By Nick James, founder of Fresh Business Thinking

Back in the day when a mobile phone was shrinking from the size of a brick to something you could almost fit into your pocket it used to be said that this was the only time that men would boast about having the smallest in the room.

Big is not always beautiful when it comes to social networks but we constantly hear the media refer to the number of followers a celebrity or big brand has.

But scratch the surface and you’ll see that many of these super popular modern day prophets have a mass of ‘followers’ that are ‘bots’ - web robots that are software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet.

Some studies have suggested that close to half of all Twitter followers are ‘bots’ and yet many businesses judge the success of their social media marketing on the number of followers they have.

Don’t buy followers

There are lots of organisations out there that will get you thousands of followers quickly on Twitter and for not very much money. Some big brands and celebrities have unwittingly fallen into buying followers by outsourcing part of their social media marketing to third parties and used ‘number of followers’ as a KPI (key performance indicator).

Admittedly on first glance it makes them look popular and successful but a quick look under the bonnet and the evidence is there for all to see. Or is it?

Bots are being created with ever more sophistication but the one thing they don’t have is ‘a life’ so they exhibit some mechanical un-human characteristics such as; never sleeping, not having a view on anything and never really engaging in any form of ‘conversation'.

Engagement is everything

You can go to a sports stadium along with 70,000 other people or you can go to the local rugby ground with a couple of hundred — you would never believe anyone who said they were ‘networked’ with everyone in the stadium but it’s more than possible that you’re only a few degrees of separation away from everyone at the local event.

If you’re a genuine celebrity then you’ll have a mass of fans that will follow you on Twitter to catch every last drop of stardust that the PR machine generates but if you’re just an ordinary person with a few hundred followers that’s ok as long as you engage with them and they don’t respond with strange automated sounding Tweets.

Follow Nick James on twitter at @freshnick

If you want your business to be found online then you need to be at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPS). To achieve this, your website or blog needs to have; relevant, fresh, quality content. Find out how Fresh Business Thinking can help here.