I’m going to share the policy I’ve been following since my first Tweet in April 2009 — and that I’ve blogged about periodically from 2010 until now. It works well for me. You can adopt this policy for yourself or not, as you wish.
Ready? It’s really straightforward.
I follow everyone back on Twitter. (Just about).
There, that’s my policy. Here’s why:
- For whatever odd reason, Twitter limits how many people a person follows. If you follow a bunch of “celebrities” and news outlets that don’t follow you back, you’ll hit a wall at 2,000 where you find you can’t follow anyone else. And even if your follow-followee ratio is close enough that Twitter lets you slip past this stupid, arbitrary wall of 2,000, you still have to stay within a close ratio to continue following more people. So any time you don’t follow someone back, you’re limiting who else they can follow. That’s not nice. Be nice.
- The friend who introduced me to Twitter explained that automatically following back is the ethic of the medium. It’s what you do, he said. A lot of us still act that way, and so this rule has served me well in making some really cool friends and acquaintances along the way.
- In this way, Twitter is pretty much the opposite of Facebook and LinkedIn, where everyone’s always asking, “Do I know you?” This open, “We’re all friends here” culture really works for me. I’m friendly in real life – I’m like a Labrador Retriever – and Twitter lets me be friendly online as well.
- Much more importantly (to me), here’s why I follow everyone back: I’m not more important than my followers. Indeed, I’m grateful every single time a person compliments me by following me. It’s their way of saying, “Hi Ted! I want to get to know you better.” For me to snub their kindness would be ungracious – and if I were ungracious, I couldn’t look my Mother in the eye. [I’m on a lifelong crusade against arrogance. We’ll leave it at that.]
- On that last point, following back is consistent with my status as a customer service author and leader. How on earth can I tell people to provide Five-Star Customer Service, which is based entirely on manners, when I am impolite myself? So for me, it’s an easy decision.
- I know some of you will find these to be strong words, especially that last part. Let me repeat: this is MY follow-back policy. These are my reasons. You may have perfectly legitimate reasons for not observing my practices, and I’m sure they work for you.
Now, it’s time for the caveats:
- When I follow a new person, I typically give them a week, maybe two, to follow me back. If they don’t choose to, that’s perfectly fine. But at that point I unfollow them. I literally do not follow a single human who does not follow me as well – at least not for more than a week. No one is that important to me.
- I use a client (Hootsuite) to manage my Twitter stream. I basically ignore my “All Friends” feed. Instead I set up columns on Hootsuite that search for key words, hashtags I enjoy, or for lists of special people – my core friends. I recommend you try something similar. (Note: on my iPhone I’ve switched to echo phone. Neither is perfect for the phone. Oh, well).
- I regularly check in with Tweepi to manage my list, and to find new people to follow who share my interests, which are mostly business, leadership, social media, and customer service.
- Tweepi is great. It lets me find and follow people with similar interests. You can see when they last tweeted, so you can only follow active Tweeters. You can unfollow accounts that are clearly spambots or that have become inactive. Poke around the site. There’s a lot to learn.
- I’ve also been using Tweet Jukebox of late to schedule out tweets, especially from the other contributors to this website. It works well.
- One last thing: do I follow wack-jobs, which to me includes some members of fringe political and/or religious groups that offend me? Hmn. I’m always wrestling with this, but typically yes. I figure engagement is a great way to find common ground with those whose views are different from mine. Often, even if their beliefs in one area make me squirm, in many other respects we find all sorts of common ground. If they really, truly alienate me with their tweets, then yes, they’re out. That’s pretty rare, though.
- …And I unfollow spammers with impunity. Glee, even. There seem to be more and more every week, and they all suck.