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Well, as you all know who read this blog, I am Cluetrainian. This means I put more trust in the value and impact of the online influencer long tail than I do in the impact of the couple-dozen top-influencers that most social media consultants and digital PR teams recommend. This is the Internet, an efficient platform allowing easy access to what’s called the network effect: the value of your social network is dependent on the number of others using it.  While it may well be important to have the top-100  influencers on any particular topic following you on Twitter or Facebook, it is not essential.  You can make up for it by attracting, retaining, and activating everyone else as well. This means I believe that anyone who shares her time, talent, and experience online is an important online influencer and potential brand ambassador for my clients.

How do you get lots and lots of people to follow your brand? Don’t know where to start?  Firstly, make sure you share your Twitter and Facebook information everywhere your brand exists in the real world or in cyberia. You could spend months and months developing these lists and groups of followers, encouraging folks to RT your content and so forth.

Of course, you can always buy loads and loads of Twitter followers, popping you from your current 2,500 to 25,000 within a month. Yes, I said it. You can buy tens and hundreds of thousands of followers both on Twitter and on Facebook. But, I will tell you now that the followers are generally spammy, poorly-targeted, and they often bail the moment they decide you’re unworthy.

I know for a fact that there’s a guy in Brazil who will hook you up with thousands of Brazilian tweeters almost immediately for a fee. There are dozens of folks who do it and you just need to do a little searching on Google to find them all. That’s somewhere to start. Once you’ve bought your online friends — lots and lots of them — you have to deliver the je ne sais quois to keep them.

Mind you, just because you’re cheating with the acquisition doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.  There’s still a lot of hard work. If you suck, are salesy, don’t tweet or post very often, are selfish, don’t play games or bait conversation, don’t give til it hurts — all the hard work you should have been doing with your small cadre of top-influencers — even all of these thousands of purchased followers will start unfollowing you almost immediately.

You had them until you lost them.

It is sort of like being the opening act to U2: you might have 30,000 folks who didn’t come to see you who are there to see Bono, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever buy your album. There’s every reason they should but you really could make a mess of it — if they don’t, it is your fault as they were your customers to lose. Same thing with buying followers and likes. If the targeting is completely off, if you suck as a host, or if you’re boring or rude, they’re gone — at least the real ones are.

Stated simply, the state of the art in social media is still bespoke, based on old models of public relations where each particular PR agent has a Rolodex and that card represents years and years of personal relationships. Very precious and personal connections, formed and tempered over time, built on trust.

And, this very same framework has been mapped directly into social media where many agencies and companies spend all of their time taking their current 25 mainstream media contacts and 25 social media contacts to dinners at Morton’s. There’s not enough budget or time to prospect much further or deeper than that.

Which is a sincere pity.

How can one take an old PR model that only concerns itself with an easy-to-manage elite core of gate-keeping journalists, publishers, and broadcasters and map that onto a new media model? A model that could potentially include anyone and everyone who should decide to commit to starting blogging. Producing content for online consumption, resulting in becoming an online influencer. It’s the circle of success.

In this theory of everyone, in this theory of long-tail digital PR outreach and engagement, it is essential to find viable ways of 1) discovering everyone — because there are potentially a lot of people that show up in your net when you’re being inclusive and indiscriminate 2) keeping up — because the amount of engagement explodes when you go from a few thousand to tens-of-thousands, be it curating comments, unfollowing and blocking spammers, checking your direct message inbox for relevant and timely requests or queries, and judiciously checking for retweets, @replies, and mentions and engaging them appropriately and in a timely manner.

Finally, don’t forget to thank everyone online who helps you no matter how “small” because if you choose to use a theory of everyone in your social media strategy, you can’t only be polite, kind, generous, and patient to the celebrities, you need to be kind and responsive to everyone, all the time.

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

15 replies to this post
  1. [...] Target Twitter audiences of every size with a theory of everyone Here's my latest blog post on the Biznology blog about the importance of numbers as well as targeting when it comes to building social media followers on online social networks. [...]

  2. Good post Chris. Practicing the social media fundamentals that you articulate well is essential to leveraging the longtail potential of online marketing. I’m a little more weary of buying twitter lists because so many of the tweeps on those lists can be inactive. There was a good piece on npr on this.

    • Thank you, David. I need to write an article about how impressed clients and their boards and bosses are with large numbers no matter what you say. You really need to meet them half way and give clients the gifts they want as well as what you really believe are effective and are good practices.

      With regards to inactive tweeters… it is like spreading seed… most seeds that are spread don’t result in fruitful plants but we have learned from affiliate advertising and from direct mail and from advertising that it is a theory of numbers and percentages and conversations and the more seed that’s on the ground the more likely you might very well find some very important new brand ambassadors that are, right now, outside your current sphere of influence.

      Does that make sense?

  3. Good point about buying followers. If you fill your follower list with paid followers you’ll never get any good responses to your Tweets, and it will be just junk traffic at best.

  4. I would suggest that you think quality over quantity when it comes to followers & engaging over broadcasting when it comes to what you tweet. Does it matter if you have a huge amount of followers if none of them would do business with you?

    • I completely disagree. There’s something powerful about the network effect of large numbers.

      Inclusiveness rewards in not simply the most obvious ways but there are many secondary and tertiary effects of having a strong network. The network effect of large networks is profound and insidious and have effects on search, on perception of impact and importance, and the real effect of being perceived as ubiquitous is obvious.

      Strangely, folks don’t seem to make the connection between Google Ads and general online advertising expectations of conversion and how that model surely maps perfectly when it comes to the ratio of potential reach and touch and how it results in conversion and sales.

      Basically, the more people you touch, the greater the number that can and will be converted.

        • Folks who don’t understand the network effect always say things like “Does it matter if you have a huge amount of followers if none of them would do business with you?” The answer is yes, because social media is a lot more like non-profit fundraising — in social media you need to touch people 7 times and then, when their stars align, they will buy. Social is hearts and minds warfare.

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