A lot of people auto follow-back on Twitter. Others follow everyone who doesn’t look like spam. And you know what? That’s cool. It’s a nice thing to do. But some people think it’s rude not to, and I disagree with that. That’s how people end up with 8,000 followers and are following 8,025 people. How can you possibly keep up with that many tweeps? At some point, automatically following back seems disingenuous to me. Which is why I don’t do it.
My take? Life’s too short to follow someone who doesn’t offer you something. (This is related to Roni Loren’s post about this same concept with blog comments.) Not trying to sound snobby. It’s just the truth. We’re all on Twitter to get something out of it, right? No one is 100% altruistic. What people offer can vary from entertainment to information to emotional support and beyond. When did “following back” become so important?
There are plenty of reasons that someone can be worth following. Unfortunately, sometimes those reasons can be disguised under a pile of mistakes. And our attention spans are at their shortest when we’re on Twitter, so it doesn’t take much to get nixed. Here are some of the things I personally consider when glancing at a new follower.
And hey would you look at that: if you reverse them, they become tips on how to avoid getting skipped.
Things that Make me Hesitate to Follow (Back) on Twitter:
*Please note that the keyword is hesitate. There are exceptions to every rule.
No avatar (default egg). Makes you look like spam.
Avatar is not a person (book cover, animals, graphics, cartoons, etc.). I’m on Twitter to connect with people, not random objects. I understand that you’re super-duper-uber excited about your new book cover. I would be too. But the place to feature that awesome-sauce is a twitpic and/or on your blog’s sidebar. Or a whole blog post – or a whole page! And I also understand that some people are very self-conscious. But I promise I don’t care what you look like: I just want to see a human face.
Following over 5,000 people. I just feel like my tweets would be lost to you. I’d rather make meaningful connections.
Following no people. Again, this looks like spam.
Don’t have any tweets yet. Everyone has to start somewhere, but empty timelines look like spam accounts. Beginners should tweet at least a few times before they start following people.
All/most of your recent tweets are self-promotion. I don’t have a problem with self-promotion, if done in moderation. If half of your tweets are about your book, or if you tweet the same blog post five times a day, it begins to feel impersonal and annoying.
All/most of your recent tweets are @ mentions. @ mentions are great, but if you’re not following both parties, you never see those. I need some “free-standing” tweets too.
All/most of your recent tweets are RTing others. A lot of people do this once they hear the advice to share others, but that doesn’t mean at the expense of yourself. I want your tweets, too. Otherwise I could just follow everyone you’re following and call it a day.
All/most of your recent tweets are Pintrest, Tumblr, or Facebook links. I can just follow you on those sites.
Something in your profile description puts me off or insults me. Personal taste. Certain things just make me cringe, like really feel-good life philosophies or intense declarations of religious/political views.
I can see that you go overboard with #MM #WW or #FF. This just becomes clutter. If you fill up my timeline with half a dozen tweets listing names, I won’t check out any of them. And I’ll be grumpy because I have to scroll down three pages to see anyone’s tweets besides yours.
You are famous + I’m not already a fan (blue checkmark + I don’t know you). I don’t like to follow famous people that I don’t know because it implies I’m a fan. Maybe that’s weird, but I don’t want other people to think I’m a fan of an author/singer/actor that I might actually hate.
You seem overly cliquish. Don’t like it in real life, don’t like it on Twitter.
The Bottom Line
The number one way to up your chances of me following back is to @ mention me and introduce yourself. You don’t have to say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so,” but you could comment on something we have in common, how you found me, or a mutual friend. Not only does this get my attention and prove you’re a real person, it also tells me that you’re interested in really starting a relationship (as opposed to getting me to follow back so you can unfollow me to improve your following ratio). Surprisingly few people do this.
Everyone has different standards that they look for in new tweeps. And just like in real life, you can’t please everyone. Some people won’t like you. That’s the way of things. If you find yourself consistently upset by someone, regularly annoyed, or somehow offended… unfollow them. And on the flip side, try not to get too offended if someone drops you or fails to follow-back. If you’re a die-hard believer that automatically following back is the minimum courtesy, you have every right to drop me for not following you back. I’d prefer you try to strike up a conversation with me first, but that’s your prerogative. It’s all relative, you know? At the end of the day, it’s not personal.
Want to give me a shot? See how I roll @AnnieNeugebauer. =)
*Now that you know how to get followers, don’t forget to check out Twitter Tips Part 2: How to Keep Your Followers.
So what about you? What are your criteria? Do you always follow back? And do you think it’s rude when someone else doesn’t? Why or why not?