I take my Twitter stream very seriously. I didn't at first, because I was happy that anybody would choose to follow me. A follow-back was a near guarantee unless you were an obvious spammer peddling your "kewl pix of me and my girlz."
I've been on Twitter for about a year and a half now and I look at it much differently than I used to. I'm a "new marketer" as I like to call it, and I'm not out to garner the most eyeballs - I want the best eyeballs. (My blood boils when I see "grow your followers overnight" schemes) The best aren't the most influential or popular though. The best, in my opinion, are the ones that offer me value and have an opportunity of creating a real relationship - maybe not in person, but at least virtually. I know with over 1,500 people followed, I'm not going to create a relationship with everyone. It's simply not scalable. But that doesn't mean I'm going to give anyone a free pass.
I choose the tweets that I post carefully because I care about my followers. I save my personal, often goofy statuses for Facebook and try to spread as much value to my Twitter followers as possible in the areas I'm passionate about. Not everything will relate to our similar interests, but if you're following me I hope it's because something about me interests you (business, hobbies, sports alliances). I only expect the same in return.
So now I get enough followers each day where I need to pick and choose who I follow back. My stream is so noisy that I simply can't stand to have it filled with one spammy tweet. It seems as Twitter grows, so do the spammers, and each day I get more "bad" followers and less "real" followers (relatively speaking). I use Topify to help me sort out who I'm going to follow back. (I have no relationship with Topify) Like the default Twitter setting Topify will email you when you're followed, but Topify will give you much more detailed information. (Topify is still in beta, thus requiring an "invite" code. To register, go here: http://bit.ly/gotopify)
Here is a screen shot of a recent follow (my friend Brad!)
This gives me some immediate information to make a decision. You have to realize that when you follow someone in hopes that they follow you back, all of this information is your presentation. You don't have the opportunity to give a few quick reasons why they should follow you back. They only have the information that a program like Topify can give them. Here are the important parts I look at:
- Ratio of Followers to Following - If you are following 900 but only have 83 followers, chances are you're not that great of a tweeter. A lopsided ratio in the other direction means you're probably "famous" in Twitterland, which is certainly better than the latter, but the chances of there being any real value in our "relationship" is slim to none as well. I like to see someone who has a ratio somewhere around 1:1.
- Biography - This usually is as far as I need to go. If you are a real person you'll want to list your interests here so I can see if we share similar ones. No, "Marketing" is not enough because I think 99% of people on Twitter are Marketers. Don't use it as a place to hock your services either. Here are a few more bios that will send me scurrying to click on the delete button (these are just from today):
You're going to make me a millionaire? Really?
You're a "social media rockstar", on Twitter for over 2 years, and I have more followers than you
- Twitter Join Date - Joined yesterday and are following 800 tweeps already? No thanks.
- Website - Shortened URL? Sketchy.
Which brings us to the content of the most recent tweets. Since there have been a number of great posts outlining the top 10 reasons people don't follow back, I'm not going to try and reinvent the wheel. But when judging if I'm going to follow, here are some quick criteria that I look (and look out) for:
- Too Self-Promotional - It's okay to promote oneself on Twitter. Many people join Twitter with the ultimate goal of driving new business and spreading brand awareness. I can take the every-so-often self-promotional tweet, such as "We can serve all of your design needs - from logos, to videos and more - [link to website]."
But when it happens five times a day, every day? No thanks. You're adding only clutter, not value, to my stream.
- Protected Tweets - I used to follow these if the bio checked out, but I've stopped. If you're protecting your tweets (and I'm not a close personal friend) then you don't understand the value of twitter and probably won't be a good twitter-friend.
- ReTweets - If you don't ReTweet then I won't follow you. If you look normal and I don't see a retweet in the handful of tweets that Topify shows, then I'll probably go directly to your page to get some more info. If I don't see any ReTweets there, then I'm not following back. You're too selfish.
- @ Replies - The greatest value I've gotten from Twitter are the great people I've met and the conversations I've had. If you never @ reply then it's the equivalent of showing up at a party with a megaphone, yelling. Not what most people are looking for and certainly not adding value to your followers.
- Last Post - I only follow people who actively use the tool. If your last post was 2 months ago, or if you've never posted a tweet, then how will you offer me any value? (I realize some people are on Twitter just to follow others and don't care to be followed back. Let's pretend that's not the case here.)
- Automation - Not all automation is bad, but if you burst out 10 tweets in a matter of seconds...well, I'll just leave it at that.
There are a number of other reasons I won't follow back, but these are just the reasons I will notice at a glance. These are my personal feelings and I'm sure many people will disagree, especially if their use of Twitter is different than mine. If you're just in it to drive eyeballs to your site in order to sell advertising based on traffic, then you're not going to waste time actually creating relationships on Twitter. Instead you'll do everything possible to grow your following, although it's been shown that more followers doesn't necessarily mean more traffic.
To finish this post off on a more positive note, here are ten rules I follow to be a valuable member of the Twittersphere:
- Engage with those you follow and those who follow you (ie @ replies or DM)
- Be real. Be genuine. Be human. Be yourself.
- ReTweet other people's content at least at a 5:1 ratio of others:self.
- Be aware of other people's streams by keeping a normal tweet frequency (try not to tweet 20 times in under a minute - if you have to do that, take it onto another medium)
- Never use a program to grow more followers
- Never follow and immediately unfollow
- Follow those people who interest you and don't take offense if they don't follow you back
- Don't feel obligated to follow everyone back
- Never auto-address a single person
- It's okay to ask for a ReTweet, but not on every post
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are some other reasons you won't follow back? Am I being too harsh with my reasons? Let me know in the comments section.