Jesse Stanchak at Smartblog on Social Media recently posted a blog entry giving advice on how to retain followers on social media (“How you’re secretly driving away your followers — and what you can do to stop it”).
While it’s certainly important to make sure your messages suit the medium they’re using, I have two points of disagreement with this advice:
1) Self-Censorship Reduces Authenticity (Authenticity is the Currency of Social Media)
As I noted in the comments, the problem with logic like this is that it’s operating under the assumption that bigger is better. It’s the sort of logic that has made network TV unwatchable by aiming for the “least objectionable program” (LOP) standard developed in the 1960s for television audiences. While that’s okay for some people for whom that is their appeal (say a milquetoast like Ryan Seacrest) but for the vast majority that’s not how social media operates most effectively.
Virtually every social media expert agrees that a small number of active followers is far better than a large group of apathetic followers. When you start censoring yourself to retain followers, you increase the liklihood that the followership you’re developing is less engaged and thusly less valuable in terms of taking action on your behalf when you need it.
Stanchak writes “But before you hit send on that update, think about how it looks to someone who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your brand. Does that update convey you are? If that communication was your one shot at connecting with someone, would they look at what you’re about to send and want to know more?”
The odds that someone will not follow you because they see a status update from you that they don’t like or understand are far less likely than the odds that a niche post you make will show up in the search stream of someone who actually is interested in you. I’d rather connect with people looking for my content than people who happen across it by chance.
2) Users Have Plenty of Tools to Increase Relevance
If someone unfollows me because I post a Foursquare update I think is important, I don’t care because that means that they’re not interested in the same things I am (so they shouldn’t be following me). I don’t need the eyeballs of people who are that fickle. The same goes for people who unfollow me if I post “too many” updates by live-tweeting insight from a speaker I’m listening to or an event I’m attending.
There are plenty of tools available for desktops and mobile devices to allow users to shape their Internet experience:
- Mute: Most Twitter clients, for example, offer a “mute” feature that will turn off and on updates from a particular user for a defined period of time. If I’m “flooding” your Twitter Stream with content you’re not interested in, you can mute me until a later date when I’m not.
- Search/Lists: Social media tools also offer a variety of search and listing tools that help manage the firehose of data directed at us each time we log in. Not all of us are interested in all topics/people all the time, and our ability to sort and organize this content improves every day (and soon it will likely filter automatically like Google search results).
- Algorithms: When you censor yourself and stick to a narrow range of discussion, you’re decreasing the liklihood that you’ll post content or words that show up when people are searching.
Be authentic. Be social. Be not afraid of the unfollow.