Arment Dietrich

Quantity vs. Quality?

By: Arment Dietrich | June 5, 2009 | 

Yes, this headline is a question because I’m not sure I know the answer.  I know the right answer for me personally but I’m not sure there is a right answer that applies to everyone or everything.

The subject of the debate is  Twitter followers.  Are numbers important? Is more always better? Should you try one of the many automated services that promise to get you thousands of followers in the matter of days or even hours? The answer really lies in your purpose.  Well, first, do you have a purpose?  Just kidding, in a way.  It’s OK to jump on Twitter to figure out what it is.  You will likely fall into one of two camps:  love it and immediately become engaged and even addicted, once you meet the many intriguing and intelligent folks who are using Twitter then visualize where it can take you, your career, your business and/or your personal contacts (now you have your purpose!).  Or, you’ll hate it and see it as a waste of time.  If so, this debate isn’t for you.

I’m approaching Twitter rather methodically and looking for like-minded people who post comments and news stories that help my daily life and career. Thus, I do not refollow everyone who follows me.  I’m not being snobby, just selective. And I will not use an automated follow system.  However; let’s consider a franchise QSR such as El Pollo Loco or Dominos Pizza.  Wouldn’t they want as many followers as possible?  After all, everyone eats, right?

On the surface, that’s my answer but I’d love to hear other opinions and options I may not have thought about.

  • We all know that I fall into the “love it immediately and become addicted” camp, but I also believe quality over quantity rules. You may look at the number of followers I have and wonder why I say that. Well, it’s taken me more than six months to get to the number of followers I have. That is because I connect and engage with them.

    I liken the apps and auto follow programs to going to a networking event, standing in the middle of the room with your hand extended, and having people drop their business cards into your hand. You come back with a ton of cards for your Rolodex, but you didn’t have a single conversation with any of them.

    So, even for someone like me with large follower numbers, quality still rules quantity.

  • As someone who is a fellow addict like Gini (hi, Gini, my name is Julio, and I am a Twitter Addict too), I do believe it’s always Quality, Qaulity, Quality. I don’t care much for numbers and I always tell my followers to @ me at time, since I love to build relationships with them. Nice post.

  • During SXSW this year, Charline Li (formerly of Forrester) talked about the “personal CPM.” In essence each of our social profiles and digital connections are worth something to marketers (and to ourselves and colleagues) because we hold influence. So the question here is, does a person with 10k followers have a higher personal CPM than that of 3k? The answer comes down to quality of followers and goals of the user.

    If an astronaut is on Twitter has 400 followers, but every single follower works for NASA as well, then that is an incredibly valuable group, albeit small. If the astronaut has a question about gravity on Jupiter, his 400 followers will be much more helpful than 10,000 random folks on Twitter.

  • I am definitely in the “addict” camp – I was recently addressed in the hallway at a conference as “@Jeanniecw!” – and for a while I foolishly auto-followed. I stopped that because I found it was contrary to what I was trying to do via Twitter – establish real relationships with like-minded people (like Gini). Now I take my time to follow not to be exclusive but out of the desire for real connections. I have found this approach has served me well, and I’m now a definite believer in quality over quantity.

    I also think Len makes a great point about the type of value any group brings. Twitter opens up endless possibilities, which is one of the most intriguing things about it!

  • Answer: BOTH. As long as you know why you’re there in the first place.

    Quantity can help you if you’re an @aplusk type and you want to eventually use your reach to make a difference, which he did during the Oprah stuff.

    Quality helps me because I’m here on Twitter to make connections with like-minded people and eventually maybe sorta sell stuff. But first and foremost to make connections.

    Great blog and keep it up!


  • I’ve been on Twitter for about a year, and my follower count has grown organically to about 310 or so. Pretty modest, but almost all of them are people that I would love to engage in interesting conversation in person (as I do on Twitter). I routinely don’t follow people back, and block 3 or 4 internet-riches, britney-sex-tape, and get-10,000-followers types per day. Bad for my numbers, good for my Twitter value.

    The number-of-followers trend is disturbing to me in a few ways. First, because I want to find people with something to say, and they are not necessarily those with big follower numbers. So they don’t show up in ‘ranking’ systems, which focus on follower numbers as a measure of value. Second, I’ve seen some otherwise good Tweeters get fixated on their numbers and start to “believe their own press”, as it were. Self-importance turns me off; I turn them off, but I regret the loss.

    I have to say if I were Domino’s Pizza, I’d feel different. But even for them, is there value to being followed by someone who only cares about selling their affiliate marketing program, or someone just hoping they’ll be auto-followed back?

  • Definately quality. I like the ratio that Bill Green (@mtlb) shared with me recently. Essentially it is that your number of those you are following shouldn’t exceed the number of updates you have.

  • Just like @Jeanniecw (who is a Twitter buddy!) I find myself addicted to Twitter. I have also come to value being involved with a number of people who I am genuinely interested in – their careers and their lives. I never would have thought Twitter would open these doors for me. But it has, and that is another reason I find myself addicted – besides the great articles that can be found so easily that benefit my work and my life outside of work.

    I agree that people will have different opinions on Quantity vs. Quality. But for me personally, I am looking for “Quality” when I decide whether or not to re-follow someone. It benefits me more to follow people that I can learn and grow from, rather than just have a large number. And I have been fortunate to meet some really great people in person all because of our connection through Twitter – and not all of them are from my immediate area.

    Twitter has opened doors for me to meet great people all over that I never would have had the chance to get to know otherwise. And that for me, is one of the greatest benefits of it!

