Learning Social Media: Should You Follow Everyone Back on Twitter?

by on April 10, 2012

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Following people back on Twitter has become a sign of courtesy and considered a best practice by many.  In this article I explain why you shouldn’t engage in this practice.  

Back in May last year, I thought like many others, that a follower-to-following ratio of around 1.0 was the best because it suggests that you’re listening and being listened to, to the extent where some even encourage others to follow everyone back on Twitter. 

Social media is an ever evolving medium and best practices change, and after a year of experimenting with different approaches on how to use Twitter most effectively, I thought I’d share what I learned

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Quantity vs. Quality Followers

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Quality followers are those who follow you because they are interested in what you have to say, while quantity followers are those who follow you mainly to get follow backs. 

Even though many don’t consider Klout an effective influence metric, it does a great job at measuring your ability to engage others.  This may not necessarily mean that you are influential, but at least that you are there to interact and tweet shareable content.  

Increasing your Klout is harder to game as it requires increased engagement.  Comparativley speaking, increasing your following can easily be accomplished.  You can up your follower count to 1-2k simply by following other accounts that contain 1 or two similar keywords in their bio to yours.

The problem of following mainly to get reciprocal follow backs is that those types of accounts mostly talk rather than listen, even though the purpose of following someone on Twitter is to listen and engage.

The bottom line is that we can only handle so much monitoring, and our limited capacity and attention span should be reserved for the quality followers and not the quantity followers.

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Why You Need a Relevant Twitter Feed

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Having a Twitter feed with users you can mostly recognize from previous interactions or genuine interest will help you engage in more conversations online and be of higher value to your entire network.  

In his book How To Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie explains that one of his principles for making new friends is to be genuinely interested in others.  On Twitter the best ways to show interest is by replying, mentioning, and retweeting the tweets of others. 

This is why having a relevant network will make it easier for you to start conversations with others and attract more active followers who are on the platform to interact and not just to get followed back through reciprocal – but disengaged – follow-backs.  

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Suggested Follow-Back Policies

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Some argue that not following someone back is rude, but I think it is ruder to follow someone back only to ignore them in the long run.  

Establishing a follow-back policy is good specially when there is more than one person managing a Twitter account.  Make sure this policy is meant to build a quality network and not a quantity network.  Remember that without active interaction, you’re not really connected regardless of whether you follow each other back. 

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