In this age of social media, when there’s such an emphasis on getting more fans, followers, and subscribers, it’s easy to feel a bit anxious about increasing your Twitter following.

But are large numbers of followers what you should really be concerned with?

What it really comes down to is the ancient and alluring alliteration — quality versus quantity. That’s why we took the debate to our managing editor, Martin Lieberman, and our senior content developer, Dave Charest.

Are 1,000 followers better than 100 followers no matter what? Why or why not?

DaveIt’s less about numbers and more about the amount of influence you have over those followers. That said, your number of followers are still important for a number of reasons. *laughs*

One of the ways the numbers play a role is in public perception — say you go to someone’s Twitter account and see that she’s following nine people and has 900 followers. You may think to yourself “Hey, others must find value in her tweets, maybe I should follow her too!”

But what if she was following 900 people and had only 9 followers? Doesn’t that change your perception a bit?  You may think “Why would I want to follow this person if no one else is?”

Martin:  I think there are advantages to both quantity and quality. The more people who follow you, the more people there are to hear your message. But I’d rather have 100 loyal advocates, people who speak positively on my behalf and promote me to their own followers, than 1,000 followers who are more casual and don’t really pay attention.

Can it ever be a disadvantage to have more followers?

Dave:  If you’re finding it difficult to respond to tweets directed at you because you have a large number of followers, it may mean you need to figure out a better way to scale your interactions… but that’s operational and not really a disadvantage. You should be grateful and use that network for good.

MartinI really don’t see how it could ever be a disadvantage. What could be bad about having more people who want to hear what you have to say and learn more about you?

Does having more followers mean that you should post more?

DaveIt’s important to have a regular posting schedule of at least three times a day to remain active. It’s perhaps even more important to have a regular engagement schedule where you check in and handle any replies or questions from your followers.

MartinI’d say that it depends on what “more” is, versus what you’re currently doing. Some might say that having more followers is kind of a mixed blessing, because the more followers you have, the more you have to work to keep them interested. But I think it comes down to this: You should be active on Twitter anyway, so people feel like you’re participating, and it’s worth it to follow you. Keep your increasing number of followers interested by posting on a regular basis and interacting with the people who tweet “at” you.

Do you recommend that a business or organization with 100,000 followers maintain the same conversational tone as when it had only 100 followers, or is there a necessary shift?

DaveThere’s probably going to be a shift in the way you manage things, just make sure that this evolution is authentic.

Martin:  No, you absolutely have to keep the same tone. A big reason why many people are following you is probably because of the way you’re using Twitter. They like your “voice” as is, and wouldn’t want it to change.

What determines quality followers? What can a business to do to attract these followers?

DaveYou determine quality followers. Businesses need to have social goals. Set up ways to measure what success looks like. Maybe you’re trying to expand your network or find more connections within your field. You may – possibly – even be hoping to reach new customers. The bottom line is that you have to determine your focus and how you can offer value to those contacts. At the end of the day, it’s this value that will help you attract more quality followers.

MartinAs always, it comes down to content. If you’re providing information that contains a benefit to your followers, or is entertaining, and isn’t just self-promotional, then it’ll be very easy for those followers to advocate for you through retweets and other mentions. Also, you can interact with as many of your followers as possible: Retweet their tweets (as appropriate), thank them for retweeting yours, acknowledge it when they mention you, etc.

When people know that a business or organization is listening, they’ll be more likely to mention them in their own tweets. And when someone mentions you in a tweet, then that person’s followers can see your handle. It’s like a quick, free advertisement to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people you don’t even know — at least not yet. The more you engage with people on Twitter, the less you speak at them. This leads to more quality followers.

Where do you side on this issue? Is quantity or quality of followers more important? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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