It can be exciting when a stranger follows you on Twitter, especially when you’re new to the game. But what will this user’s small vote of confidence really be worth to you? Chances are that if you’re new to Twitter, you won’t have a clue. But even veteran tweeters may have a thing or two to learn here.
Realize that when I mention “worth” and “value” I’m not talking about direct fiscal value. What I am talking about is their social worth, or how much their allegiance is going to benefit you in the long run.
Below are several key indicators of how much a follower will be worth to you:
How many followers they have
Take a look at the number of followers the user has, because it can tell you a lot about them. Of course, someone with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers has a great deal of influence on Twitter. This means that any interactions they’d have with you would potentially be seen by a huge volume of people, which is excellent (but depends on whether or not they make a habit of personal interactions).
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But just because someone has 120,000 followers doesn’t mean they’re all real. It’s not difficult to purchase fake followers, and unfortunately even some of the biggest names on Twitter (such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and even Barack Obama) have thousands of them. Luckily there are now tools that will calculate an allegedly accurate percentage of any given Twitter user’s fake and inactive followers, such as Status People’s Fake Follower Check (seen above).
Also peek at the number of people they follow, and consider the ratio between these numbers. Occasionally you’ll get people who lure you into following them by first following you (but proceed to un-follow you days later, quietly leaving you with no returned benefit in the end). It’s in your best interest to check up on recent followers to ensure that they haven’t squandered your good faith.
How often they mention, retweet and tweet directly
Do yourself a favor and scroll down a bit when you first visit a new follower’s page. Taking a quick inventory of how frequently this user has included someone else’s Twitter handle in their own tweets will give you an idea of how likely they are to share your posts and interact with you on a personal basis.
Retweets are another big thing to look for. It’s a nice perk when you stumble across someone who retweets valuable content regularly, so scan their page to see how often they do so.
How often they tweet and what they tweet about
If someone has fewer tweets than followers, then they’re probably not worth your time. This is also generally a dead giveaway that the user is a spam account (especially if they have less than 50 tweets under their belt), or else they’re so saturated with traffic that they’ll never bother with personal interactions.
(As seen above, you can see timestamps on the end of tweets that will indicate how often a user is tweeting.)
Conversely, if the user you’re looking at has an obnoxious number of tweets and it’s evident on their page, then give them a second thought before following. Below is a great example of obnoxious, spammy tweeting.
Also remember that it’s not just numbers that are important. The contents of their tweets matter in particular, and it’s smart to skim through their feed to see what they have to say (and if it’s of any value to you).
Spam users are easy to pick out, as they’ll generally write a lot of identical tweets with very few interactions with other users. A valuable user is going to have a wide variety of tweets directed at different people, indicating daily conversation with other users.
Why it matters
So what should we make of all of this? They’ve already boosted your follower count, so why would their “social worth” even matter?
It matters for a few reasons. First, it’s a common phenomenon that many folks are only going to keep following if you reciprocate with a follow-back. But you’ll only want to follow back if they’re both a legitimate account and a worthwhile follower.
Sure, big numbers look good on your Twitter profile when someone is sizing you up. But when somebody decides to investigate your followers to authenticate your social influence, you may regret it if you haven’t been selective enough to weed out the spam users.
The biggest point to take away is that you’ll want active, outgoing, valuable people as followers in order to maximize your return on social investment. Don’t follow back blindly, and build a following of like-minded Twitter users who will consistently make you look better.