Twitter, Real Relationships And Phony Followers

Let me ask you a question. On Twitter, which of these is more important to you: getting a reply from somebody, or having them follow you back?

Most people would go with the latter, but it’s fundamentally wrong. And here’s why. Twitter is an open, public network. The reply mechanism works just as well whether I’m following you, you’re following me, or neither of us are following each other. A reciprocal follow is just a +1. Nothing more. The follow doesn’t make a lick of difference to the quality of the relationship.

Indeed, a follow, in and of itself, is essentially worthless.

Relevance and interest is rarely two-way. You’ll have your own reasons, but I follow people who I hope can educate me. Whose tweets I don’t want to miss. I want to learn from them, and the content they provide, and, where relevant, pass that on to my network. I don’t need them to follow me back. But, if at any point I find myself asking, “Why am I following this person?” then I know it’s time to part ways.

Being smart about your follow numbers can only improve your output. In the past I have documented how I made great strides to reduce the size – and, by definition, the quality – of my network. This dramatically improved my ability to filter signal from noise and interact. Now I follow less than two hundred people. You’ll have your own magic number, but it’s important that you find it.

I’m often asked how long you should wait before you unfollow somebody who hasn’t followed you back. The answer to this is: you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t matter. Reciprocation on Twitter is a choice, not a rule. If you’re being smart and only following people in whom you have a genuine interest, who cares if they follow you back or not? After all, that isn’t the reason why you followed them… is it?

What you should really be asking is, “Why has this person never replied to me?” If you’ve sent somebody several tweets, particularly if they’re questions about a subject to which they market themselves as an expert or guru (and – this is important – you haven’t been an ass about it), and never received a single response, then you need to think hard about your relationship with that individual.

Does it even exist?

Follow numbers are no excuse. If somebody is ignoring you because they follow 50,000 people, then that’s as good a reason as any why they need to trim it back. And if they’re following a dozen people and still blowing you off, then they’re just ignorant. Or rude. Or both. Don’t waste your time. If you’ve signed up for anything more than a feed of information (which is entirely valid), cut ‘em loose.

Basic etiquette and civility is as important online and throughout social media as it is in all social situations. More so, perhaps, because it’s ‘out there’ and, thanks to the magic of the internet, documented forever. Bottom line? Don’t support bad manners by continuing to follow people who won’t even give you the basic courtesy of a response.

(Follow image via Shutterstock.)