful way with anybody who makes an attempt to connect with me through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or (gasp) the real world.  I manage this through Seesmic (or Tweetdeck, take your pick).  I have segregated lists of people who connect with me and I try to watch their activity and support them as much as possible.   If you make an effort to engage with me, I’ll put you on one of these lists so I can hopefully get to know you and engage. I truly want to help and support people in my audience any way I can, whether it is tweeting, reading your blog, or having a chat about a problem.

Everybody’s equal

In my Twitter World, even though you may be one out of 8,000, everybody has an equal chance at dialogue.  I generally follow back — now it’s up to you!  I also make an attempt to engage in some way with new followers, especially if I see something in their profile that indicates a common interest. In general, if people connect to me, we stay connected.

I also maintain a Seesmic list of the folks I consider to be thought-leaders from a wide range of disciplines.  Learning from these great thinkers and having access to them is one of the best benefits of Twitter, in my opinion.

I have not used public Twitter lists for two reasons. First, I don’t see an advantage over the lists I’ve already built on Seesmic. Second, I don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings. If I had a list of “B2B thought leaders” and one of my followers wasn’t on it, it could hurt their feelings.  As I said, bottom line this is about respecting people. I know there is a real person behind that little picture and you are amazing in your own way.

What’s next?

This strategy seems to be working for the time being.   Can I maintain relevance with an audience of 10,000 or 20,000?   I’m sure I’ll have to adjust and I’ll probably have a new post to write you at that point!

In the mean time, I would appreciate your feedback.  What issues do you face with your growing list of followers? What ideas do you have that can help me do a better job staying connected with you?

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  • 8K ? That’s pretty big, Mark. Have you used any of the schemes out there to increase your number or has it all been through organic connections?

    I have ca. 600, I think, (can’t double check as the Fail Whale is showing!) but struggle to keep up with everyone there.

    I use Tweetie on my Mac and iPhone to dip in and out of the stream a few times each day to enage, respond and discuss.

    I tried using TweetDeck and Nambu but found they ate more of my time up although it was easier to track more people / lists.

    Has your ROI shifted as you’ve gone from 1000 to, say, 8000?

  • Dia

    Fantastic Mark! I’m so glad to see that your community is growing.

    Keep up the great work. I really enjoy reading your blog as part of my morning ritual. Your posts consistently present great ideas, solid conversation and an interesting personal opinion.

  • Mark

    @Jon. Great questions. No, I have never done any “schemes.” Much of the traffic comes from the blog, which gets hundreds of new visitors each day. Also I seem to get a lot of new followers on #Marketing Mondays and #Follow Fridays and when people put me on Twitter lists. These are hunches. I don’t spend time figuring it out, but it would be an interesting academic exercise.

    If I see intriguing business personalities on a Twitter list with me, or on a follow friday recommendation, I might try to connect with them, which is the extent of any active audience building on my part.

    As far as ROI, the business value I receive from Twitter is incalculable. This week, for example, I out-sourced several customer marketing assignments to trusted partners I met on Twitter or the {grow} community. They did excellent work and freed me up for more valuable billable hours to clients. Several of those current clients came directly through Twitter connections.

    The other obvious value of Twitter is what I learn from all of you. That makes me more valuable to my clients.

    How much of my current business revenue is attributable in some way to the social media network? Almost all of it.

  • Mark

    @Dia. Thank you! That makes my day Dia!

  • I’d like to see your breakdown of a typical day “in the life of” YOU. W/ 8K followers, [grow] w/ responses, your business, 20 something kids, a new wife, and…

    I realize you’ve said time is no longer an excuse for not jumping in full Monty, but, I have an equally demanding load with a blog-being-born.

  • Dan Levine @schoolmarketer

    Mark, this is my biggest question about Twitter — how can one possibly have meaningful engagement with 1000+ followers (unless it’s all you do)? I sometimes feel like Twitter is just dead air. If I’m one among 10k followers, there’s no way that person is reading my content, no matter how smart it might be. My tweets are swallowed up and lost at the next refresh.

    Mark, you are atypical. You are the exception, not the rule. You *do* actually engage, but most do not. A few months back you blogged about the SM “Country Club” — it exists and it’s not getting better.

    Question is — is there anything we can do about it?

  • Mark

    @Jayme I hate talking about myself. I sometimes feel like an ass when I write posts like this. But I also realize a lot of people are struggling with the same issues as me and talking about my approach always seems to elicit positive feedback. I’m not up to focusing on me and my day but i will write a post for you next week about finding time to blog, OK?

  • Mark

    @Dan. Answer: No.

    You can’t do anything about how anybody else shows up on the social web. All you can control is your own behaivors and reactions. If you want things to be different, set an example in your own little part of the world. In the end, that’s all we can do.

    BTW, you DO set an example. Stay positive and keep up the great work you do, Dan!

  • 8,000?! Dude, time to regift 😉 No, it shows that you DO take the time to contribute, to engage and add value.

