Those Who Follow

I’m not a social media guru. I can’t and won’t claim to be. I’ve been poking around the Twitterverse for about a year, and I’ve learned a lot. There are tons of posts on how you can grow your Twitter following; this isn’t one of them.

People use Twitter for a variety of reasons. Some people want to chat with friends. Some people want to advertise products. Some people just want to be Internet popular. A lot of people pay attention to the number beside their followers (and I can admit to being guilty of this sometimes). But whatever draws you to Twitter, the thing which most colors your interactions are the people you follow. They’re the ones who fill your timeline, and they’re the ones with whom you hold 140 character conversations.

I can’t speak for others, but I learned pretty quickly following everyone and following randomly left my timeline cluttered with uninteresting things that made it difficult to do what I was really on Twitter to do; interact with people. So I grew discerning about who I follow. There’s no magic list of criteria I use when I’m looking for new people to follow, but there are few things that instantly turn me off.

1. Non-stop Advertisements
Twitter is a magnificent marketing tool; I get that. People use it to sell books, art, skills and any number of other things. Aspiring indies thrive by getting news of their products to as many eyes and ears as possible, and Twitter helps them do that. But if all I see on a person’s page are advertisements, I generally don’t click the follow button. For me, it doesn’t matter if a person is promoting only their own work or promoting the work of others. If every tweet is an advertisement, there’s no way I can meaningfully interact with a person. And my primary goal is interaction with my followers. Advertisements in general don’t bother me. I follow a lot of creative people on Twitter and I like to see what they’re up to or what they think is worth looking at. But if I have to scroll through twenty or thirty tweets to find one that isn’t an advertisement, I’m unlikely to follow (or follow back as the case may be).

2. Overwhelming Re-Tweets
There are lots of interesting things to share on Twitter. Everyone has uninspired days when the Twittersphere seems much cleverer than anything they can think to say. But some accounts exist solely for the purpose of re-tweeting others. Some people re-tweet according to subject and some people just seem to re-tweet randomly. Much like advertisements, a sprinkling is fine, but if I have to scroll through ten or more tweets before I find a tweet originating with the profile I’m browsing, I’m unlikely to follow. Again, it’s impossible to interact with someone when they don’t ever say anything. For this reason, I feel the same way about accounts where every tweet is a quote or music lyrics.

3. Every Post has an Outgoing Link
I hesitate to click the follow button if a cursory glance at a profile reveals an outgoing link at the end of every post. I’ve encountered lots of interesting people who share news posts on interesting topics and I sometimes give following them a try. Articles can at least lead to discussion. So long as every link isn’t to a personal blog or website, links don’t generally bother me. What bothers me is when a person starts randomly tweeting their followers with a link, usually to their personal website. This is akin to DMing someone when they start following you (something which drives me nuts). Links of these kind are particularly annoying because they fill your timeline with useless repetition. When someone I follow starts doing this, I usually unfollow them. I consider this behavior spam, and it makes it difficult to interact with my other followers.

4. Constantly Discussing Twitter Following
I’m uncomfortable with discussing Twitter following on Twitter. It’s like complaining at your birthday party that not enough people showed up. It makes you seem ungrateful to the people who did come. I’m not worried about posting this blog on my Twitter account because my followers can rest assured they don’t fall into any of these categories. I never follow people if they have more than one or two tweets in quick succession about their following, especially if one or more of those posts is a tweet to someone complaining that they haven’t followed or have recently unfollowed. Beating someone over the head with a baseball bat doesn’t make them like you. Chasing after people to follow you isn’t going to make them interested in you either. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think following a person makes them obligated to follow you back. You can take your toys and go elsewhere whenever you want, but that doesn’t mean you have to announce it to the person you’re unfollowing.

5. Profiles Consisting of Hashtag Lists
I often skip over profiles made up of hashtag lists. I assume that either the account is a spambot or a person trying very hard to be seen. I don’t have anything against hashtags in general, they’re useful for navigating topics that interest you. But if a person’s profile doesn’t say anything about who they are or what they’re interested in, what reason do you have to look at their tweets? If every hashtag is something I find interesting, and not all of them fall into a single category (such as ‘cosmetics’ or ‘fashion’), I’ll sometimes check to see if they’re a real person. Aside from proving you aren’t just a spambot, saying something about your interests in your profile offers the perfect opening for a new follower to interact with you right from the get-go. In fact, these are my favorite people to follow, because I can introduce myself as soon as I hit the follow button and initiate a conversation.

You don’t have to be the most exciting person in the world to attract Twitter followers (lord knows I’m not and yet over 500 people have decided I’m worth interacting with). Talk about something other than your art/book/blog every now and then, even if it’s just the weather or your morning cup of coffee. In the year since I started poking around Twitter, I’ve met hundreds of interesting people and I’m looking forward to chatting with hundreds more.

2 Responses to “Those Who Follow”

  1. Margaret Y. Says:

    Your twitter turnoffs are exactly like mine! I would add one more. I hate the false modesty that’s really bragging in disguise. It usually sounds like this: “I just reached 1000 followers. Wow, how did that happen?” As if that person hasn’t spent the last year making a concerted effort to gain followers.

    Whenever I see a tweet like that, that person’s follower numbers go down to 999, because I immediately unfollow.

    • Striker Says:

      Ugh! Yes, I know what you mean. I also sort of hate it when people ask for Re-tweets. I get it if it’s a good cause like raising money for cancer research or whatever and people want to signal boost. But I’m less likely to spread it around if someone asks for re-tweets in the post. Make or share interesting content and people who are interested by it will spread it around. It really is as simple as that.


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