Remember the time the New Yorker asked readers to “like” them on Facebook by promising exclusive “liker”-only access to a new Jonathan Franzen story? Well, this is kind of like that but worse.
Earlier today, Vanity Fair published an “article” asking readers to help them reach a million Twitter followers. Which is fine. Well, no, it’s not really “fine,” but at least Vanity Fair could have saved some face had they stopped there. But then they went on to list their “greatest tweets of all time,” which are mostly just standard observations or bottom-shelf jokes about the biggest news stories of the year.
When Vanity Fair posted its plea, the account had 983,953 followers. As of this writing it has 984,389 followers. And according to a site called Twitter Counter, it had 982,502 followers yesterday. So Vanity Fair picks up about 1,000 follows a day, and today was no different despite its plea. All it got in return were a bunch of jokes on Twitter about how gauche it is to ask for followers on Twitter.
Publicly caring about followers on Twitter can make you sound like one of those “social media gurus” or god forbid a “social media ninja.” Or even worse, you might come off like the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson (nothing against the New Yorker I swear) when he called one of his critics a “little twerp” because he only had 169 followers to Anderson’s 18,351. (Which is less than PandoDaily’s 37,092. Does that mean we get to call Anderson a twerp?)
As Gawker’s Tom Scocca wrote in his write-up of the Anderson flap, we’re all just “dipshits with Twitter accounts.” I, David Holmes, am also just a dipshit with a Twitter account. And with my mere 1,284 followers, I’m in a great position to criticize anyone who would dare ask for followers on Twitter. It’s like, “Obviously I don’t care how many Twitter followers I have. Why can’t you just be chill about it like me and my 1200 followers, Vanity Fair?”
But of course I do care how many people follow me on Twitter. And I especially care how many real, engaged people follow me on Twitter. Sure, more followers means more people will read the shit I post. But it also means more people are likely to reach out to me, with insight, humor, or maybe even a good lead on a story.
And because I’m the head of social media for PandoDaily, I also care how many people follow PandoDaily on Twitter, for those very same reasons. And every time I Tweet out a story with some modicum of cleverness, or try to forge a connection with someone on Twitter by mentioning or following them, it’s a implicit way of saying, “Hey, follow us on Twitter.”
And I guess that’s the problem (if there even is one) with Vanity Fair’s gambit. It’s not that they care about getting more followers. That’s fine, obviously. It’s that when they ask for followers by saying “help us get to a million!” it makes their followers sound like little more than another number served, not a member of a community.
Look readers, we want you to follow us on Twitter. I’m embedding a link to our Twitter feed right now (which gives me a sense of alarm since I haven’t really been on my Twitter game today; busy with other things like writing this stupid post). But we don’t want you to follow because of the little endorphin rush we get from seeing our follower count go up (though we’d be lying if we said the endorphin rush didn’t exist). It’s because we want you in our community. We want you talking to us, or even just talking shit about us, whatever. And we want you sending us links to cool Internet things or potentially groundbreaking companies no one else is talking about.
Yeah, yeah, you’re all just dipshits with Twitter account like us. But you’re our dipshits with Twitter accounts.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]