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Sunday, 8 November 2009

The mystery of Twittermania - and just about every other fad - explained

Greetings from Bucharest, where I'm sitting with a couple of colleagues in what I guess must be the penthouse flat, since we're on the top floor. Shame about the hot water system.

Anyhow I just stuck this picture up because it explains exactly why most people do the things they do.

Years ago when the dotcom euphoria was raging I used to ask audiences how many of them had websites.

Most would raise their hands. Then I would ask two more questions. First, could they tell me why they had a website; and second, what exactly their website was doing for them in the way of business.

This used to get a lot of blank looks. The answers, of course were: 1. "because everyone else has one" and 2. "I have no idea."

This is still largely true, and applies to most things marketers do. They institute CRM programmes without the vaguest idea what they will do for them - or even what the initials stand for; they decide "digital" is the thing - and for a glorious few, golden years from which I profited, direct marketing was all the rage.

All this was prompted by a very funny and perceptive piece from the estimable Ken McCarthy called "How to get big numbers on Twitter (or anything else)" from which I quote here

As soon as people see numbers, a few things happen to their brains.

1. They marvel at people with REALLY BIG NUMBERS
2. They look at their own puny numbers and despair
3. They look for ways to get more numbers

It seems like there are a few tried and true ways to get big numbers on Twitter.

1. Be on TV (or be an already fantastically well known brand.)
2. Have a big list from some other source and relentlessly ask your list members to follow you
3. Be a Twitter, social media and/or tech expert who spends a big chunk of his or her time in front of audiences that have super high densities of Twitter users flashing their Twitter address and relentlessly ask your list members to follow you.

There may be some exceptions to this rule, but I don’t see them in the upper listings.

Why people follow

People seem to follow for five reasons:

1. They’re collectors (a nice word for “pack rats”) and if it’s free, they want a lot of them
2. They’re followers and like having icons of their favorite celebrities on their profile page
3. They’re status seekers and want to be seen following “cool” people
4. They’ve been guilt tripped into following a friend or acquaintance (usually by their own minds)
5. They’d like to guilt-trip someone else into following them (to increase their own number of followers.)

It’s these last two that I find really interesting: “Please follow me.” “Thanks for following me.”

We’ve left the land of the rational and gone deep into the social brain on this one (i.e. back to high school.)

There’s a bit of the old MLM mentality in play too:

“You follow me and I’ll follow you and we’ll both have one more follower and that will make us more attractive so we’ll both be more likely to get more followers who will do the same…and somehow this will all end up with all of us making money.”

What really made me laugh in Ken's piece is a line he repeats three times:
Follow Ken on Twitter:http://www.Twitter.com/kenmccarthy

Don't follow me, though. I'm just as lost as you are.

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