Deciding Who to Follow and NOT Follow on Twitter

A question I get a lot is who do you follow and follow back and how to you decide who to follow?  I’ve followed several discussions on LinkedIn groups about this and there seems to be two general camps on this topic.  One is follow anyone that follows you back and the other is only follow people you know or people in you profession or business, e.g. like minded Tweeps.

I’m actually somewhere in the middle of those two camps.  I follow back most people, with some exceptions.  So here’s my “who to follow on Twitter guidelines”.  This is like the Pirate Code, it’s “guidelines” and there is a lot of flexibility and interpretation on a case by case basis.

As you are going through your recent followers and deciding who to follow here’s what I look for and some cool tools I use for managing followers

Who to Follow Back (what I look for)

  1. Profile –  The profile is first thing I look at.  Are they a real person (eg not a bot, MLM, or selling me ForEx, etc)?  Profiles aren’t always reliable, Spammers are getting smart and posting profiles that look like real people – see next step.
  2. Real people - I take a look at their posts and look for real tweets and some RTs – evidence that someone is there, participating, and interacting.  By the way, I follow a wide range of Tweeps, not just people that think like me.  My opinion is that diversity is what makes Social Media interesting, so I follow a wide range of Tweeps and I find it more interesting this way.
  3. Tweeps that Follow Back – If I follow someone I generally expect them to reciprocate, common courtesy, and what is the point if they don’t.  The obvious exceptions (for me) are Social Media rock stars or celebrities.  For example I follow @rickwarren, @kaywarren1 and @maxlucado because I love them and their Tweets.  I don’t really expect them to follow me back and I find real value and inspiration from their Tweets.  There are a handful of others that I follow that do not follow me, but in general I expect someone to follow me back.
  4. Follow Back Ratio – This is related to the above, but is a quick way to tell if someone is a Spammer and also if they will likely follow you back.  If someone is following 1,500 people and has 90 followers, odds are this is Spam.  If someone is following 30 people and has 500 Followers they are not likely going to follow you back either, so follow them ONLY if you love their content and do not expect to get followed back.
  5. Number of Tweets – I look at how many tweets they have posted.  Granted some are genuinely new Tweeps, and it is easy to tell if they are, but some will have literally thousands of followers with 1 or only a few Tweets.  I guess it is list gathering, but obviously not someone you want to follow.  The most outrageous example I have seen, actually a couple of times, is a Tweep with zero tweets and thousands of followers (again, list gathering) – Spam works if people just automatically follow back.

Who I Don’t Follow and Red Flags (at least for me)…

  1. Spammers &  Bots - Tweeps that use APIs (Automatic Program Interfaces) to post ALL of their Tweets.  Most are selling something, others just blindly send Twitterfeeds off into the Twitterverse.  Why follow someone that will NEVER interact with you, NEVER read your posts, and NEVER post anything worth reading.  I do follow a couple of good ones that have good quotes, but in general I skip these.
  2. MLMs – sorry MLM folks for me I’m just not interested in your product or how to work from home in my Pjs and make millions.  Actually do follow a few MLM Tweeps that are interesting, actually interact, and have real conversations.  My real objection to most MLM Tweeps is that they are just selling stuff and really don’t interact, so what is the point in following them?  Actually many of the MLM Tweeps fall into #1 above, they use APIs and bots alot, which is funny because it is supposed to be “network” marketing which would imply actually connecting with people.  (same reason I don’t follow most retail Tweeps and many MLM Tweeps use APIs).
  3. Retail – I don’t follow most retail Tweeps since most of them just go on and on about their carpet store, coffee, bagels, or clothes.  With that said, there are some exceptional retail Tweeps that are worth following like @starbucks,  barefootwine and a few others, but in general most just post stuff about their store and NEVER interact.  I will follow a retail Tweep IF they are interacting and having a conversation.  If they are just selling stuff what’s the point.
  4. Mean Spirited Tweeps,  Haters, Angry and Pissed Off Tweeps – I don’t follow them.  While I like and respect diversity, I just don’t care for this and choose to pass on these kinds of Tweeps.  Just my opinion.

As always, there is much more to talk about, and you can actually develop a Twitter strategy to accomplish your Social Media goals.  And there are tools available to help you manage Twitter and your Social Media presence – see my previous blog on My Favorite Twitter Tools for Managing Followers.  I’ll talk about developing a social media strategy  in future blogs and in the ebook Alex and I are writing.

As always, I wish you the best and brightest future

Bill Grunau

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