Is being abrasive and dominant on social media better than having less followers?

Donald Trump wants to be President – but can he turn social media dominance into votes? Is being abrasive and dominant on social media better than being liked by the majority of your followers?

That was the fifth topic on the most recent TWIO episode, and here’s what our guests had to say about it…

DAVID BAIN: Stewart, you have over 22,000 followers on Twitter. Do you prefer the abrasive and dominant strategy?

STEWART ROGERS: Me personally, no. I prefer mild sarcasm, the occasional joke and putting out really good quality content. The reason I’ve got that many followers is because I just like to curate every day what I think is interesting in the world of social media and marketing technology and business and entrepreneurship and start-ups and gadgets. And then occasionally I’ll throw in a little bit of occasional nonsense and a little bit about what I’m doing in the world or one of my incredibly terribly bad jokes. Something like that. But I’m pretty sure I don’t get followers because of the jokes. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the content.

But I did giggle when I saw that on the list today we were going to be talking about Donald Trump because I actually published a story on Venture Beat last night about Donald Trump! We asked Network Insights to have a look at 11.3 million social media messages throughout July. They looked at all of the 21 front-runners, most of the people who were on debates last night on Fox News, which you might have seen in your stream this morning if you follow American people online.

And what was quite interesting was that by far Donald Trump has the highest share of voice. It was actually over five million messages were about Donald Trump. The vast majority of that, though, was people sharing links and not really talking about him or talking about his policies per se, really just sharing content that had been written about him. And when you’re sharing links, that’s seen in sentient terms as being pretty much neutral.

What was quite interesting was he wasn’t the most hated person on the list of the 21 main candidates, no matter what the media might suggest. There’s actually a few other candidates for that, and I find it really, really interesting, this whole area of sentiment. It turns out that typically only about 1% on average of messages around these politicians (if you want to call Trump a politician as well – I’ll cobble him into that mess), but it turns out only 1% of messages about these politicians are people hating them. It turns out only 1.9% of these messages are people loving them. Everything else is just sharing links, sharing other people’s opinions, sharing media, maybe putting a little snarky comment around a link but at the end of the day it’s just sharing someone else’s opinion.

DAVID BAIN: So Rob, would you say that the size of someone’s following is a vanity metric and it’s nothing to do necessarily with the quality of their followers and also what impact that following might actually do for them? [pause] I tell you what. I’ve actually got two incarnations of Rob here, so…

ROB WEATHERHEAD: Sorry, I dropped out for a second there. I’ve come back in and I’ve completely missed the question.

DAVID BAIN: That’s okay. I’ve got two of you here. I will eject your other one! So the question was is the size of your social media following nothing to do with the quality of your followers and is size a metric that’s irrelevant when it comes to actually defining what impact your followers is likely to have on what you do?

ROB WEATHERHEAD: I would agree with the first statement, I guess, that it’s more of a vanity metric than anything else. Whether the size of your following has an impact on what you do, well as long as your following is legitimate and is real people then you could say they have a greater impact with a greater following because whatever you say is reaching a greater audience, and so then you could argue it has a greater impact. I do think it’s more of a vanity metric. I think that it is much better to have a smaller, more engaged following than it is to have a large, disengaged following or a large following that’s engaged for the wrong reasons, I guess. I mean, the likes of Kelly Hopkins, I mean, I don’t know her follower numbers but I’m sure they’re very large, a large proportion of which probably hate her and follow her just to be outraged with the next thing that she happens to say or to hurl abuse her way. So I think that it would be much better in those situations to have a smaller, more engaged, more positive following than it would be to have a larger one.

DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. Now slightly late with reading out the TWIO comments here. We’ve got Rachel B saying that she totally agrees with Ben and Paul about the issues ecommerce sites face. ‘Unique content is key as long as you’ve got the resouces.’ Also Andrew Halliday saying, ‘Just get a Mac then you don’t need to worry about Microsoft updates.’

PAUL HUNTER: Yeah, good point. Very good point.

STEWART ROGERS: But you do realise that every time you buy something from Apple, you’re effectively funding Darth Vader?

DAVID BAIN: I can’t edit this, you know, Stewart?! And Hannah, let’s think about the question. In relation to social followers, do you think it’s important to have as many as possible or do you think it’s all about the quality and that the amount of followers don’t necessarily make a difference?

HANNAH THORPE: I think the amount isn’t as important as the engagement level by far, but then equally if you’re getting negative engagement and you’re getting people treating you saying, ‘What are you talking about? That’s awful politics,’ at least you’re getting a chance to respond as well. So by them criticising you publically, you’ve got a chance to turn someone’s opinion around of you. Whilst you might not be able to convince the critic, someone else can see that and someone else can read it and if you look at customer service complaints on Twitter, brands do well out of handling their customer service well because it can turn people around and say, ‘Actually, they’re trying,’ and at least if you’re trying to understand people, you get instant points from the people reading it.

So I think it can definitely work in your favour to have such a negative following.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, interesting. The thing that I look at actually in Twitter is also the number of people that you’re following. And sorry to pick on Stewart, but Stewart’s only following about 20% of the people that are following him. To me that’s a nice metric and it indicates that obviously that person’s likely to be fairly authoritative and people are listening to what he’s saying. Because you see so many people that maybe have 10,000 followers but they’re following 10,000 people as well and it’s a follow-for-follow situation there as well.

Ben and Paul, what are your thoughts on this particular question?

BEN MAGEE: I definitely agree that it’s quality over quantity. I think it all comes back to firstly why you’re on social and secondly how you’ve gone about getting those followers. I’m sure that I could create a Twitter account tonight and by the end of the weekend I could have gone out and bought myself 10,000 or 20,000 followers that are just those little eggs that you see, you know, the spammy accounts that just sit there. So it’s all about for me – and again it’s what everybody else has said so far – the level of engagement and the real quality and building a tight-knit community that you can gauge their questions, basic customer service, and really have a good quality experience online rather than one where you’re Katie Hopkins or Joey Barton or someone who’s just out there to make a big splash, get their name, be a pundit or whatever it is.

Here’s where you can watch the reply of the show that features this discussionThis Week In Organic is the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. Sign-up to watch the next live show at

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