Follow the Follower

Identify an influential thought leader whom you admire (or not) and follow that person on social media over the next week (Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc.). While keeping up-to-date on what their leader is thinking and sharing publicly, mainly track how followers are responding to the leader’s posts or tweets. What messages are they retweeting? What is the public feedback to the leader’s posts? How many likes? Dislikes? How are followers promoting, defending, or criticizing the leader on social media? Create a typology of responses (e.g., favorable/unfavorable of leader; favorable/unfavorable of a particular issue, etc.) Can students identify different follower styles from social media posts? For example, who is a die-hard? Who seems to be alienated? Who is a pragmatist? How does the leader respond to follower feedback, if at all? How much influence do followers’ comments seem to have on the leader’s expressed attitudes or behavior?At the end of the week, write a 3- 5 page paper describing: (a) their typology of follower responses; (b) the functions of followers’ social media posts; and (c) any influence the followers’ posts had on public opinion of the leader or on the leader’s expressed ideas and behaviors. What advice would the student give the leader on how to better motivate followers or use the capabilities of the medium (e.g., Twitter–brevity, Facebook–networking, visuals) to influence people toward a common goal? Students should apply whatever followership approach best fits the situation to analyze the followers’ use of social media.

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