To follow or not to follow, that is the question

Earlier this week, I checked Twitter in the evening and saw I had a few new followers. One was a marketing agency who mentioned cake in their bio. Right up my street. So I dropped them a tweet to say thanks for the follow and then followed them back. I get a fair few of these agency type accounts following me, so I paused to consider what made me follow them back. I liked the use of humour in their bio and they are also relevant in that they are not just a marketing agency, they also have a focus on technology, so their tweets should be of interest to me.

I ‘manage’ my personal account quite differently to the brands that I work with, in that I don’t really manage it. I just organically let it go where it wants. There are so many insight tools out there now which can be helpful, but I was intrigued to see what prompts other people’s Twitter follows. So I threw out a tweet asking:

Follow Tweet

I didn’t expect so much response on a quiet week night but it provoked a lot of discussion and over 70 tweets from various members of my PLN in the space of an hour. It obviously isn’t a huge sample or a terribly scientific experiment, but I thought it was interesting enough to share some of the replies.

Recent tweets: The key factor in deciding whether to follow someone or not seems to be based on their recent tweets. Browsing back through people’s timelines seems to provide enough of a flavour of their Twitter behaviour for someone to decide if they’re worthy of being followed. For me, that’s fascinating because when I follow accounts (via my personal Twitter) I don’t tend to even look back at people’s timelines! Two respondents took it one step further and would have a quick stalk of people’s recently posted pictures. Images that reflect a mix of professional and personal interests were preferred, but too many pictures of someone’s lunch is deemed a boring no-no.

Connections: Who an account is connected to is also important. Do they have relationships with people already in your network? This adds to an account’s credibility, but there was also a general consensus that following accounts from outside one’s immediate circle of interest can be both challenging and useful. There was a comment that it is not a positive thing when Twitter becomes an ‘echo chamber’ and I couldn’t agree more. I like following accounts outside of L&D and marketing, and often have binges where I get stuck into a particular topic and follow new accounts based on that particular area of interest for a while. I also enjoy the random nature of Twitter and like it when someone follows me that I might never have found but adds depth and content to my timeline.

Other deciding factors in the to follow or not to follow debate included:

• Details of bio – my key deciding factor!
• A mix of personal and professional pursuits – hobbies and interest show a human side
• Real profile pictures – logos and avatars a turn off for many, an interesting conundrum for brands as people will always connect more with people
• Propensity to RT – generally perceived to be a positive behaviour
• Location – only one person mentioned this and he is based in Australia, no idea if that has any bearing on his interest in location as a deciding factor. I must confess it isn’t something I look at very much at all

Keep it real: Whether or not someone has loads of followers wasn’t a deciding factor at all. It is much more about the authenticity of what they do on Twitter and the potential value they can bring to someone’s timeline, which could be in the form of content sharing or just good conversation.

Turn offs: There are a few Twitter crimes to avoid though it seems. Social media etiquette is an oft discussed topic and it can be very subjective (let’s face it, some parts of Twitter can be pretty dark and disturbing). But in the nice civilised part of Twitter that I live in, general no-nos include:

• No picture – nobody wants to talk to an egg
• Not enough information in bio – a personal bug bear
• #A #bio #stuffed #with #too #many #hashtags
• Tweeting too many motivational quotes – stop it *now*
• Too much self-promotion
• Too much automation
• God complex – don’t style yourself as a guru, let your tweets do the talking
• Auto direct message upon following – nobody does this any more, and it wasn’t even cool four years ago when lots of people did it

Device dependent behaviour: For someone who spends a lot of their working day in Twitter, one respondent brought up an interesting point. And that is that he uses a different device for Twitter when he is not working. This is one of the people that likes to view people’s pictures when evaluating whether or not to follow and account. I asked him if he tends to use an iPad for tweeting because the photos are so readily viewable in the iPad app (the answer was ye). Whereas I use TweetDeck a lot and you have to go digging for photos in there, so it isn’t something I do very often.

This lead me to consider the influence of the device and its functionality on my Twitter behaviour. And it is significant. My Android phone app doesn’t give me general notifications – I get @ replies of course but it doesn’t have a stream to show me when people have favourited or followed for example. TweetDeck gives me all of that information in one column. Therefore I am much more likely to follow accounts when I am within TweetDeck. Again, this isn’t very scientific but shows that what we engage with on Twitter isn’t just about useful content or well positioned accounts.

The punchline to all of this for me, is partly that following an account on Twitter is not a big commitment. I don’t tend to check people out in too much detail, but if a stream of ‘inspiring’ motivational quotes start appearing in my stream, I can (and do) quickly unfollow. The other takeaway is that whilst there is some science that can be applied to growing your presence and being ‘successful’ on Twitter, I believe the most important thing is to be authentic. Whether you’re a person or tweeting on behalf of an organisation or a brand, you need to behave like in a ‘real’ way, with real interests and a real point of view.

Would love to hear your thoughts on what prompts you to follow Twitter accounts (or not as the case may be).

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About kategraham23

Start-up founder, writer, connector, librarian's daughter. Interested in learning, HR, technology, online, media, marketing, fashion and cricket. Not always in that order. The views expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect the thoughts and opinions of the company I work for currently, or those I've worked for in the past.
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2 Responses to To follow or not to follow, that is the question

  1. Great piece, Kate, easily the most expansive piece on Twitter following habits I’ve ever read. Thanks for writing it up at the end of a really long week! Also don’t forget the bad social media habits that will make people unfollow you. Like body odour, though, nobody will tell you you’ve got them. I call this suffering from Social Media BO, or SoMeBO, and (plug) you can read about it here https://donaldhtaylor.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/do-you-suffer-from-somebo/

    Like

    • kategraham23 says:

      SoMeBO just made me laugh out loud!

      Thanks for your comments and participation in the original discussion Don. It was interesting and something I think I’ll continue to monitor from time to time. I am already finding myself snooping at people’s photos more than I ever did!

      Like

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