5 More Twitter Myths That Will Cripple Your Success

Yesterday’s article about 5 Twitter myths that are hurting your efforts was mostly about the things that people who had never sent out a single tweet incorrectly believed about Twitter. But there are also some potentially damaging beliefs that Twitter newbies and veterans hold which could prevent you from finding success on the network.

It’s easy to say that people who haven’t signed up for Twitter are wrong to believe that Twitter is a waste of time or that you can never sift through the massive amount of tweets to find anything worthwhile. But many people who are currently on Twitter – and who have been for some time – also fall victim to believing some very, very wrong things about Twitter.

If you find yourself nodding in agreement to any of these headlines, you might want to rethink your Twitter strategy.

“You’ve got to follow back everyone who follows you.”

This is such a commonly-held belief in Twitter newbies that it’s extremely difficult to purge. And on the surface, it does sound “right”. Like Facebook, you should have a reciprocal relationship on Twitter, shouldn’t you? It’s only polite to follow someone back when they take the time to follow you.

This is a type of logic that doesn’t belong on Twitter, however. Twitter is meant to connect you to the things, people and topics that interest you. If you follow someone, it should be because you want to read their tweets, not because you feel obliged to follow a misplaced social norm. That person followed you because they wanted to hear what you said, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their tweets about their family reunion and favorite burrito place are things you want in your timeline.

You absolutely do not have to follow anyone back who follows you, unless you browse over to their profile page and deem them worthy.

“You should only follow someone who follows you back.”

Related to the aforementioned myth, this one holds that if someone doesn’t follow you back after a certain period of time, you should unfollow them. It’s based on the same indignant sense of rudeness that really doesn’t apply to Twitter.

If someone doesn’t follow you back after you follow them, it doesn’t matter. It won’t affect the tweets you read, retweet, compose or the links you click on within Twitter. The only thing it will affect is the number of followers you have – and more on why this, too, isn’t as important as you think below.

The idea that reciprocity exists on Twitter is flawed. Think about it – if Lady Gaga followed everyone who followed her, she’d be following over 10 million people. And this would mean she’d be effectively following none because her timeline would be so active she couldn’t read a single tweet. So if you don’t get followed back, don’t give it a second thought. Just continue following accounts you’re interested in, sending out tweets that you think will add value to your followers, and your Twitter presence will continue to grow.

“More followers on Twitter means more influence.”

Ah, the age-old Twitter-adage: more followers means more influence. Wrong! It absolutely does not. More engaged, active and interesting followers might mean more influence, but if you are speaking to 100,000 dormant accounts, well, that obviously means you’re speaking to no one at all.

The number of followers you have means much less than the number of engaged followers you have. You want to be followed by people who care about what you have to say, who will retweet you, debate you, and stimulate your intellect. That’s why those “buy 100 followers for only ten cents a piece” scams are just that – scams. Those followers you “buy” will do nothing other than inflate your follower count and clog up the system.

If you want to really test your influence, a service like Klout is a great place to start. This influence measure looks at your active followers, not the total, among other things when calculating just how influential you are on Twitter. But even this isn’t a perfect measure – you can consider yourself “influential” if you have meaningful back-and-forths with 10, 20 or 100 different people on Twitter.

“All of my followers will read my tweets.”

Unfortunately, no, they will not. And even fewer will retweet, favorite or mention you. Sorry! But that’s not what Twitter’s about. It’s about finding those few (or many) who actually do want to hear what you have to say. It’s not about “all or none”, but it is about some.

If some of your followers read your tweets, and a handful retweet them, you should be happy. In fact, the average engagement rate (retweets, mentions, favorites), might be as “high” as 0.46%, if Shea’s experiment holds any water.

But don’t let this get you down. People are busy, and people’s timelines fill up fast. Focus on sending out quality links, insightful comments and staying on topic, and you’re bound to catch the eye of a few followers who like what you have to say.

“A Tweet is the same as a Facebook status update.”

Maybe it’s because a lot of Twitter users were Facebook users first, or maybe it’s just that a “tweet” is more puzzling than a “status update”, but for whatever reason a lot of new Twitter users think of them as one and the same. And that is one of the causes of the “I just had a delicious cobb salad” tweet epidemics.

Tweets are meant to share ideas largely with strangers who don’t care so much about you but more about what you have to say. Facebook status updates are shared with friends (or at least people with whom you have some sort of relationship). The fundamental difference is that with Twitter, your ideas have to sparkle to catch people’s interests; with Facebook, a number of your connections are already interested in you.