These past few weeks have been tough for die-hard Twitter users. Overnight, many people saw their follower counts fall, as Twitter removed the millions of fake accounts that inflated the company’s user numbers.
Now, to average users, the purge wasn’t nearly as severe (Twitter estimated the average account would see their follower number drop by four). But the huge numbers of followers being culled from the platform are eye-opening. Twitter has had this fake follower problem for years, so why did they decide to do something about it now?
In a word: trust.
Twitter has been at the center of many conversations surrounding the spread of fake news and propaganda. As a business that depends on engaging as many users as possible, it has to make sure that users can trust that the information they’re seeing on the platform is real, or that it at least comes from a real person.
Similarly, Twitter’s business depends in part on connecting advertisers with users who have large amounts of followers. Advertisers use these “influencers” to reach customers, so it’s important for those advertisers to know how many followers those users actually have and to trust that those numbers are accurate.
Building Trust Is Fundamental to Success
While Twitter’s fake user problem is mostly only applicable to large social media companies, the issue of trust is universal.
For businesses to succeed, they need to do everything they can to establish trust with customers and employees, and between teams and offices. As Patrick Lencioni outlined in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the “absence of trust” is a fundamental dysfunction that can lead to major problems downstream. That’s why it’s central to the work we do and the content we produce at Grovo. Our Microlearning content is infused with the ideas of being vulnerable and building trust with people who have different perspectives or backgrounds.
For example, in our Building Smart Teams content, we explain how to build teams where each individual can trust each other. We show how the best teams establish “psychological safety” in their culture, which means that every employee can trust that their contributions will be respected. In that kind of environment, employees are able to take risks and make their best contributions, which is ultimately key for a business to succeed.
And in our new content on Ethical Leadership, we show how the way leaders respond to unethical situations can impact the trust between customers, employees, and the organization. Knowing that leaders are more likely to make ethical decisions – like for example, knowing that Twitter is trying to eliminate fake users that spread misinformation – helps people trust that those same leaders would make the right decisions in other situations. Companies can feel more confident doing business with those kinds of leaders, and in this case, users can feel more comfortable using the platform.
So if you’re feeling blue over a few lost Twitter followers, don’t despair. Instead use it as a teachable moment. Follow Twitter’s lead on this one, and see how you can build more trust with your customers and your employees. If you want to get started, take a look at one of our free lessons, “Build Trust on Your Team as a Leader” to see how you can build trust within your team.