For many years, I cared quite a bit about how many followers I had on Twitter. I wanted to get attention, so I would routinely @ more popular people and used hashtags to try to get into more people’s search results. I wanted every tweet to be pithy, snarky, and always in line what what my “tribe” believed.
I also cared a lot about metrics. I knew how many followers I had and would get excited when that number went up, but when it went down I wondered who had left and what tweet made them leave. Obviously if I had this info, then I’d be able to tweet better and get even more followers, right?
About a year ago a switch flipped in my head and I asked myself, “why do I care about Twitter clout?” As it turned out, I had no idea. Here’s a couple thoughts I’ve had since then:
- I’m not getting anything out of a higher follower count. Truly, I won’t get paid more or feel more creatively fulfilled. Twitter may like that I’m using their platform more to engage with people, but that helps their DAU stat, it doesn’t help me.
- I think I’m a bad tweeter. I don’t do particularly hot takes, and it’s really unnatural for me to tear down others for the retweets. I was never going to have a million followers from tweeting well, so why put so much effort and thought into it?
- Similarly, the only times I’ve had notable upticks in followers has been when I do something on this blog or my YouTube channel that people like a lot. Good tweets never earned me followers, good work did, though. Maybe I should just focus on doing the best work I can…
- Speaking of, my Twitter following is the smallest of all of my output destinations. This blog has more RSS subscribers, my YouTube channel has more subs, and I never really talk about it, but Quick BIN Lookup gets more traffic and earns more money than anything else I do online. Focusing on those is more fulfilling and a better use of my time.
- Maybe ironically, Twitter is also a god-awful place to promote my work, so more followers doesn’t really move the needle for my actual projects. Compared to every other medium, my blog posts and videos routinely get less engagement from tweets. If I post something once to Twitter, 3 times with a couple “in case you missed it” tweets, or not at all, my actual traffic was basically the same. I’ve heard CGP Gray say the same thing, so it doesn’t even seem like having a massive following on Twitter would improve this much.
- Not tracking follower counts means I don’t get stressed when I open the app and that followers number goes down a little bit. Up, down, who knows, I’m just here to see what people are talking about. Maybe I’ll add my two cents, or maybe I won’t, we’ll see.
Ultimately, what this change in priority has done for me is make Twitter a more enjoyable place to be. I talk with people I know and like, I sometimes get to meet new people who are great as well, and using the app is more of a positive experience day-to-day. I’m less compelled to subtweet people or sarcastically quote tweet someone with a bad take as well. I still do sometimes, but I do because it’s actually bothering me, not because I hope my tweet will go viral.
Maybe this doesn’t ring true for everyone, and maybe I’m privileged to not have to care about follower counts on social media, but I can say for me that the day I stopped caring about how “successful” I was on Twitter was the day that Twitter became a more enjoyable place for me to spend time. It’s about talking about hobbies I love (tech, movies, games, even a smidge of politics) with people I like talking with, not building social clout, and as the G-Man says in Half Life 2, that made “all the difference in the world.”