Social media is optimized for checking–checking for followers, retweets, shares, and ‘likes.’ Social media has been described as a slot machine, as programmers deliberately addict their users for their own financial gain.
An analogy: When I was in middle school a friend was addicted to the computer game Dungeons and Dragons. I asked him what the objective of the game was: “To get items so I can level up,” he responded.
“Why do you want to do that?”
“So I can get better items and level up.” I decided that wasn’t a very interesting game.
There’s a better metric than followers: Fans. Your fans are the people who would miss you if you didn’t show up tomorrow. Your fans are the people who would be upset if you retired, changed careers, stopped writing, stopped making music, or whatever it is you do.
Some people have thousands of followers, but no fans. Some people have thousands of fans, but no followers. Eminem has over 22 million Twitter followers, but he didn’t get them from tweeting (he’s only tweeted 890 times). He got his followers by having lots of fans.
It’s tempting to think that followers lead to fans, but the causality is probably reversed.