Has Twitter Just Become a Popularity Contest?

I’m a fan of Twitter. I’ve been using it for several years. I use it to alert people to new articles and posts. I use it to cull information for upcoming articles. I use it to communicate with people I find interesting. I use it to interact with people I may never meet face-to-face. I use it to randomly post things I encounter in my travels, as well as my daily life.

But in recent months, I’ve noticed that others have started treating Twitter as just another sales tool, and even worse, as a popularity contest.

You know what I’m talking about.

The people who sign up to follow thousands of people and then unsubscribe from them in order to spam them with endless Twitters with their URL or business info. The people who Tweet “can I get to 20,000 followers? Free (insert prize) given away if I reach that amount by the end of month”.  Let me clarify that I’ve got nothing against Twitter contests, but not if it’s for the sole purpose of collecting followers. Take a look at the first page of the profile. It’s easy to tell the ones who are having a contest just to boost their numbers from the ones having a contest amongst various other things they Tweet about.

To me, the whole point of Twitter, when I first signed up, was to interact with people. To communicate and participate in an exchange of ideas. Not as a way to hard sell a product. And certainly not as a popularity contest to see who has the most followers.

Say you get to that magical number of followers…then what? What do you have to offer these people who are signed up to read your Tweets?  Don’t just treat Twitter followers like another notch on your belt. There needs to be a healthy exchange of communication for Twitter to truly serve its purpose.

Lately, though, I’ve seen so many people obsess over things like being “Twitter elite” or having the most followers, and it just feels like these people are more worried about being popular instead of actually having something to share with others.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as flattered as anyone when I get named to a list of people to follow or when I pop up on Twitter ranking list. I even have a Twitter grade button on this website. But I don’t go out of my way to get on these lists. I don’t give away expensive computers or video cameras. I don’t beg for people to sign up to follow me. I’d like to think that the people who follow me do so because they like what I have to say.  Which is the same reason I follow others. Or why I might choose to follow you.

Yes I’m a travel writer so I may Twitter about travel or post links to my articles. Yes, I like web design and social media, so I may Twitter about that. But I also may Tweet silly things about what’s happening in my life at that moment. I may engage in a Twitter conversation with someone about a TV show we both happen to be watching, even though we’re thousands of miles apart. I may even post a link to a cute photo of my dog.

And if you don’t like what I have to say, then feel free to unfollow me or not follow in the first place.

But I will never take for granted those that do choose to follow me. I will never treat them like just another notch in my Twitter belt. Another number in the popularity charts.

And to those that do choose to collect followers in a sole effort to become number one on these popularity lists, I’d really like you to ask yourself why it matters that you have so many people following you? Ask yourself what are you really offering these people in return for them taking the time out to read what you have to say?  Does the quantity of your followers really matter more than the quality of the experience of being on Twitter?

And if this post strikes a nerve with you, ask yourself why it does.

I know a lot of the readers of this blog also use Twitter, so I’m curious what you all think about this. Do you care about being popular on Twitter? Does it bother you when you see some people use things like contests just to get people to follow them? Do you care if you’re just another number to someone you’re following, instead of a real person with real thoughts and opinions to share? Does it matter that some people are only on Twitter to sell their product?

Sound off in the comments. I really would like to know what you think.

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Comments: 2

  1. Jules April 28, 2009 at 3:07 am

    You can blame Good Morning America for the popularity contest.

  2. Great way to explain the proper use of Twitter, Michelle! When the Coalition started using Twitter a few months ago, we realized immediately what an awesome relationship-building tool it is. Sure, we love it when we are recognized for our efforts on it, but even more, we’ve loved being able to personally connect with so many of our volunteers, donors and supporters. That has been, by far, the greatest reward we’ve received from Twitter.

    http://twitter.com/cfl_homeless