THE CURRENT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN includes musings by experts about the number of "real" followers amassed by each candidate. It's a common question because of the scores of spambots that attach themselves to high profile people.
A similar question ebbs and flows through Irish Twitter space whenever people start looking at their numbers. But as experts will tell you, if you merely look at raw numbers, you're counting, not measuring. And there's another dimension worth considering as well.
I've been around Twitter longer than most people in Ireland (since late 2006) because I work at the first academic institution in Ireland to offer third level credit for joining and connecting on Twitter. I've seen modern social networks coalesce and deteriorate. Because I've taken a stance on different issues that upset a few people, they've voted with their "block" buttons and they don't read what I say on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube or Flickr. I accept their judgment because they got my message.
There's another message worth considering when bringing friends and families onto electronic social networks and that concerns how to appreciate who has influence. In The Rise of Digital Influence, the Altimeter Group mentions key functional elements of how to achieve meaningful online impact. I'm using a screenshot from the report about the three pillars of influence in this blog post. The full report links together a logical explanation of the key factors behind one's online footprint--it's more than mere followers. [Download The Rise of Digital Influence]
I believe it's also important to explain the underside of social networking to people who haven't seen how you can buy followers, upvotes, listens, views, retweets, and hashtag acclaim. I've received queries about my rate card and discovered many of the agencies just want a tweet to a link they nominate. If I didn't care about the noise I could generate, I could earn a minimum of $50 a week for my time on Twitter. Add to that the same fee for watching YouTube videos, leaving comments on Trip Advisor or doing a simple thing like snapping a photo of a meal at a restaurant and gushing about the quality of the food. These kinds of things have happened for years--well before the interent pushed messages deep into the hands of people. These tactics cross ethical lines but they form part of the Wild West of the Web.
Just so it's clear--I know it's possible for a campaign team to pay for a candidate to get more followers. I've seen millions--millions--of ways a well-intentioned friend (or link-baiting writer) can buy Twitter followers for someone else, never telling the recipient and never using a Twitter password. Doing these things gets influence wrong. Accusing a credible personality with a known standing of doing these things gets influence doubly wrong.
Bernie Goldbach curates links on influence.
Ann Donnelly -- "The Ugly Side of Social Media" on the e-business blog, April 12, 2012.
Previously: The Value of a Single Tweet, April 9, 2012.
Pat Phelan -- "When Twitter Goes Ugly", April 8, 2012.