  • Quality, quality, quality. I am not doing this for my
    ego. I dont have time for that. In fact I want people following me for the purpose of getting information because it will help them do a better job in marketing and PR. OK, yea, some of my tweets are not that insightful (if you follow me you will start to notice my agency is on a mission to get Dunkin’ Donuts to Denver), but for the most part, I am trying to share information that is insightful or helpful. As for the people I follow, some people I want information from, some people I just like, and some people because they can help me do my job better. Regarding El Pollo Loco or Dominos Pizza… or Dunkin Donuts, I would think they want as many people as possible because of what and how they sell product. BTW – thanks Ginny for twittering about this blog….

  • Teresa Peek

    This is a great question, Diane, and I’m so glad you asked it!

    My view is probably most like Chris Maddox’s. I have been on for only a few months so my count is only nearing the 400 mark. I am selective, check every follower’s profile/website and, like Chris, block the nasty stuff. Twitter for me is ALL about quality. I think of it more in terms of value to me and my followers. I want to read things that teach me something, offer a possible job opportunity (not get-rich quick, thanks), or expand my horizons. I think, since most of my followers are like-minded, they would appreciate my filtering process. If we don’t filter, our junk becomes theirs. I don’t have time in my day to waste on reading junk. Isn’t that why we opt out of telemarketing calls, junk mail solicitations and spam blockers?

    Another, and probably my most important, reason is I take integrity seriously and the integrity I display on the internet is just as critical to me as in person. If I don’t block the disgusting porn, MLM and pay-per-tweet followers, wouldn’t someone truly interested in following me wonder what type of person I am? Fact is, they can’t tell who initiated the follow, me or the spammer.

    The numbers game is a topic on LinkedIn, as well. At one time, I had someone request to connect with me that I didn’t know and could not tell why they were interested. I noticed we had a mutual connection so I emailed him inquiring about this person. His response, “I have no idea who he is or why he might want to connect with you.” No joke. Now, how does that help me on this ‘Professional Networking’ site?

    I will stick with enjoying the Tweeple following me who add value to my world and, hopefully, they will feel the same about me.

  • Peter Metz

    I have to go with quality. (Probably why I block so many that follow me for merely marketing reasons. (Following 3,000, followers 150, three updates? And often a profile pic of a cute young girl. Gimme a break.) I would rather have a couple hundred peeps that catch my attention with informative, interesting, engaging, relavent tweets than a thousand that transmit dreck. (That’s a technical word in some language I think.) Most, but not all are relevent professionaly. Some just capture my imagination. Some make me laugh. Some just know a darn good bottle of wine. All worth a follow.

  • I’m pretty sure that of the folks who’ve posted, I’m the most recent convert to Twitter and can attribute my developing addiction to most of these people, with Gini leading the pack. Regardless of the number of followers — 30, 300, 3000 or more — quality counts. I’m there for the community,the awesome collective knowledge of people I’ve yet to meet and, yes, for a daily dose of laughs and tunes. I’m constantly paring and pruning followers at the risk of ridicule by those who judge the value of the “Twixperince” by the number on my profile. And I’m equally selective when it comes to following myself. I’m perfectly comfortable in a crowded room, but unless I can have mutually interesting and meaningful conversations with the folks who are there, that’s one party I’m willing to miss.

  • IMHO, it’s really all the same. Anyone with a large number of followers that are not engaged (and not reading the posts anyway) in reality only has a small number of actual followers. Unless you are Shaq or A. Kutch, driving followers as a number has little value. Tools like the click tracking at make it pretty easy to see how engaged your follower are…

  • For me the answer is, no doubt, quality. I don’t have that many followers (from a Twitter standard perspective) mostly because I don’t go following people for no reason. In fact I’m sometimes amazed with the number of people I’m actually following and wonder how I got to follow that many (even though it took me a year to get to that). But whenever I review my list of followers and friends I can see value on the people listed there. Most of them got there through online conversations, casual or business encounters and the good old reference (word-of-mouth), so I do believe in building something where the people represents more than just numbers.
    I do agree however that for some types of business, having a large number of “viewers/readers” is more important than relationships (and Twitter is flexible enough for all those different uses), but even those still need to have some quality control in mind before they start wasting creative efforts and time with an audience that may not be even hearing you.

    As with everything, not all cases should be treated the same 😉

  • Ooooo, good question. For me personally, it’s all about quality. I follow the people who I can engage with, who talk to me, and who pass around great information that enriches my career knowledge and just interests me.

    In regards to companies, I think it’s a trickier decision to make. In an ideal world you’d be able to focus on both quality and quantity — a lot of great people who believe in your product and talk about it online and in the streets. Yes, everybody eats, but I don’t eat Domino’s so I’m not going to follow them based on my interest in their product. To make the most out of your following I think you have to monitor the conversations being held about you first, assess the results and plan accordingly.

    But if you’re just you, an individual interested in connecting with people, go for quality.

  • Alyson

    As a PR student we were encouraged to join Twitter before fully understanding the mass of nonsense that was on there. At first being sucked in by quantity I have since scaled back on who I follow. I am now more interested in the quality of the people and the quality of the content they post.
    I admit that although I am young I am no social media expert and am encouraged by the amount of quality in this blog alone. I am encouraged to seek out intelligent professionals and learn from them. I hope to engage more as I learn more and discover the quality in Twitter.
    I think people need to discover that the 140 character limit is a chance to put some serious thought into what you post. Not just say something for the sake of saying it.
    It is not about the quantity of posts either. I believe true followers will click on you specifically to see what you are up to, not just have it pop-up in their feed. Here they will read the quality you have posted and want to engage with you. I now don’t care about my quantity of followers either.
    Like I said, I’m still learning, but I am ready to seek out the quality within social media.