    It’s up to everyone to decide how and how much to participate. At first, I wondered how I’d follow even 500, now I keep looking and finding new people. But it’s worth it.

  • You’re just that cool 😉

    Congrats, Mark, it’s a huge compliment, you’re very interesting to follow on Twitter!

  • Mark

    @Davina — hilarious. I’ve got a package of followers coming your way. They all want to whiten my teeth.

    @Michelle. Thanks. A cherished compliment coming from the icon of cool herself. : )

  • I have only some 660 followers and I find it rather difficult just to keep up with them. Recently I made an effort to branch out and read the “all tweets” feed instead of a list of those I normally interact with and it has made twitter all the better for me.

    I don’t even know if I want any more followers!

  • Mark

    @Johnny Certainly different strategies work for different needs. Glad you found one that works for you.

    It’s funny. I didn’t make a decision to have more followers, either, so it could happen to you too! You never know what’s in store on the social web. : )

  • Repeating my sentiments from yesterday…you ARE the real deal. Now, as much as that sounds like I’m some self-dubbed appointer of the real deal, my opinion about your awesomeness does matter in some microcosmic way:)

    Here’s why – I am constantly on deadline.

    So, I don’t love Twitter! There, I said it. It sucks my production time and although my staff can pose as me, people have come to know the difference (b/c I’ve tried too many times and learned I can’t get away with it)!

    I DO love Facebook. It accounted for almost 40% of our new direct to consumer business last yr and was our best year in five yrs despite the economy. So, add to how much FB shows demonstrable ROI and Twitter feels like a vacuum, you can guess where I’d rather spend the little spare time I have.

    That is (gosh, sorry this is a novel, what was I saying about spare time again?) until I came across your blog.

    It’s not because I was looking for ways to use Twitter. It was b/c I was looking for some glimmer of hope. A justification of time spent.

    You gave me a reason to stay. You have renewed my hope in Twitter. People like you might be a rare breed…but at least I know you all are out there.

    Chandra Michaels

  • Mark

    @chandra Thanks so much for these truly kind sentiments. Twitter may not be right for everybody and every business but I’m glad you’re giving it a try and hey, we’re connected now, right? And you never know where that will lead!

  • Jim LeBlanc

    Just wanted to encourage you to keep sharing the inside stuff you learn. It does help, Mark. Thanks.

  • Hey Mark, your followers look forward to and learn from the value you add every day. That’s why we follow….. More importantly, you hinted on one key point in my mind and that was the community you’ve build. Twitter is only one (albeit important) part of that community activity you manage. As you’ve said many times, it’s not just about one single online activity that matters, it’s how you blend various technologies and methods to contribute value. You’ve done that well and that’s why it’s worked.

  • When I first joined Twitter, I began following many of the “big guns” in the echo chamber. And I was real pleased when some hi-profile folks followed back. Many who’ve built outstanding online reputations do courtesy follow-backs as a matter of course (Chris Brogan comes to mind.)

    I have no illusions that SM thought leaders hang on my every tweet, and most probably never see any of them. But I guess courtesy followbacks do open the door to DMs, @s and more intimate communication — a good thing in most cases.

    Why don’t I immediately follow those who follow me? It just doesn’t feel “real.” Of my 1,800+ followers, only about 100 make my “closely monitor” group, another 40 or so make my “regional PR pros” group. The rest fall into Tweetdeck’s “All Friends”column, which could be relabeled “seldom seen.”

    I don’t have the time or the motivation to maintain such a large community, but I also don’t have a business that can benefit from it as you do. You strategy, for an entrepreneur, makes perfect sense.

  • Mark

    @ Bill Right on. Social media tactics that support over-arching strategies. But here’s an interesting question for you. If 50-60 legitimate people started following you each day would you block them to keep your list manageable? I see that as the only alternative and I would feel like a pompous ass doing that.

  • Mark

    @Jim + @steve Thanks for your kind comments. I will keep on keepin’ on.

  • If 50-60 folks started following me each day, I’d be hard pressed to keep up. I picked up 500 followers in one week when I landed on a popular blogger’s “people to follow” list. Never did get a chance to review all of them, so most didn’t get a follow-back because they were lost in the avalanche.

    I don’t block anyone, except for the porn spammers and loan sharks. Most of those go away if you ignore them. I do follow anyone who looks interesting, provided their bio doesn’t list them as a “guru” or a “speaker.” We’re all speakers.Sheesh.

    Even those on my “monitor closely” list get limited attention. I see maybe one third of your tweets. And I don’t backtrack. Want my attention? You’ll have to @ me. Or hell, pick up the phone 🙂

    I’m a bit of an odd duct, as I have no business objective with Twitter or any of my SM activities. I’m just a curious person who enjoys meeting other curious people.

  • Lu

    You’re doing a great job, Mark! I really enjoy reading your blog posts and you’re the only blogger whose blog I check daily. I’ve never commented on any posts – I’m one of those people who observe more than they participate, but I still find great value in following you.

