THE BLOG

The Current State of Building a Twitter Following

03/05/2014 02:03 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2014

The golden era of Twitter is over. At least for building a following quickly in a now more established Twitter world. In its early days, bunches of Twitter users would all follow each other, which became handy when the network received widespread attention and the masses began signing up and following the accounts with scores of followers because they were often the most attractive when the average mindset led people to believe a large following must mean somebody is important at a time that predated fake followers.

Even a few years in (2009), the name @NYNightlife alone helped me pick up a few hundred followers before I truly started tweeting consistently and earning my following. Today, a matter-of-fact name on Twitter is not enough to gain traction and build a following, much like the domain name NYNightlife.com is inadequate in an Internet world where people do not blindly type in a domain name or Twitter handle, hoping they find something of interest. Still, growing a community was not that arduous during the years -- pre 2013 -- when Twitter users sought out to discover and follow new people and personalities.

By now it is safe to say Twitter users have already largely established which accounts they want to follow. People have become reluctant to follow additional accounts as a result. Though it is still evolving, Twitter can be seen as a mature medium much like television where people are already accustomed to paying attention to a handful of channels, while ignoring the others. Creating a Twitter account now is akin to launching a new television channel: an uphill battle for anybody, even Oprah or Diddy.

I watched NYNightlife's following grow linearly, to exponentially, back to linearly. This does not mean Twitter users are no longer following additional accounts, it simply means a vast majority are no longer purposefully setting out to follow new people or brands unless perhaps their interests shift to new categories where they will then seek out new accounts to follow accordingly.

It has become more challenging to get discovered on Twitter, partially because of all the noise, but also because of the utilization of the favorite button which people have seemingly found in the last two years. In the early days, when users liked something on Twitter, they retweeted it. But now the retweet feature many times takes a backseat to the favorite button. (This behavior change can be viewed as a benefit to the Twitter home page, which inherently becomes less busy with content when a tweet is favorited rather than retweeted).

When you favorite a tweet, one guaranteed place that tweet goes is in your favorites section on your Twitter page, which essentially is the dark part of the network where virtually nobody looks (although I believe there is tremendous value in doing so). A second place your favorited tweet may end up is in the Discover tab of somebody else's Twitter account. The Discover tab, a nearly two-year-old product is meant to highlight tweets and stories Twitter believes you will like based off of what your followers and their followers are retweeting and favoriting -- sort of like six degrees of separation, sans Kevin Bacon.

When Twitter's latest web redesign kicked in earlier last month, I noticed I was unintentionally clicking the Discover tab when I intended to click the Connect tab where all my activity (@ replies, favorites, retweets) is displayed. After clicking Discover for the third time by accident, I wondered if Twitter had purposefully placed the Discover tab where the Connect tab used to be in its previous iteration to get people into the habit of checking out what the Discover tab has to offer.

Outside of becoming visual with photographs, the future of Twitter may lie in its ability to curate content for its users in the Discover tab. Getting eyeballs in that section of Twitter seems to be the task at hand for a better user experience where people can stumble upon new interesting accounts more readily. If and when eyeballs begin to shift from the Home tab to the Discover tab, there will be more onus to get your tweets in there, which of course is still a byproduct of creating compelling content.

While many are quick to state, "Twitter is over," I do not foresee the network disappearing anytime soon. Its usefulness remains intact; the platform is still among the fastest ways to spread news stories. Interesting tweets and stories are still being shared and consumed rapidly, even if the way they are being discovered is changing. The easy days of picking up new followers may be over, but there are still people hungry to consume good content if you are willing to feed them.