Should Brands On Twitter Automatically Follow Everybody Back?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: if you’re a brand or entrepreneur and looking to use Twitter to market and sell products, then there’s value in always following back your customers. Never follow back everybody – be selective. It shouldn’t be something you take lightly or just do automatically.

(And certainly not with a script or follow-back tool.)

Take a moment to vet every profile that follows you and if the person seems real and fits your product demographic, then yes, follow them back. If not, then don’t, as you’re wasting your time (and theirs). Trying to convert completely random followers into customers is a fool’s game, and one you’ll never win.

Following back your customers is important because it allows you both to exchange private communications. This is critical, because it provides these folks with a way to contact you in a non-public way, which is the ideal if they’re making a complaint or chasing up a missing order.

And even if they make this initial complaint publicly, it then allows you to ensure that further communications are private by sending them a direct message. And because you’ve followed them back, they can respond in kind. If they start cluttering up your DM inbox with junk, then kick them into touch.

Twitter can work brilliantly as a sales tool, but it’s also a powerful way to handle frontline support and customer enquiries. This works both ways, of course, and sometimes you’ll be managing many potentially damaging complaints and technical issues at the same time. You’ll have a lot more success handling these privately than you will trying to manage them publicly, predominately because too much of the latter has a huge and often very immediate snowball effect. Once a few people know they’re not the only ones with a given problem then suddenly everybody is pointing the finger. And just like that, your company has a reputation crisis. Existing customers are ranting and bringing their friends in to help, and potential customers are horrified and taking their money to your biggest competitor. This kind of damage can take months to repair.

Conversely, when complaints are handled via direct message (or moved to email), then each customer thinks only they have the problem – and everybody else is completely oblivious. You might have a hundred complaints come in all at once, but if you act quickly to move and keep them private then your reputation will not suffer. This can be vital during those inevitable periods when you have website or system difficulties, or problems with your shipping company. Be in the business long enough and these kinds of issues are inevitable. This isn’t duplicity – it’s good practice.

(Tip: And if you have website or system difficulties, or problems with your shipping company, or anything else that’s going to trigger negative feedback, be open and apologetic about it on Twitter. This will save you a lot of grief. Most of the time, people just want to know that their order is okay and that they haven’t lost their money or been conned. A bit of proactive support can work wonders almost immediately.)

Individuals should also always check out a profile before making a decision on whether to follow or not, but two-way direct messaging is less important for them than it is for brands, who should instinctively lean towards the follow-back when the user fits the profile. Being able to manage support queries and complaints away from the very destructive gaze of the public is worth the price of admission alone.