Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?
A few days ago I sent out a message on Twitter (I’m @DaveTaylor on the service) commenting that I was just a few people shy of 2000 followers, a big milestone as it has occasionally been the top limit of standard Twitter accounts. Someone I didn’t know responded thusly:
“@DaveTaylor You are probably not following them. Many of us clean out the non-followers now and again”
Well, that was a bit of a surprise, the implication that the best practice use for Twitter is to automatically follow everyone who follows you? I don’t agree, which is clear when you notice that I currently follow 130 people, while I have 2028 followers now. If you’re calculating, that means I only follow 6.4% of the people who follow me.
I responded to Jill (kiwichamp) with a question of my own: “That’s interesting. I follow less than 10% of the people who follow me. Why do you expect reciprocity?”
Jill’s response surprised me:
“cause social media is a two way street — otherwise it is not social”
As you can imagine, the conversation blossomed from there…
Me: To me it’s about stemming the tide of information. I interact with everyone, I follow my friends.
Jill: I would give priority to those who do treat me as a friend — that’s what this latest move towards social mktg is all about
Me: So you wouldn’t do business with me because I don’t follow you on Twitter? (raises eyebrows) Um, okay.
Jill: How can you trust as a friend when there is not much two way communication?
Me: Ah, but isn’t it important to differentiate between “treating you as a friend” and *being friends*? Not geeky, just ethics?
and on and on it went. In fact, Jill has a good point: if your philosophy is to engage with everyone you encounter, to connect to every person you bump into in the digital world, then yes, you should probably follow everyone who follows you. This, of course, is the quantity over quality approach to social media and it’s certainly one way to approach things.
As someone with high visibility in the marketplace and industry, however, I have learned to use the opposite approach, of quality over quantity. In fact, I know every single person I follow on Twitter, and would invite all of them to my home for dinner without thinking twice. They are, truly, friends and I know them all personally outside of the digital world too.
I don’t think that either approach is better or worse than the other, just different.
But, then again, maybe I’m wrong. To find out, I canvassed my Twitter followers and got some very interesting answers, in no particular order (and some are slightly edited for brevity, mea culpa):
- You don’t follow me as you don’t know me well and so there is no necessity for you to follow me. But am following you because I like to be updated with all your tweets.
Reciprocating the follow in Twitter is not necessary.
And it is not helpful, as you would be following a person who is following you but you are not sure who he/she is. So better follow those who you know and like to follow and let others do their job of following.
- I think everyone can have a slightly different experience with Twitter, so there’s no one rule that works for all, such as you have to follow everyone who follows you. If you’re a college student and your Twitterverse is strictly friends and family, then you probably will have Follower-Following reciprocity. If you’re a journalist with a lot of readers, it’s impractical to follow everyone who follows you; you’ll probably limit who you follow to your contact network (friends, colleagues, people you’ve interviewed, met at conferences, etc.).
- I’m relatively new to this twitter thing, but see no reason to follow all of my followers. Do you follow every blogger who reads your feed? Why is Twitter any different? Tweet what you want, follow tweeters you find interesting. It’s so easy to start or stop following, and there are so many different reasons you might want to follow somebody–but nobody should take it personally if they’re not followed back.
- When I first started, I did and wanted to. Several reasons. One is I don’t like to be rude or disrespectful, offline or online. Also, just because someone is “new” or does not have a website, does NOT mean they are not worthy etc.
That being said, I have found it is not possible to follow everyone, because I can not realistically keep up with all the tweets. I have ADD like everyone else, lol… Now, I look at the person’s profile and website(s) and see if interests me, ie do we have anything in common, do they seem to be into something I have wanted to learn about etc. Obviously, you have to review to make sure it is not a spammer or bot, that is why I do not use the Tweetlater autoresponse function and Manually thank all my followers.
- You follow people because enough of their tweets really inform or entertain you (and hopefully both), not because they’ll follow you back.
- I tend to follow more often than not. I’ve been both pleasantly surprised and sorely disappointed once I’ve had the chance to be a part of others’ ongoing twitter streams. People I’ve never met have turned out to be fabulous resources of information and useful nuggets of advice. I had high expectations of the benefits of following others, but found myself drowning in endless tweets of what they’re eating for dinner, how many frappa-whatevers they’re getting at Starbucks every morning and so on. I really don’t need to know this.
- I would say it is not important to follow everyone that follows you. I would say it would be nice if you follow everyone that follows you. Unless tweets are not what you want to see on your feed then I always follow.
- My answer is NO. When I get follows from a tweeple that doesn’t bother to put up a picture or avatar, is obviously promoting a business or opportunity, follows 2,000 people but only 10 follow them back and their tweets are nothing but spam, it only wastes my time and pisses me off.
If the person seems legit, I check out their tweets and who else they follow and check out their website or blog to try to determine if we have anything in common. If so, the decision is easy. If I determine them to be borderline, I’ll usually give them the benefit of the doubt. One can always unfollow if necessary.
- No — you shouldn’t try to follow everyone who follows you. Your goal should be FOLLOWERS. When you follow someone, their tweets show up in your panel. Follow too many people and you get slammed with tweets. Important ones scroll off too fast. Follow those you WANT to hear from or send and receive direct messages.
- I follow people that have something to say that interests me. Follow everyone and you really follow no one. Too much noise!
- I always try to reciprocate and follow … unless they’re clearly a badass. Why? Because then folks feel truly part of my ‘tribe’. My own Twitter tribe is very tiny right now, but it will grow. This is an increasingly social environment because the personal connection or referral is ever more appreciated in an ocean of deception.
There is no universal answer, but at least with the people who answered my query I think the strategy is clear: follow poeple who you find interesting or want to know better, don’t just blindly follow everyone who follows you in Twitter.
But then again, you, dear reader, haven’t chimed in yet. What’s your opinion?