Half A Million Downloads & 500,000 Dilemmas
Auto-Tune Doesn't Kill Records, People Kill Records

Instead Of Building A Fake Following On Twitter, Why Not Build A Fanbase?

Grateful-dead-stickerSome folks advocate building a Twitter following by following others who might follow back. There are even accounts dedicated to giving you more followers if you follow them or retweet their tweet. You may also have been offered the opportunity to acquire large numbers of Twitter followers for a fee.

While such offers and ideas may be tempting if you have few followers and envy those with high numbers, the problems with using such methods to gain followers is that they don't constitute a true fanbase and will undermine productive use of Twitter for music marketing in the long run.

During my previous incarnation in hip hop media I was given the opportunity to guest tweet on a combination of hip hop Twitter accounts that totalled over 25,000 followers. Those tweets rarely resulted in more than a handful of retweets and certainly did not receive anything like the number of retweets that tweets from Hypebot's Twitter account receive with a similar sized following.

Those Twitter accounts with lots of followers all had a similar number of accounts they followed. That means they were either following back everyone who followed them or were following people in hopes they'd follow back and then periodically deleting follows when they were not reciprocated.

Some people feel this is a legitimate way to market music by following potential fans or music writers in hopes of getting some attention. Occasionally it does result in positive returns. For example, I do check out relevant acconts that follow me and have sometimes covered companies that I discovered in that manner.

However, because I use Twitter as a news source and look at every single tweet that appears in my feed, I only follow Twitter accounts that are primarily news accounts. That means that about a third of the people who follow me during any specific period will disappear a few days to a week later. In addition, when I'm followed by a "beautiful woman" who is clearly an operative for a spam account, I block them immediately. That keeps my follow count down but it also keeps it real.

Taking a follow everybody approach means that you'll end up with a bunch of followers who are just there to be followed back and so much noise in your newsfeed that the best you can do is sample it. In those cases most people stop looking at the feed and start just paying attention to whoever sends them a direct message or connects in public. But when you've built a following of people who are just there for their marketing needs, those channels will also gradually become overwhelmed with noise and spam.

A quicker route to a useless, spammy following would be to buy followers thus giving yourself big numbers that will impede your ability to identify and communicate with those who actually care about your music. Either way you've wasted time and/or money to build a hollow empire that won't monetize even if you join one of those tweet for money services that pays you based on clicks. Seriously, if you're not checking your newsfeed because it's an overwhelming stream of shoutouts and marketing tweets, why would those people be checking their streams and clicking on your links?

If you want to use Twitter to help build a fanbase and make business connections, focus on real people who clearly care about what you're doing or who have something to say. If you become incredibly popular, you'll just have to accept that you won't be able to keep up with your newsfeed but at least you'll have reached that state in an honest manner and know you have real support.

Believe me, I've experienced what it means to have tens of thousands of fake followers not respond to my tweets. These days I'm not worried about numbers and I know my followers are a lot more real than the followings of many with higher counts.

So focus on connecting with real people and build a supportive following over the long term rather than going for the numbers and acquiring an imaginary fanbase.


[Grateful Dead graphic created at MAKESTICKERS.COM]

Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) maintains a business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.