There are lots of new Twitter tools out there to help you generate followers via auto-follows, follow-backs, etc. (Ever have someone follow you multiple times in a day or two? Bingo.) This helps you create a large number of followers in a very short period of time. This comes back to the old debate of quality vs. quantity. If you generate followers via these tools you will have quantity, but no quality (or at least, very little.)
On the other hand, if you grow followers organically, and people follow you because they enjoy your tweets and are actually interested in what you have to say, your quality is through the roof (and your Twitter experience will be much better as well.)
So this begs the question… How do you tell if someone has used one of these tools? Although there isn’t a perfect solution, there is something you can do, and that’s simply check TwitterCounter. Twitter Counter shows you how quickly you (or anyone else) has gained followers. It only goes back three months, but honestly that’s when these tools started to come in vogue anyway.
Here’s a screenshot of my follower growth over the last 3 months:
As you can see, a nice straight line of followers. It just looks natural. Now let’s look at someone who told me that they “tested some software”.
Doesn’t look nearly as natural. In fact, the only way you’d see a spike like this is if you were highlighted on CNET or Gizmodo or something.
This isn’t fool-proof, as I’m sure you’ve deciphered, but it is a decent tool for a quick measurement. The next time you see someone gain a huge amount of followers in a short period of time, send them a link to their TwitterCounter graph, and ask them which Top 100 Blog they got listed on. If the answer is “Whu?”, you’ll know they value quantity over quality.