Social Networking: Is It Better To Follow or Be Followed?

Posted on 12 Nov ’12

Is It Better To Follow or Be Followed – I don’t mean in real life, but your social networking life.

Personally, I believe you have much more power if you are the follower rather than the followed in a social context.

The Beginning…

Humans are social creatures. Throughout history and even our e-history (or online history), there have been communities and groups forming who have common interests. With the advent of social networks, this has skyrocketed the level of social interaction online. You can say what you want, when you want, and listen to whoever you want – its a level of freedom, of free speech, that we seldom strive to achieve in real life.

Funnily enough most people are themselves in the social networking context, but there’s always one , no, many who are social behemoths online more so than in real life. In some cases completely different personas. So why the fascination with online reputation, influencing, and social status – does real life not suffice anymore? maybe not. Social networking has provided a new level of celebrity.

Rather than look at the pro’s and con’s of being on social networks, I want to talk about one positive aspect of it – the ability for anyone to broadcast and the ability to listen, and follow anyone. Twitter has quite rightly become my favorite platform, although I do also use Facebook, Linked In, Google+, and Foursquare among others. Specifically to understand from the context of Twitter, if it is better to follow or be followed in the social networking context.

Love the concept but hate the terminology…

Twitter has two key roles for everyone, a broadcaster and a follower. If you are a broadcaster that has a lot of followers, you are popular, if they are actively engaged, then you are an influencer. As you gain more followers you gain celebrity, until you reach the layer cake, where you get notoriety just for the number of followers you have more so than what you broadcast a.k.a Lady Gaga and her 30+ million followers. Simple.

The terms used in social networking annoy me immensely. I would officially like to request all social networks and related industries to stop using this terminology. I am not a follower, broadcaster, or an influencer – what am I, a pied piper leading mice? I would much prefer the term friend, social buddy, or even m8s. After all we share common interests and like to listen to what the other has to say or share.

Mashable defines it nicely: “A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on facilitating the building of social networks or social relations among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life connections.”

So Is It Better To Follow Or Be Followed?

Basic answer or rather quick answer would be, Yes, I would like to be popular and have lots and lots of followers. If you are an influencer, the holy grail of social advertising, then you actually engage people and even change their behaviors (although this cannot be truly measured). If you have tried any of the influence measuring services out there – mainly thinking of Klout or Kred, then you know what I mean here.

It really depends what you want out of it. If I was a business or a brand, I would try to increase my visibility and sell more stuff. If I was an interest group, I would try to share my “message”. If I was a “sharer”, it allows me to share every thought and every action of every minute of every day with everyone (by the way, anyone who does this, should be banned from social networking!!). Finally if I was a normal human being, I would use it as a tool to engage with my family, friends, and social circles whether business, academia, or MY interests.

From my own experiences, I really believe the power lies with the follower, or the “active follower”.  You are the one who chooses to listen or not listen, to engage or not engage, to comprehend or dismiss, and to promote or disregard. By following someone, by becoming their buddy, you are allowing them to share their thoughts with you and vice versa. It is everyone’s right to be able to follow, but an absolute privilege to be followed. As you can see from my twitter account (@prazzledazzle), I follow about 4x more people than those who follow me (on a side note – thank you to all my followers – you guys are superstars).

This also tends to be the truth in real life, if not rather subdued. For example, people tend to forget that politicians and governments are made by people for people, yet only a small percentage of folks take action when politicians and governments do wrong.

So what do you think – is it better to follow or be followed? How does this relate to your real life? Comments more than welcome.

p.s. If you are a social networking virgin, check out the good explanations and articles on Mashable.



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