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12/14/2009 Twitter Ponzi

I started using the site Twunfollow a few months back and since then I've seen evidence of what I call Ponzi schemes on Twitter.

Twunfollow sends you notices via e-mail any time anyone unfollows you on Twitter. I thought this would be a good listening tool to make sure I wasn't boring or driving off people I want to communicate with.

What I found instead showed that many, a majority actually, of my new followers unfollowed me in a day or two, especially if I didn't follow them back! Not that I mind that much, but these people didn't really care what I had to say at all.  Their choice. What I do mind is that there seems to be some type of unspoken pact of "you follow me, I'll follow you" going on.

And to be honest, I felt that way when I started with Twitter as well, especially with people in my own field. But the people following and unfollowing have nothing to do with my field and, in many instances, already have upwards of 20,000 followers.

I've realized that the name of this game is building huge Twitter followings. And that wouldn't bother me except for the fact that in this early stage of social media, following size is one of the key measures of influence. Just try any of free measurement tools; most say the same thing.

If we use followers to identify key influencers, the whole system breaks down. What's worse, I see many brands following the same Ponzi scheme, trying to grow their Facebook fans to 1,000 or 10,000 by screaming out "Join Us and Raise Our Numbers." What they find is that many people are not really their fans at all and don't really care about the brand.

If you're using social media to talk to people who don't care about you, you should either stop or buy television advertising.

I'm not sure what to do about the Twitter Ponzis. But they make the metric of followers and fans into a complete joke.


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