On some social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, there are some folks who have become extremely competitive with how many people they can get to follow them. Yes, in a sense it is a good thing to have a lot of followers if those followers are actually helping you further your purpose for social networking. For those who believe the whole purpose of social networking is to see how many followers you can get, I'm afraid they may have lost sight of the goal.
The point is usually to grow a network of people with like-minded goals and interests. Clyde McKendrick of Mashable posted a great op-ed this week on Why Brands Need Friends - Not Fans - on Facebook. The article is specific to Facebook fan pages, which we have also covered at length here on WebRev, the overall concept is universal to social networking.
If people are just basically adding you to their list of "likes," then never visiting your page or profile or feed again, there is not very much networking going on.
For me, personally, I know this to be true in regard to the people I follow and friend on the various networks. I take whatever steps are necessary to filter out the "spammy" posts in my feed, and read only the posts of "real people" that I like to interact with. I've "liked" and even "friended" a large number of brands, bands, businesses, charities, politicians and celebrities (national and local). If it quickly becomes obvious that whoever is administrating those pages or profiles is simply posting, rather than interacting, I unsubscribe from those friends or hide their posts in my feed. I do, however, continue to read the posts of several brands and celebrities who do interact with their friends and followers. I'm also more likely to send them links to news stories or information I believe they might find interesting (no, I don't spam them with my own blog posts - that would just not be cool).
A good example of someone who I believe has a good understanding of how to make this social networking thing work is the Blue Whale of Catoosa. For those unfamiliar, this is a Route 66 Landmark near Tulsa, OK (picture above). The gentleman who is responsible for caring for the land the Blue Whale floats on has used Twitter (@bluewhalert66) and a Facebook profile turned "Blue" into an online celebrity among the local population and also among people who have lived in the area and have moved away, but remember the Blue Whale fondly from their days in Oklahoma.
Blue gets into the spirit of all the major holidays online, and even recently donned a pink hat to support cancer research. He stays out of politics, but is up on current events, and usually has an amusing take on them. He's able to rally supporters and volunteers to help raise funds for his maintenance and up-keep. He networks with other Route 66 businesses, like Pops in Arcadia, with whom he collaborated to brand Catoosa's own Root Beer, called "Catoosa Cream Soda" (very good). He interacts with his online friends by responding to their tweets and posts, and commenting on pictures they tag him in. And that's a lot of people, because everyone has to get their picture taken with Blue!
In the process of amassing an impressive "following," Blue has also made a lot of online "friends," who are willing to donate their time and efforts in various ways to keep this adorably historic landmark a beautiful place for people to visit.