A Twitter Study: Rules to “Follow” By

For this past month, I have been freelancing as a community manager for an advertising agency.  My job here was to interact with the community especially on the much neglected Twitter.

I found it odd that there was so much junk and spam on their feed. And then I realized that this account was following over 3,100 people.

And yes, the account was indeed following spammers, bots, fake accounts, and random people it should not be following.

It seems that at one point in time, this account had an auto-follow set up where an application would automatically follow whoever follows your account, indiscriminately.  On top of that, at some point, someone decided to just follow anyone who mentioned the brand, or perhaps tweeted about being at the same convention where the brand was exhibiting.

Some people–and businesses–don’t think that WHO they follow matters.  Some are under the impression that the more people you follow, the more people would follow you back.  We all thought that at the beginning. It is a classic newbie mistake. I’ve done it myself when I first started.  But then you quickly realized that by following everybody, you have cluttered up your twitter stream so much so that you can’t seem to keep up with all the information you wanted or the conversation you wanted to get in on.

As a company and a brand, who you follow matters. Actually, it also matters for personal users too.  For examples, CNN has over 3 million followers but it is only following only 565 accounts.  Even the King of Twitter himself, Ashton Kutcher, with over 9 million followers, only follows 687 accounts.

If you follow Tom, Dick, and Harriott coming through the door, that leaves you with a Time Square ticker tape of an incoming feed which makes it difficult to really get any information, let alone  interact with your community.

People you are following should be those you actually want to get information from and those you would recommend to others, like your business partners, your favorite news sources, or even your competitors.

As for my client’s account, not only following 3,000+ people unwieldy, it was full of junk.  So, I took it upon myself to scan through everything and start unfollowing…or deleting, really…people off the list.

There is no rules anywhere that you have to follow someone forever.  We’re no emperor penguins here, folks. We don’t “mate for life” with the people we follow.  You can unfollow people you’ve been following.

Some of the criteria I use is more specific to the account, but for the most part, the most important rule of them all is this to follow people you know or want to get to know.

D’uh, I know. But some folks keep forgetting that.

You want to follow people you are interested in getting information from.  You want to follow people with whom you interact on a regular basis, or have had interacted with once or twice but proven to be someone you are interested in.

Once every a couple of months, go through your account and see who you are following. Do you remember why you’re following these people in the place? Do you even remember following these people? Have those people interacted with you recently…or ever?  But more importantly, do you still want to follow them?

If the answer is no to any of those, it’s time to clean house and unfollow some people.  Or as I’ve been saying for the past few weeks: delete their ass.

Don’t feel guilty about unfollowing folks. You’re getting rid of the clutter so you can get back to making real interactions and sharing meaningful information.

And you and your account will look good doing it too.

Now, by the time I had gone through about 1,000 accounts, I’ve grown frustrated–at at times amused–by people’s profiles and the interaction from seemingly professional accounts. As a way to get myself through the day, I started to share some of those gems as  #YourAssIsGettingDeleted.

We’ll cover those and the tips of what NOT to put on your Twitter profile in the next installment.

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