I was at dinner last week with a friend of mine before the Sarah Mclachlan concert and the conversation turned to Twitter.  He asked me how many followers I had and much to his surprise I told him I didn’t know, that it didn’t really matter to me.  My twitter clients (primarily TweetDeck) don’t readily show how many followers I have and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to me. If my goal was to simply increase followers I could easily have two to three times as many as I do.  I typically get dozens of new followers per week but a funny thing happens when I don’t immediately follow them back: they stop following me. (This tells your something about their motivation to follow me.)

My goal for my @markgr Twitter account is to talk with other knowledgeable folks about my professional interests. If someone is not going at add significant value, I am not going to follow them back.  Depending on several factors, if I don’t follow them back I may add them to one of my lists which helps me better manage my time on Twitter.

Zeldman did a great job in summing this up last year in his blog post Stop chasing followers:

The internet is not a numbers game. It’s about dialog, persuasion, and influence.

As I work with colleges on there social media strategy, metrics and ROI are always a part of the conversation.  IMHO – you should not put too much emphasis on increasing the number of followers or fans.  That should not be a high-level priority. Yes, there is a correlation, but your focus should be on dialog and engagement that will lead to solving business problems.  You need to connect social media metrics directly to business metrics.

So let me ask you. What’s your take on the importance on the number of Twitter followers, both for you personal accounts and your higher ed accounts?

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Music note: Yes, the title of this post comes from the Genesis song.  While I’m not a huge fan of the 80’s version of Genesis, the early 70’s version was fantastic.  Seeing “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” in 1974 makes my “Top 10 Concerts of All Time” list.