This post is a Social Media word of warning. If you see any Twitter or Social Media service that claims it will get you hundreds or thousands of new followers or friends in hours…STAY AWAY! I have written about this before in tweets and articles that the only way you should grow your following is by your content alone. People should want to follow you because of what you have to say, what you talk about, your humor (or lack there of), your interests, your ideas, your thoughts, etc.
It should NOT be some sort of automated, pyramid-scheme system where you sign in and click a button and away you go with hundreds of “following” notifications popping into your email box. It’s pretty easy to identify the Twitterers who have done this automated method. They have 10,000 followers but they are also following 10,000 people and they have 10 tweets and have been on twitter for 2 days. There is no humanly way possible to generate that many followers, unless you are someone like @Oprah who had 35,000 followers just minutes after her first tweet. As of this writing, she has 1,324,028 followers, is following 14 (obviously she doesn’t auto follow) and has only 46 updates.
Personally, I screen every follower I get to see if I want to follow them back. It’s a bit of a time consuming process, but helps control the content feed that I get coming in through Twitter.
Today, I saw a tweet from a friend (who works in the media) that simply stated “Join our follower club #FlockToMe and get thousands of new followers for free! http://bit.ly/z1TfK”. I sent him a DM (Direct Message) stating “Hmmm, not sure about the FlockToMe concept. I think following should be organic, no? Otherwise a bit spammy?” Well, he was a pretty trusted source of mine so I figured I would check it out.
The FlockToMe homepage looks like this:
It’s all very Web 2.0 and with nice blue colors like Twitter. You can now see my Twitter profile image on their homepage. Why? Because I wanted to see what it was all about.
What you see on the FlockToMe home page is all that you see on the site with the exception of the pages below. There is no area for FAQs, blog, contact section or documentation to understand how the process works. This should have been a bit warning bell for me. But when you click on the Get Started button, it’s almost too late. The next screen you get is the Twitter Authorization Screen (on Twitter’s site). On this screen, you are asked to authorize FlockToMe to access (access & update) to your Twitter account.
Basically, this means that FlockToMe can do anything with your account (within reason…sort of). After that, you are presented with another screen which allows you to choose 3 tags that describe you (I chose #cloudcomputing, #tech and #dad for mine). You put in your age, gender and zip code (not sure what those are for, especially since there isn’t any documentation about it on the site).
Once you click “Join the flock!” everything gets kicked into action. BUT WAIT, conveniently placed below that button in lighter grey text is the “SPAM” message that is sent out from your Twitter account: “Join our follower club #FlockToMe and get thousands of new followers for free! http://bit.ly/11XES3”. Note that the Bit.ly link that is provided is different than the one my friend tweeted out. It’s probably a way to track how many people clicked on it. 50 clicked on his link and 30 on mine (I deleted the tweet with that link though.)
Once you fill out the form and click the Join button, you get a crazy page that shows you all of the people who have automagically started following you (of course, you are now automagically following THEM in return). Unfortunately, I did not get a screenshot of that (a movie would have been better) as the list started scrolling. I think I hit about 96 new followers before I started to try to turn off the flood.
As I looked through those people who were starting to follow me, I noticed that none of their keywords or tags matched mine. Hmmm. I thought the service said that I would “get followers with similar interests.” So it seemed like it was just a random following and/or some lazy programming.
Turning it off
Well, I had no clue how to quickly turn off the deluge of followers coming in, so the first thing that I did was to go to Twitter and de-authorize FlockToMe. The “follow” emails and the website streaming update continued to keep going for many minutes after I had done that (in fact, almost 1 hour later, I’m still getting straggling “new follower” emails, but that is probably because the service I use – Topify – sends those with lower priority. Topify is GREAT by the way!)
Then I went back to the FlockToMe “dashboard” and saw the link “want out? – aak! i am overwhelmed, please remove my ## followers”. Basically, from my understanding, this is a way to reverse what you just went through.
From the screenshot above, it looks like mine was successfully reversed.
How to do it right
So how is the correct way to get followers. Quick answer? Have something good and intelligent to say; have a product that people talk about; be unique or different; help people out.
Last night, I hosted a meetup in San Francisco called StartUp SF. I was lucky enough to get Loic Le Meur of Seemic as a guest speaker. He gave a great speech about “Building A Product With Your Community”. The slides and audio of Loic’s speech are here. One of the things that Loic said that I’m paraphrasing here is that you can’t make a following happen magically. You have to do something qualitative about it. (He talked about a band who wanted him to get him followers, he simply said NO.)
That is to say, these magic services that will get you thousands of new followers do so at a price…TO YOU! You want a selective community of INTERESTED people following you, not a random bunch of people who have absolutely nothing in common. By doing that, you dilute your message and your own brand. Luckily, FlockToMe allowed for a way to undo my “personal brand damage” and reverse the effects. Other services might not be so nice.
HTD Says: When it comes to building your following on Social Media, do it the ol’ fashioned way…with blood, sweat and tears. Don’t shortcut it and use a service. Keep you reputation intact by writing intelligently and building YOUR community by hand, YOURSELF!