The unearned follow, my take

Earlier today, Robert Scoble posted his opinion about why some users have many followers on various online services without really deserving that amount of followers for that particular service.  For example, Quora participants that have many twitter followers have “brought” those followers into Quora without necessarily participating in Quora discussions.

I agree with his points about virality vs. loyalty and churn but on the other hand, consider:

Every day a new social website comes along with the promise of being the next best thing. Try it, they tempt us, you’ll see how good we are.

Being the social junkies that we are, we say sure, we’ll sign up, take a look, try the service.  We invest a few minutes in setting up a profile.  Then comes the friends/connections/followers part as, obviously, every new social site needs them. Some will use other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook as their main sharing tool but others want you to rebuild your entire social graph on their site by either recreating it or importing it.

At this point, if I am asked to reconnect manually to friends or followers I hesitate. Do I really need to do this again? And I ask Scoble, do you *really* want to build up your followers list again and again for every new service you sign up to? I don’t think so. I for one am happy with “re-using” my existing contact lists.  

Also, I don’t think that what Scoble calls “unearned followers” are really unearned. Scoble and others he gives as examples have established a reputation for being online opinion leaders. I think they have earned the “right” to transfer that clout from site to site.  The online universe will unfollow them if they cease to be interesting or abuse their power.

Finally, if Quora wants to be fairer to what it deems quality users (the reviewers) it can give them additional benefits and a higher place on the recommended followers lists. I think that over time the initial benefits of bringing in your Twitter followers will be balanced by the actual participation on Quora to present a more accurate picture of quality “deserving” users.

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