Twitter unveiled their “engagement” stat this week and I’ll let you go elsewhere for a definition. What we discovered quickly was that the follower count, until now the be-all end-all of Twitter, is meaningless. Engagement is at single digit levels. According to Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch, it’s around one percent for many.

That means that until a user gets to broadcast level followers, the tweets are meaningless in terms of reach. For all the flak that Facebook has gotten for fractionalizing views in their feed, they may not be reducing viewership over Twitter levels.

I’ve experienced this on a couple levels. When I went over to Bleacher Report, I had a massive gain in Twitter followers. I went from around 25k to 50k in the space of a few weeks. At first, I was impressed. B/R was bigger in social media than Sports Illustrated and I thought this was the reason.


Instead, it turned out that I was followed by a bunch of fakes. Zombies. Bots. Whatever the right term is for it, that was almost entirely what it was. Friends at Twitter helped me pare it down and in six month, I’d gone from 50k back to around 25k.

This was hard on one level. It required a level of access most don’t have. On the other, I was essentially halving my reach, according to numbers. A few years ago, before joining SI, I was told that Twitter followers would essentially determine my salary by one still-extant sports outfit. One follower equalled two dollars.

Yeah, two dollars. That’s how they valued you. It was probably high.

I’ve grown my followers organically, engaging with Twitter as asked. What I never saw was any gain. I’ve had some great conversations. I’ve met some neat people. I never saw any business case for Twitter in my seven – SEVEN – years on the service. #earlyadopter

I still haven’t.

With the engagement stat, Twitter has basically confirmed that they’re a broadcast medium. Anything under a million followers is getting middling engagement. Just as I never saw followers driving traffic to my site, no one else seems to be either.

Ok, maybe Buzzfeed, but they hacked the Facebook/viral equation well before anyone else. Maybe they keep that, but even then, it’s a broadcast function. A million followers means that one percent is meaningful.

And that’s what this comes down to.

Anything shy of broadcast numbers is now officially meaningless. The traffic you were always told would flock to your site or to your articles that didn’t, wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t there to begin with.

My “35 thousand” followers do not equal 35 thousand reads. It doesn’t equal a thousand reads. It doesn’t equal anything. Go take a look at my read counts, openly published on Bleacher Report. They’re essentially random, based on the desire of the reader.

I don’t find that troubling. In fact, if readers are finding my articles and reading for quality or topic, that makes me feel pretty good, given that the option is some sort of popularity contest duped by the Twitter equivalent of SEO.

Twitter is made for the Justin Biebers of the world, the Kim Kardashians, those YouTube stars who I have no idea who watches their stuff. It works for the people with a TV presence who can flash their @ on screen and even then, probably not. Ken Rosenthal yes, Clay Travis no. (That’s not a knock on Clay. He’s just who came to mind as a Fox personality without a huge following. 100K is good, but …)

So to full circle this, I’m waiting for someone, again, to tell me why Twitter is worth the effort. Trolls and fakes are even more of a problem in a low engagement world. If my efforts are reaching a couple hundred people who are probably already reading my work, the case is that occasionally, I’ll get an interesting conversation.

I remember once having a baseball discussion with Peter King and Chris Mortenson. That to me was the pinnacle of Twitter. Talking with those two about something outside their normal scope? Done.

Now that means trolls, RT beggars and worse out there. Mean tweets are a meme to some, but a reality to anyone that crosses 10k. So someone, anyone, especially if you work at Twitter …

Why am I still here?


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