February 04, 2010 | Spencer Kollas
By Spencer Kollas, Director of Delivery Services
Every morning when I wake up, I have a couple of emails from Twitter telling me that “Joe Somebody” has decided to follow me. Most of the time, I then click through to see what that particular person is really all about. Are they someone who I would like to follow? Do they have information that would be relevant to me or my role at StrongMail?
Many times they are people who I want to follow, but just as often they are simply trying to tell me how to get more Twitter followers, or sell me real estate, or anything else. If they are interesting, I will usually follow back, but for those who aren’t relevant to me, what are my choices? This is where I struggle.
If I look at it from a marketer's standpoint, the more people that follow you the better. As most marketers would agree, there are always a percentage of people who might not seem like a good fit right now but things could change and they could be a client in the future. It is all about reach right?
Another option is to block the seemingly irrelevant follower from seeing any more of your content. The final option is to simply do nothing, which could result in the person eventually un-following you once they realize you are not going to follow them back and increase their list of followers, and reach.
So let’s look at this from a couple different points of view - first from a marketer’s standpoint, and then from an overall social media ecosystem point of view.
Marketing 101 would dictate that the larger your list, the better—this means you are reaching more people and potentially selling more of your product. After a number of years, and a lot of arguing back and forth, many online marketing experts have realized that this is not true when it comes to email. With email it is all about the quality of your list, not the quantity. By focusing on the quality of your email list rather than the quantity, you are less likely to have a high complaint and unknown user rates, which are the two biggest factors that ISPs consider when filtering email.
In the early days of email marketing, many marketers assumed they could just adopt the philosophies of direct mail, and it seems like a similar thing is happening here with email best practices (e.g. list quality) getting pushed on social marketing. However, in the world of social media marketing, is there really any negative marketing impact from having some random person following me and receiving my message? Instead, I only see a positive impact from being able to reach more people and potentially sell more products. Of course, this is only true if the random followers aren't all obvious spammers and also happen to make up the majority of your list.
Now if we look at this issue of follower list quality from the social networks side, we might get a different perspective. I wouldn't be surprised if social networks would rather you block any user that is not a true fit from following you, even if you aren’t following them. From a capacity perspective, this would help users from seeing the dreaded Fail Whale, as the fewer followers you have, the fewer number of profiles the networks need to send updates to.
So as a good marketing citizen, what should you do? What are the best practices that you should be following when it comes to social media marketing? I believe that there can be a happy medium between what marketers want and what social networks can support. I believe that as a good marketer, you should accept those followers who are not overtly spammers or simply trying to get more followers. If a follower's past postings are all about getting more followers, than it's pretty safe to assume that they are not interested in your content – instead, they are most likely trying to prove to potential customers that they have a lot of followers and therefore must know what they are taking about.
The social media marketing space is definitely still evolving, and that means we have the opportunity to look at every aspect of it and determine for the best way to leverage this dynamic medium. As we start to analyze items such as list hygiene, we as an industry can began to build best practices for all to follow.
So please let me know your thoughts and comments.