Brent Sticher, who writes a lot about my favorite programming language PHP (don't @ me), writes about the history of his personal blog and Twitter account and how he now owns his audience.
The entire post is worth a quick read.
I wanted to back him on on this bit:
I've managed to build a following of 15k people on Twitter. That's small for many people but it's larger than what I imagined a couple of years ago. And while I have 15k followers (that's maybe 1k of real people actually seeing my tweets), if Twitter shuts down tomorrow, those people are gone. To me that would mean all the time and effort I put into my Twitter audience will simply be… gone.
The follower : real people ratio he points out isn't wrong. While my personal Twitter account only has a few hundred followers (long story short, I signed up to Twitter in November 2006 gained about 4,000 followers or so and deleted my account in 2016) my other account for The Watercolor Gallery @h2ocolor has nearly 7,500. The Watercolor Gallery's Twitter account sees fairly high engagement and the numbers still pale in comparison to how many followers it has.
Back in 2010 when I started The Watercolor Gallery on Tumblr (it now runs on WordPress) it shot up in popularity on that platform very quickly. It was linked to by the Tumblr team in one of their "Tumblr Tuesday" posts. Or, maybe more than one? And it quickly gained what I would consider a modest following. I don't remember the numbers, but it may have been higher than what the gallery has on Twitter today. Either way, I noticed something very quickly even back then -- the follower count meant very little. Yes, each time I posted to Tumblr it got a lot of likes, but other than that the audience relationship was very shallow.
Owning your audience via your own website or newsletter forms a much stronger and deeper relationship between you and your reader. And follower counts don't tell the entire story of how popular someone or something is.
The reverse side of the coin is also true. Low follower counts doesn't mean you won't have some reach. In October I had a tweet that sort of went viral and ended up getting 15,000 impression. My buddy Matt Smith recently had one that pulled in over one million.