At an event I was at this week a couple of times it was mentioned that the imbalance between ‘following’ and ‘follower’ counts on Twitter in public sector and government accounts demonstrated a lack of engagement and ‘listening’ on their behalf.
Superficially I can see the basis of this thinking but the reality is it is a pretty poor metric to judge things by and doesn’t really factor in the reality of using that channel.
Are these organisations using Twitters own ‘list’ functionality to follow people? Are they using tools like Radian6 or Topsy to ‘listen’ and engage? The big test is when looking at their timeline is it just a one-way channel with no engagement or are they actually interacting with people on it? All these things and more are more important than the Twitter numbers.
In fact I’d be in favour of those numbers disappearing from public view anyway – maybe they can just be visible on the new Twitter analytics pages – as I don’t see what value they add these days with people buying followers and the celebs of every ilk getting ‘verified’.
[as an aside Susy at Department of Health wrote a great post recently about ‘listening’ on Twitter – well worth a read.]