Seven Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

In the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been abuzz about various philosophies for choosing whom to follow on Twitter. Mitch Joel and Mark Schaefer recently dueled on their opposing approaches – be selective in who you follow or follow (mostly) everyone. Gini Dietrich also weighed into the debate.

Although people are quick to point out that there are no “rules” in social media, there are certainly best practices. Determining how to use the tools to your benefit is certainly up to you and what best aligns with your social media goals.

Because I use social media to develop relationships and to build business, I follow most people who follow me. However, I don’t use an automated system to follow people back. I look through every person who follows me. That’s right, I take a minute or two to look through the profile of every person who decides to follow me. I think it’s important to get to know the people who care what I have to say online. And most times, I will follow people back.

But there are also some reasons I absolutely will not follow someone. For instance, I will not follow you if:

  1. You don’t have an avatar. An avatar is the picture or image associated with your account. If you have the Twitter goose egg there instead, I won’t follow you. I want to see the person or business behind the account.
  2. Your bio is incomplete. The bio is only 140 characters. Take a few minutes to say a little bit about yourself. If you leave this blank, why should I get to know you?
  3. Your avatar is a picture of money. I avoid get rich quick Tweeters like the plague. If you are all about “making money online” (the spammy way), I won’t come near you. Sorry.
  4. Your avatar is something even less savory. Twitter has cleaned up the spam quite a bit, but for a while, it was common to get followers with some inappropriate photos. Those followers, I block…and fast.
  5. You’ve never tweeted. It’s amazing to me how many people open up an account and let it sit. Don’t let analysis paralysis keep you from tweeting. Put yourself out there and say hello. If you don’t say anything, why should I follow?
  6. You’ve never replied to your followers. For me, the point of twitter is to build relationships. If you’ve never @replied to your followers, it shows me you don’t care about a two-way conversation. There are some exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking, I want to connect with people who are going to talk back.
  7. You only promote yourself. Plenty of people simply use Twitter to promote their own stuff non-stop. It almost turns into a 24/7 RSS feed of their blog. If that’s your thing, that’s fine, but I’m not tuning in.

One sure-fire way to guarantee I’ll follow you back? Engage with me. One of the main reasons I’m on Twitter is to build relationships. It’s amazing how many wonderful people I have made in-person relationships with all because we struck up a conversation online.

So, if you want to connect with me or anyone else on Twitter, say hello. Chances are, the person will talk right back.

What are the reasons you choose not to follow someone? Is there anything we should add to the list?

Laura Click

13 thoughts on “Seven Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

  1. All good reasons. What about accounts that have tweeted very little yet have tens of thousands of followers. Be highly suspect of those!

    I’ve noticed an exodus of many who follow me for a week and then unfollow when I don’t follow back. I view those as lame attempts to artificially inflate ones numbers.

    Follow who you want, and don’t feel obligated to follow back.


  2. To add to your list, I don’t follow (or quickly unfollow):

    1. People who reply to their followers only with insults or challenges.

    2. People with negative-only messages or conversations. I’m not Pollyanna, but I don’t need relationships with people with nothing good to say, online or offline.

  3. Hey Laura! Thanks for the shout-out. These are all the same reasons I won’t follow someone back…I have to know there is a real person behind the avatar and that you use Twitter for engagement, not sales. In the beginning, I wouldn’t follow back avatars that weren’t people. I’ve loosened up on that guideline, but still won’t follow people if there are 20,000 people following them and they’re only following 3.

  4. @Jon – You make some excellent points. I agree that people with high follower counts, yet few tweets are very suspect. They likely fall into the spam or bot category. I also hate when people follow and then unfollow to “game” the system. I wrote about that here:

    @Arienne – I’m with you. Negative folks just aren’t worth my time. I’ve definitely unfollowed people for that very reason. Great additions!

    @Gini – Thanks for stopping by! And, you’re welcome for the shout out – much deserved. 🙂 The reason we use social media is to engage with a person. I agree that It’s much harder to engage with a logo unless you know there is a real person behind it.

  5. Hi, Laura – found you via Gini. Count me in as someone who only follows people who have an info stream that’s valuable to me. So I’m with you on 2 – 7. I do follow a couple people that only have an egg still – although I pester them to represent.

    I’m actually bugged by the whole, follow me I’ll follow you. I think it’s so false. Let’s be honest – none of us can “follow” that many people and I’m not about to manage or create lists.

    It’s helpful to me when I see streams I really value and that person doesn’t follow a large # of people. I then go in and look at who they’re following as a means to see whom they value.

    Now with folks like Gini (whom I REALLY value), she does have a large # of people she *follows* but I take my cues on whom she values by her RTs and @s.

    When twitter was new, I get that there was politeness in mutual following. But for me, it’s just empty data to have #s posted that aren’t realistic.

    Great column.

  6. @Maureen – Thanks for stopping by! You’re right – reciprocity in social media is a totally false concept. If someone DOES follow thousands of people, you don’t really pay attention to everything they say. I think I read once that we can only maintain a few hundred connections well, and that’s likely very true.

    Taking cues from who people RT and reply is a good way to gauge who people are REALLY paying attention to.

    As for #1 – I might follow a goose egg or two, but it’s only people I know in real life, instead of Twitter.

    Great comment, Maureen!

  7. Laura,

    I too only follow people who post content I’m interested in. I look for content both for my business, industry and client’s. I’ve met some great people through Twitter. I’ve also met some “interesting” characters!

  8. Mark Schaefer, a mentor/teacher/friend, does indeed advise selectivity, though this is from a professional standpoint and a necessity in a commercial Social Media campaign. SM in business isn’t a playground (well, except for MySpace), and efforts should lend themselves to optimization. For my own account, which is personal, I tend to follow all that follow me. However, every few months, I check to see if I am being followed by those who hold no intensive interest for me (e.g. real estate, health, etc., accounts), and if they do not, I drop them. I realize this amounts to number games, but again, this isn’t for enterprise. If an account holds consequence (e.g. Social Media, Web design, tech, etc.), I continue to follow whether they track me or not. I hope not to sound either elitist or snarky, but I follow for two reasons: either professional interest or as a courtesy.

    BTW, great post!

  9. Thanks for weighing in, Gregory! I’m glad you liked the post.

    You do not sound elitist or snarky – you have your own reasons who to follow (or not). At the end of the day, it’s all about your own personal preferences. I think the days of following everyone back as a courtesy are over. Although I follow most people, I don’t follow everyone….and that’s okay. It’s all a matter of taste and choice.

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