Buying vs Earning Twitter Followers

Twitter logo as a blue square

I was an early adopter of Twitter, and yet, I’d failed to build a strong following. This was my fault, of course, since I was aware of the growing importance of the Twitter channel for social network engagement.

In fact, some of the people I’d helped to get started in Twitter were already miles ahead of me in building a strong following.

So, yeah, I was starting to feel like I needed to catch up. Fast.

I’d read a few interesting blog posts about purchasing Twitter followers, but I dismissed the concept. I mean, how good could these followers be, if they were willing to be bought and sold?

I was determined to build my followers the old fashion way: earn them. And then…

Then the publicity for my next book started to warm up. The publicist suggested I use Twitter to promote my book. Except my Twitter stream at @MarketingBuddy was mostly about marketing, technology, and new media. I’d tweet about books and ebooks, but from a technology perspective, not to promote my personal book about comic books.

My Twitter account had nothing to do with comic books. My book “Creating Comics from Start to Finish” was supported by a website called Comic Book School. So I created a new Twitter handle called @ComicBookSchool to support the book and the website. Am I a genius or what?

Well, not so genius because I was starting again with 1 follower. (I followed @ComicBookSchool with @MarketingBuddy. Yay.) As much as I wanted to earn my followers, I also needed to get the word out about my new book. This wasn’t just about building a social following around intellectual sharing. This was about selling books.

So I sold out. I found a vendor that sold me 1,000 followers for only $29. Not bad, if you consider the going rates for purchasing a mailing list.

Within weeks, my @ComicBookSchool account was surging with followers. Day by day, I would see my followers leap by a dozen to a hundred. In about a month, I had 1,000+ followers, many of them heavy hitters with tens of thousands of followers.

As a marketer, I wanted to “clean” my list. There were lots of followers, but most were not going to be interested in my book. The first followers to go were the ones tweeting in foreign languages and alphabets. That wiped out about 150 right there.

Then I started to remove the tweets that were just words and characters to form little pictures. Cutesy needed to go. Porn peddlers were flushed too.

All this time, I was monitoring my Google Analytics for my primary websites. Remember, my @MarketingBuddy was driving to this blog and my @ComicBookSchool was driving to Comicbookschool.com. Both had Google Analytics installed and conversion goals identified.

As I was building my @MarketingBuddy Twitter following, I could see the positive impact on my site traffic and conversions. I was encouraged to discover the increase in reader comments as well.

Not surprisingly, the @ComicBookSchool account was doing nothing for ComicBookSchool.com. The legion of people promising “#followback” were not at all interested in comic books or my new book. They were just interested, it seemed, in building a following for themselves.

Building a social following on Twitter seems to be a modern-day sport. It is the ultimate form of game-based marketing, since everyone has access to the same running leader board. Gamification had created an ecosystem of people who followed just to get followers.

Analyzing their tweets, you could see that they weren’t actually having social conversations. They were just exchanging follows. It was like a bunch of people in a room having conversations, with nobody actually listening to each other. They weren’t really talking *with* each other, as much as they were talking *at* each other.

I anticipated that the ROI on this list buy would be fairly low. I figured that if I could beat a 1% response rate, I’d be ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, I don’t think I even got a 1% lift in my qualified website traffic.

Meanwhile, my @MarketingBuddy account continues to grow organically. Best of all, Twitter drives qualified leads, increasing my conversion rate by about 10-30% when I tweet a link to my blog post.

So was it worth $29 to get 1,000 Twitter followers? From an analysis of my actual traffic and conversions goals on my website, absolutely not. But social media is this strange ecosystem, where perception matters as much as reality, maybe it was worth it. Or maybe one day it will be worth it, as it is much easier to earn followers when you already have a lot of followers. Let’s just call this idea “compounding followers,” the way you would compound interest in your bank account.

For $29, I actually got a really good, hands-on education in Twitter list building. I can use this knowledge when I discuss Twitter with my clients at the agency. From that perspective, it was definitely worth $29.

In the end, you’ll need to decide if buying versus earning your followers is right for you. If you apply some basic marketing measurements to analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) then you’ll know if buying will give you a positive ROI.

What do you think? Please post a response here or to my @MarketingBuddy account.

Don’t bother with my @ComicBookSchool account. Nobody is really listening.

Additional reading:

 

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  • http://www.cullmanndesign.com cullmann

    Well informed perspective on Twitter and its effect on website traffic. Nice work @MarketingBuddy

  • http://www.wordspicturesweb.com/ Buddy Scalera

    Of course, you can also look at it as me admitting that I may have wasted 29 bucks. But we’re marketers, so we spin the positive.

  • http://twitter.com/MEAndersFit M.E. Anders

    I was unaware that I could even “buy” followers on Twitter.  For my purposes, earning them is the best way for me. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • http://www.wordspicturesweb.com/ Buddy Scalera

    M.E. – Yeah, social media is a strange new world. You can also buy Facebook followers, if you have a FB fan page. It’s a bit like buying a mailing or emailing list. Very broad, low quality leads. But it gets you started, you know?

    By the way, I really like your website. For people who haven’t checked it out, here it is: http://meandersfit.com

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Buddy

  • Dougjossem

    Just to be clear, you are buying some strange audience for $29.  Twitter does offer advertising solutions for you to buy individual followers and you can use targeting to help you get qualified individuals.  Again, if you go for a cheap solution, remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”.

  • http://www.wordspicturesweb.com/ Buddy Scalera

    Doug – I got what I paid for. The quality of the followers was poor. Nobody was interested in what had to say. So, yeah, I definitely got lousy leads and I am not at all surprised. Next time I may try Twitter directly. Have you tried advertising on Twitter?

  • Shawn

    You should try out the service buy twitter followers from buytwitterbuddies.com