My name is Saul! I'm an award winning Word of Mouth Marketer, Professional Speaker on the subjects of Social Media, Customer Service and best of all... Word of Mouth. I collect Air Force One sneakers and think you should hire me... (as a consultant) to teach you how to get your company doing interesting things!
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Photos from the Drupal Conference in San Francisco, CA 2010

Tuesday, Feb 02, 2010

Does having a million followers actually mean anything?

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I admit this is a bit of an unfinished thought so feel free to jump into the comments and finish it with me but I have been walking around with the notion of influence on my brain and wondering if there is such a thing anymore?

Most of this stems from my impression of the Kevin Smith vs. Southwest airlines incident
[Disclosure: I am a self identified Kevin Smith fan. To put that into context, I was one of the very few who saw Jersey Girl in the theatre and have chatted with KS more then a few times at Comic Con and the Toronto International Film Fest as well as have listened to every Smodcast since the beginning…yes a fan.] and what has happened since the initial event.
I am not going to bother with giving you a re-cap of what happened because others have done it better than I would but if you are in the dark on this you can read this great piece by Caroline McCarthy from Cnet or any of these articles.
As someone who is pretty sensitive to weight issues I was initially drawn to this story [thankfully I still have 4 inches on the old airplane seatbelt to work with so my interest wasn’t from personal experience] and after the initial salaciousness of it I became instantly drawn to the outcome…and by outcome I am curious to know if this will actually hurt Southwest in any way. I say this because the airline industry is unique since it has a bad reputation already and I doubt that this is going to hurt it any further. The interesting thing to me is because Kevin Smith has a million followers on twitter and if his [in my opinion, deserved] outrage going to get people to not fly Southwest?
We keep talking about how the “power” has shifted from the company to the consumer because people have a voice and while I agree with this and appreciate it I wonder if people will actually give up something they love because someone on Twitter told them to. The last celebrity boycott I can remember was Howard Stern vs. Snapple and while that was a very different time, history has shown that he was able to hurt the company.
So I ask you..With more and more people collecting a million or more followers on Twitter or any other social network are we moving to a place where the people delivering the message…as well as the actual message will become a commodity with people not listening?
  1. If someone has, say, 45,000 followers, You can look at the nature of their tweets and find out if they have an enraptured & engaged audience, or if they're goosing their numbers through cheap tactics and don't have any more influence than someone with 1,000 followers.

    If they've got a million, The sheer volume of it means that they have people's attention and can assert their influence. But Kevin Smith's influence is within his circle of knowledge: movies, comics, Star Wars, comedy, etc. If first class travel were one of his areas of expertise, he might be able to convince more people not to fly Southwest.

    So the whole thing turns into a question of personal branding, and where you focus your attention to be able to have the biggest impact.

  2. Interesting point Sean.

    I would imagine he would have a considerable amount of influence due to the fanatical nature of the Movie, Comic, Star Wars communities but perhaps they are not in the demo that can hurt an airline.


  3. The message is only as good as the person behind it. No matter how many "followers" you have, if your not a respected reference on the subject, you may never be a legitimate threat to anyone.

    The greatest way to affect change is to lead by example and have those "followers" follow along because of your passion, not just your tweets!

  4. The 40 Year Old Father about 10 years ago

    I think the number of followers on Twitter or Facebook or wherever isn't as important as the issue. With a recent flight issue behind my wife and me, I can say that the threat of word-of-mouth, or the fear of negative word-of-mouth, often times will sway companies to act in a way they may not have in the past.

    When different industries suffer through bad word-of-mouth, they tend to jump faster. Frequently though, it's all in how the message is delivered to them. If you put forward an argument in such a way as to force their hand, well the ball is in your court.

    Provided you have a solid leg to stand on in the first place.

  5. Great post. I think that followers are so overrated on Twitter. No one really care about what you have going on, they just want you to follow them back. That way they can fell more and more important.

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