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I've always been somewhat discriminating about who I follow on Twitter, and even more so for my friends on Facebook. I don't like obvious advertisers and I actively block bots and other automatic scripts -- "automatic content" is the bane of the Internet today, and honestly the bane of creativity, always.
But I find myself envying the people with 70,000+ followers. I wonder if 70,000 completely indiscriminate followers gets you anything. Sure, we're in the age of millions of followers or friends on Facebook, especially for celebrities and TV shows so a mere five figures seems almost trivial, but it's still a lot of people.
There is any easy way to get those followers on Twitter and that's to follow EVERYONE back. I think it's a stupid idea. After all, if everyone follows everyone back, then no one is listening to anyone. (See my blog The noise of 20,000+ Twitter Followers). But..
Numbers are numbers in the marketing game. And, I happen to have a completely unfocused, broad appeal website that I've been running for 11 years -- Jokeindex.com. It started in the era when people loved forwarding jokes to everyone in their email address book. One day I noticed I had something like 2,000 jokes in my joke folder, so I dumped them into a database and set up a website.
Jokes aren't what they once were online, but I still get a random 15-20,000 people visiting the site every month. The question is, can following everyone who wants be be followed on Twitter make that number go up?
The answer remains to be seen -- but I set up @jokeindex on twitter Friday morning and started following the #Teamfollowback and #ifollowback tags. I posted a few #teamfollowback tags myself, and I seem to be picking up about 100 followers a day so far. Whether that grows faster as my followers grow, again, remains to be seen.
In one sense, I hope the experiment fails miserably -- I don't want to believe that completely random traffic is useful. I like to think that understanding your audience and catering to them is more valuable than just whoring yourself out to all comers.
But then, there's a lot of stuff I'd rather not believe about the world that turns out that we're an easily manipulated, unsophisticated lot.
Check back in a couple months, and I'll post a link to a blog I'm sure to write after I get really tired of the #followback crowd...
Note: Read the follow up: News from the Twitter Follow Campaign Trail