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To Follow Back Or Not

Sexy Tweet: Follow Me  @DianaGavrilita*Distressed mumbling.*

“Ok, what are you doing?” I threw my hands up in the air and sighed my question so that the full weight of my slight annoyance could not be missed.

My friend had been grumbling under his breath for half an hour. He knew I was writing. He knew I hated to be interrupted when I was writing. And that was his passive-aggressive way to get me to interrupt him instead, so I couldn’t yell at him for breaking my flow.

“I can’t decide how to do this.” Clearly he wasn’t going to walk two feet with his laptop and show me what the problem was. So I got up and looked over his shoulder.

“You type 140 characters or less in the box.”

“Har, har. I know how Twitter works. But what do I do about this?” He pointed to his follower number. It was approaching 1,000.

“That’s good for two months of tweeting 15 minutes a day. If you’re looking to get people who are really interested in you, it’s better to grow slower and get people who really want to follow you, rather than inflate your numbers by following 1,500 people a day.”

“No, I mean, I just don’t know if I want to follow all those people back,” said my friend.

“Okay, well not everyone does. My personal belief is that it depends on whether you’re using social media to broadcast, or interact. Do you mind if I ask you why you don’t want to follow people back? Is it a time challenge?” I asked.

“Not really. I mean, well, a handful of them seem kind of borderline spammy and I feel like I should block them.”

“Dude, then block them. How about the rest of them?”

“Oh, I want to follow them. I’m just not sure if I should. See, I was reading these articles.” Oh, for heaven’s sake, said my face. He caught it, too.

“Don’t look at me like that. One popular article doesn’t an expert make. We talked about this. You don’t have to do what I say or even agree with it. But please don’t base a person’s expertise level just on their articles.

“And if you pick an expert on all this stuff, even if it’s not me, just pick one person whose philosophy makes sense to you and run with them.”

“I know, look at their results, the reputation of the publication, thought leadership, yada yada. And I listened; this was from like, reputable guys, people who measure up to your insanely rigid standards. Their advice conflicts but they all have a point.”

I ignored the “insanely rigid” comment.

“Great. As long as you did your homework. So what did they say?”

“One said that it’s rude, dismissive, arrogant, condescending even, not to follow someone back who is following you, even if they’re boring, or don’t post as much as you like, or don’t share the kind of stuff you want to read. But then the other guy said, you can’t really truly follow the streams of more than 100 people max, before you’re not really paying attention.

“So if you do, you’re essentially making a false promise to all the people you’re following back that you’ll pay attention to them, when you actually won’t.”

And therein lies the controversy.

a whack one I think, but a controversy all the same.

Some people believe that you should only follow as many people as you genuinely feel you can offer, and want to offer, maximum engagement to at any given time.

Others believe that this makes sense for individuals, but for a business largely dependent on the prominence and personality of a single persona, all fans, followers, devotees, and enthusiastic customers should be treated equally.

According to them, that means they should all be given an equal chance to be able to reach you through all of your social media channels as the limitations of each system would allow.

As far as I go… but wait. Let’s hear what you have to say first.

Will you share a comment below, and I’ll share my viewpoint tomorrow – what do you say?

More:

Image: Seattle Clouds via Flickr, Creative Commons

Tinu Abayomi-Paul is a website promotion specialist and author. She invites you to join her for a 90 Minute Google Search Strategy Crash Course. Talk to her on Twitter.


    1. I’m constantly torn by this dilemna. I want to follow everyone back that’s at least genuine, but it can get overwhelming even using lists to filter!

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    2. Tinu — my philosophy on Twitter is simple. When someone follows me, I look at the conversations they’ve been having and the tweets they’ve been sending. If I think their tweets will be a value add to me, I follow them. If I don’t think they’ll be a value add, I don’t. Of course, that’s for my personal account. I’m not sure yet how I’ll handle it when I start my account for my employer in a few months.

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    3. Hi Royale,

      I was too at first. Then I looked up all sides of the discussion and came to a conclusion that… well, it’ll be published just after midnight. :-D

      Hello Robin,

      I don’t think there’s a right or wrong philosophy. I think it’s most important to HAVE a philosophy about it that makes sense within the context of what your goals are with Twitter and social media at large, as well as the goals of your company.

      For your employer, find out what their goals are, and whether you’ll be the “face” of the account, or more of a moderator of company broadcasts. If you’re going to engage and make intimate connections, you’ll have to decide based on who you can engage with and how much you can handle. If you’re broadcasting and listening, well it’s harder to listen if you don’t have a receiver, so to speak. If you’re just broadcasting, the motivations of your audience will be different.

      For example, most people don’t care if CNN follows them back. They just want to get the information. So if you’ve targeted your audience really well and you’re running a broadcasting account it won’t have as much as an impact if you don’t follow back. (I don’t necessarily suggest using Twitter purely for broadcasting, but don’t have anything against either – it’s one of those “better than nothing” situations.)

      Hope you’ll both be back for tomorrow’s installment!

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