The Accidental Following

I’m astounded at the number of people following me on Twitter, where I’m @levyj413. Truly. The count is currently at 3293.

I’ve seen three large jumps in that number because of a few specific events, and I like giving credit where it’s due, so here they are:

  • Quite randomly, I called into an NPR show called Science Friday when they were discussing Web 2.0 with Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly). They not only let me ask Tim a question, but then asked me about government’s use of social media. I misunderstood and gave out my Twitter ID, and boom! This was early in my tweeting, and it bumped the count from 200 to 300 in about an hour. (As a side note, friends all over the country sent me email for weeks saying they’d heard me. It’s a great example of trying something on a whim – you never know how it might turn out. And I’m convinced the next two bumps in followers happened because I did, to say nothing of cool things like being invited to help organize Gov 2.0 Camp).
  • A Mashable article by Lon Cohen (@obilon) in February, who singlehandedly tripled the count from 700ish to more than 2200 in a few days. That was so fast a climb that I assumed Twitter had a hiccup when I logged in after a couple of days.
  • A ReadWriteWeb article by Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk) in March.

And now thanks to a nice Twitter tradition of recommending people to follow on Fridays, I get more bumps each week.

I’m especially surprised because I don’t actively seek followers. I mean, I definitely have reasons to be on Twitter, mainly to let the world know, and especially social media advocates, that people inside the government also know the value of these tools and are actively exploring them. That is, you have allies inside.

But I just go about my business, sharing the info I know and come across. I don’t study how to get followers.

Frankly, I keep expecting the number to plummet. I’m not quite sure what people are looking for when they start following me, but I figure they’ll leave when they realize I’m not it. And some do, but even more come in.

About a month ago, it kind of sank in that maybe I’ve got it right about just doing my thing and seeing what happens, so I posted this:

Want followers who stick with you? Share what you know, admit what you don't, praise deserving people, retweet good stuff. Simple.

Even having said that, I regularly wonder “who ARE all you people?” Seriously. Say hi via an @reply and introduce yourselves. 🙂

All of which brings me to my real question, which came up the other day: is it okay to plug your own blog post more than once? I feel kind of weird even plugging it once, because I’m not trying to get people to pay attention. But at the same time, people seem to respond to stuff I offer, and I know people miss tweets the first time around. I certainly see only a small fraction of what the people I follow have to say.

So – what do you think? And have you been the beneficiary of someone else’s compliments that bounced your follower count?

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Pretty amazing stuff. As my friend once told me “a little thought leadership goes a long way.” I think that’s especially true with social media – if you share some good ideas, people take notice.

Jeffrey Levy

I think it shows there’s a large audience interested specifically in what gov’t is up to with this stuff. I keep saying I’m hardly the expert on a lot of it, but since I talk about it, people grab on. If more people were out here talking, I think there’d be a lot less interest in what I have to say.