How I Decide Who To Follow Back on Twitter

I've been on Twitter for a couple of years now. I've been active for at least 2 years. I have over 200 followers now. I have no idea how many people have unfollowed me. I've unfollowed quite a few.

When it comes to social media, I tend to want to emphasize the social part. I want to know what people are thinking about and what they're doing. I want to interact with them. I'm especially interested if I'm following somebody successful that I want to be like someday. Make sure it's actually the person you're following though. Thanks to the rise of ghost blogging, some people don't even write their own tweets anymore. They pay someone to do it. Robert Kiyosaki is a case in point. He uses a “ghost” to tweet for him. So do John Maxwell and Dave Ramsey, although they are open about it and will occasionally write their own tweets. No matter how successful I get, any tweets you see with my name on them will come from me.

I decided that I'm going to write a post specifically on ghost blogging, so I won't carry on with it here.

Most days, I get notices that anywhere from 2-6 new people are following me on Twitter. I check each person to see if I want to follow them back. Most of the followers I get are spam, and their accounts are closed down by the time I get around to checking them out. Twitter is pretty good about preventing spam. I haven't had a problem with it in a long time.

So when somebody follows me, this is how I decide to follow back:

  • Does this person or business tweet anything I'm interested in?

I get plenty of follows on Twitter from people who tweet about subjects that just don't interest me. That's fair. I follow plenty of people who don't follow me back. I'm interested in what they have to say and in what they're doing. I understand if they’re not interested in what I’m thinking and doing.

  • Does this person or business tweet or retweet too much?

I tweet a lot at times. I've been told that. I try not to tweet nonsense though. I tweet mostly what I'm thinking and what I'm doing, which is what I think social media is about. Every now and again I'll include a link to something I found interesting, but my Twitter feed is not a link blog. I generally don't follow people back who do nothing but post links. I also don't follow people who do little more than retweet other tweets. Retweet is a nice function, and I use it when I come across something I like that I want to share, especially with my Facebook friends who aren't on Twitter (most of my Facebook statuses originally came from Twitter).

I've also reached my limit for following people who post motivational quotes and Bible verses. I have plenty of access to both. I don’t want them clogging up my Twitter feed.

And I'm fed up with Steven Wright jokes. They don't make the plane out of black box material because then it would be too heavy to fly. OK? Can we let it rest now?

When I evaluate whether to follow somebody back or not, I consider how many of their tweets are original material, and how many are retweets of other people’s content, Steven Wright jokes, and Drew Carey quotes.

  • Does this person or business reply to too many other people?

Another annoying aspect of Twitter is people who carry on one-sided conversations. There are two ways to communicate with other people on Twitter. One is the reply, the other is the direct message. You can't direct message somebody who is not following you. I prefer to use direct messages when I want to communicate, because other people following me are not privy to the other side of the conversation. When I evaluate whether or not to follow somebody, I check to see if most of their tweets are replies to other people. That can be a good thing, because if you have something to say to that person, they might reply back. But it could be a bad thing because you'll see 400 tweets from them in 2 hours, all replies to other people that mean nothing to you.

  • Does this person engage in idiotic customs like "Follow Friday"?

As I understand it, on Friday the Twitter custom is to recommend people that your followers might be interested in following. This is often accompanied with the #FF hashstag. A hashtag is a pound sign (#) followed by a word or phrase. This helps people to follow trends on Twitter. If you're attending a conference, you might mark tweets sent during that conference with the "#conference" tag to that others can follow it easier.

The problem I have with Follow Friday is how people abuse it. Some people will spend literally all day sending out tweets laden with other people's usernames. There's no way I have enough time in the day (even while unemployed) to check out each one. Then, people thank each other for recommending them for Follow Friday. One Sunday morning I woke up and found one person had sent out over 100 tweets overnight thanking others for Follow Friday recommendations. I unfollowed him.

  • Does this person have any recent tweets about “great free site that gets you tons of followers”?

I have yet to figure out the point to this. Some people are obsessed with these sites that “get you tons of free followers.” I don’t get the point, but I’m not on Twitter for followers. I’m on Twitter to interact with people. I’m on Twitter to share what I’m thinking and doing, and to see what others are thinking and doing. I don’t care if only 1 person cares what I’m thinking and doing. If 1 million people were interested in me, great, but I want them to be real people, not bots or zombies.

I know that occasionally a Twitter account can be hijacked. At one point, Max Lucado started sending out a ton of tweets about “a great free site that gets you tons of followers.” I’d already unfollowed several other people who were doing that. Max said his account was hijacked.

My account was apparently hijacked last year. I woke up one Sunday morning last year and found a panicked email from a friend asking me what was going on. I found out that somehow, a tweet went out under my account saying “My marriage is over”. We were having some marital problems at the time, but I’d only told a few trusted friends about it. I changed my password immediately, and assured my wife that it did not come from me.

  • Does the person send out a lot of repeat tweets about the same thing?

This is key for me. Obviously, I use Twitter to promote my blog. Any time I publish a post, it goes out on Twitter. Once. I get annoyed when people publish a blog post, then send out 6 tweets an hour for the next week about it. I think that’s overdoing it.

I’m also not a fan of people who constantly advertise a service. Twitter is not AM talk radio. You don’t have to run the same commercial 20 times an hour.

When I evaluate whether or not to follow somebody back on Twitter, I take this into account heavily. Do they have a lot of repeat tweets in their stream?

What criteria do you use to decide whether or not to follow somebody back on Twitter?

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