    I don’t think you have to worry too much about engaging with all 8,000 followers. You seem to do a great job interacting with those that interact with you, and that’s really enough. There are lots of people like me who are just happy to listen for now – as a fresh marketing graduate with no related work experience and who is new to social media, I find myself more comfortable to just to soak everything in. I’m working in a B2B marketing role and initially was less than excited because I perceived B2B as “boring”. Until I came to your site – B2B can be interesting, it can be fun! At some point I’m sure I’ll start to join in on conversations, but at the moment I’m getting everything I want out of following you.

    It’s amazing to see how your followers have grown since I started following you (I was your 1,000th!) and on Fridays you always come up in #FF. I never do #FF but if I did you would literally be the only one. I truly believe you have so many follower because you DO provide such valuable insights, and your posts are always well thought out, well articulated, and funny. And you just seem like a nice guy.

    Keep up the amazing work!

  • Mark

    @Lu I don’t know if it’s a male thing or a “me” thing but it is difficult to hear so many nice comments sometimes. It’s kind of like whan I had a performance review at work. I would shoot right past the good stuff and concentrate on where I can improve. So I guess I need to mellow out and learn to be more open to all the really sweet things you all have to say to me. It does mean so very much!

    And I am especially PROUD OF YOU for taking the leap and commenting on my blog! I hope we will hear your voice often. Your words had a great impact on me. Isn’t that a powerful thing to do? Thank you!

    Now back to business. B2B marketing is fun! Please let me know if I can ever help you in your career. I often talk to members of the {grow} community about their business issues and I always end up being the one who learns something!

  • Mark,
    Great post! As a relatively new “Social Media Marketer,” and one who just crossed the Twitter 6,000 follower mark, I too am a little confused on how to go forward. Your blog and your other information is VERY helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Chris

    Hi Mark… just found this great post and conversation on your blog.

    One quick question: What would your “engaging” strategy be if you had 80,000 subscribers and 8,000 of them asked you a direct question right here just like I am?

    I am trying to understand if growing big on social media is a boon or a curse because of obvious timesink issues in doing one-on-one conversations with hundreds of people.

    Would you a) still insist on replying to each comment by outsourcing the task to a support team (knowing that it is not a real reply if you don’t reply to it yourself), or b) keep it real by replying yourself, but being selective as it would be impossible for you to reply to 8,000 people on a single blog post?

    Would be really interested in knowing your opinion on this issue. Thanks.


  • Mark W. Schaefer

    @Chris — Since I have written this article, my number of followers has ballooned to 13,300 primarily through the growing popularity of {grow} (I believe). In 2010, I’ve had about 2,000 comments on the blog and I address about all of them. I would never consider out-sourcing the answering of questions, as you mention here. So far it has been manageable.

    Twitter is another matter. On some days I am mentioned in several hundred tweets and there have been examples of things slipping through the cracks. Since I am gaining about 1,000 followers per month, it is quickly becoming unmanageable based on the strategies I now have in place. Maybe it’s time for another blog post!

    Despite this surge, I consider it a blessing, not a curse. It is an honor that people find some value in what I do and I don’t want to take that for granted.

    Thanks for your question. I hope this helps!

  • Chris

    Mark, thanks for the quick response. I am interested in this:

    “Since I am gaining about 1,000 followers per month, it is quickly becoming unmanageable based on the strategies I now have in place. Maybe it’s time for another blog post!”

    I understand that growing popularity cannot be a curse… but once you start having to ignore people due to the large influx of demands on your attention (such as this one), those that are not responded will feel bad and specially when they see you engaging with some but ignoring them.

    That’s the price of being an internet-celeb, people think that you are a snob and don’t care to engage with the common folk. The one thing that got you to the top, engaging with people, will make you seem uncaring for not engaging with all.

    I would really like to know how you would personally cope with it once it gets unmanagable, what your new strategy would be. That may serve as a guide to others who are also facing that problem.

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    I agree with you … mostly. There are plenty of people who are successful who don’t engage. Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Alyssa Milano. If you are in that celebrity status people will follow you any way. Just a nuance.

    I am not a celebrity and I enjoy engaging with people. It’s the best part of the social web. How will i handle the growing crowd? I don’t know. I don’t have a plan. I’ve never had a plan and certainly did not expect to get this many followers so quickly.

    I think you’re right that some leaks will develop and people will think I’m a snob. I suspect this has already happened. I’ve talked to a few others who are in this situation and they don;t have any real good answers either. They admit that they can’t always keep up.

    I wish I could give you a list of next steps but I don’t have one. I’ve been figuring it out as i go along. Just being honest!

  • Chris

    Mark, thanks for your quick responses and honesty… glad that we could talk before u also go out-of-reach 🙂

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    I don’t think I would ever be an unresponsive blogger but i hope you’l;l help keep me on my toes!

  • jizzcock123


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