Why Only Following People Who Follow You on Twitter is Bad

Twitter is a tool. It’s an important part of having an overall social media presence and used properly, can (and should be) informative, fun and productive. So why do so many people follow only those who follow them back?

A lot of things are wrong with that theory, with the most being that you’re not reaching your target audience if you’re doing tit for tat. So let’s say a diaper manufacturer follows me. I could follow them back, sure, but then I have diaper stuff in my feed that has no relevance at all as my youngest is now 13. They aren’t likely to get much from my feed either, but that’s entirely their choice so if they want to follow me, cool. However, why should I be required to follow them back? It becomes cluttered on my feed with information that’s not helpful to me or my business, nor really ‘interesting’ info, know what I mean?

(And diaper manufacturers, sorry to use you as an example; I just needed to pick something so completely out of my personal and business range now that I have no kids in diapers and there was a diaper commercial on TV. Thank you for understanding.)

  • First Tip: Don’t be held hostage to following those you don’t want to follow.
  • Second Tip: You’re not hitting your target market if you’re just following everyone willing to follow you. They are out to increase their numbers just like you are and you’re not going to get the click-throughs, conversions or engagement that you need and should want.
  • Third Tip: You can’t learn from your competitors, customers or even prospects if their information is lost in a wall of clutter about things unrelated to your blog/business focus.
  • Fourth Tip: If you follow someone on Friday, don’t unfollow them on Saturday because they haven’t yet followed you. Simply seeing activity on Twitter doesn’t mean they’re not pre-scheduled posts, so you could be unfollowing someone who would follow you but hasn’t yet been around their computer to do so. Be patient.

Patience overall is a big thing – you won’t grow your following overnight, unless you pay for it, and then you’re frequently paying for spam accounts with duplicate owners that aren’t going to talk with you, go to your website or much less buy anything. Empty numbers. It’s better to have a smaller, engaged community than a field of numbers that don’t get you anything, and it’s a lot easier to find content that works for your community when it’s focused…and curating your content is a job in itself for another post.

There’s what we’d like to happen, and then there’s the reality — big time people in the social media field probably don’t know who I am and are unlikely to follow me; people will smaller numbers, less notoriety or just unrelated to their interest aren’t on their radar and aren’t going to make it past their social media manager’s Follow button. If you expect these people to follow you back, you may be disappointed AND you’re missing out on the opportunity to learn from them.

Also, who doesn’t follow a few funny people or celebrities on their feed? If not, because you’re worried about your numbers, you’re missing out.

But what about ratios and percentages? Trust me, these can be achieved without relying on follow reciprocation. Twitter does stop you at following at 2000 until you have that many followers, so you may have to change your approach until you get there, but consider this: if you follow a bunch of people to get to 2000 and then dump them, you’re doing it wrong. Getting followers just for a boost then dropping them later is a no-no and while there’s no Twitter rule against it, it’s like being a high school prom queen buttering up people to vote for her then going back and ignoring them the next day. It may be just another Twitter name to you, but be kind regardless.

When you follow someone on Twitter, are you using any tools to find people that are actually good candidates for your business, someone to learn from, or in your demographics? Something to consider. Lots of tools out there to help you if you’re willing to spend the time to do the research.

Do you look at their numbers when you follow them? Lots of followers usually means there’s a reason for that, and it’s not a follow me, I’ll follow you kind of thing. To me, it’s a huge red flag when I see the exact same number of followers to following. I want to follow people who are using Twitter for the kinds of reasons I like, so it’s a turn-off when their numbers match exactly or if they follow almost no one. Sure, some celebs don’t need to follow people and that’s a valid exception, but if they have 150k followers and follow only 2k, something to think about. The likelihood they’ll follow you back is small and you wonder, are they even listening to people? What’s their purpose? Not everyone’s purpose is the same, so this works for some people but you have to know what type of feed you want.

In the end, Twitter’s not a difficult tool but you have to remember one major thing: it’s YOUR feed. You are in control. You hold the reins. There’s no ‘do this and you’ll be perfect’ scenario, and just like a marketing campaign on paper, each person/business will have their own business model. Some take tweaking along the way, and each week, I go through some tools to see where I’m making the most of my feed. I also look to see if my feed is cluttered with stuff that’s no longer valid to my blog/business focus and to weed out dead accounts, spam accounts, etc. (Unfollowers.com is great for this, and the basic account is free – it’s all I currently use.)

What’s your Twitter concern or success? Share, I’d love to hear!

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. I honestly used to be in this trap. But I got to the point where my followers were as high as those I follow. I guess that made me stop. Perhaps thats the wrong reason. Now I mostly follow relevant brands and blogs.

  2. This is so true; what I’ve been doing lately is looking at the Twitter suggestions (both email & sidebars). Occasionally I’ll even go through people I do follow and see who they’re following too–may sound a bit stalker-ish, but I’ve found some gems that way!

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