Twitter Etiquette-to autofollow or not to autofollow

November 24, 2010
posted by sheric

I got really steamed today on Twitter because of a message sent to one of my tweeps calling him out for not following her back. I have seen this happening a lot lately and I want to address it here. The best way to turn people off on Twitter is to call them out in public. I might add that to all social networking platforms actually. If you have a flame to throw, you had better consider what you are doing before you press update because it will be out in the universe following you forever.

For the record, I NEVER AUTOFOLLOW. I hate any automated programs for Twitter. I don’t hook my Facebook to Twitter or vice versa. I don’t hook my blog to Twitter, but it does auto post to Facebook and many other networking platforms just to keep those sites updated with content. I do not feel compelled to follow every person who follows me. If I did, I would have an endless stream of junk and spam bots who now can send me DMs too. I think automated programs defeat the whole purpose of social networking which is to ACTIVELY engage on the platform. An automated program sending out scheduled tweets and following everyone who follows you is not actively engaging anyone, it is mechanical and inauthentic. Two huge no nos in social networking. You want automatic, one way communication? Buy an ad.

There are many schools of thought regarding how best to use Twitter. Chris Brogan highly recommends using autofollowing programs like Socialtoo because he gets so many followers a day that he can’t keep up with following them all (very telling about how much he actually engages with his followers). I say, why should he try to keep up with them all? Here are a few reasons I think autofollowing is a bad idea:

-You become a target for spammers-While using automated programs seems like a time saving idea, manually going through and clearing out spam bots from your stream is even more time consuming.

-Unfocused followers-I know many of you use autofollow programs in order to boost your numbers on Twitter. Do you really want to follow the stream of every person who happens to click follow on your profile? There is no way you can follow any conversations taking place there when thousands of tweets are going by, mostly unrelated to anything you are interested in. Numbers only count if there are engaged people behind them. If you want to build a quality following, actively use Twitter! Yes, it will take time so be patient.

-Everyone knows it is a cheat-I can always spot someone using autofollow programs. Their follower to following ratio is very close. When I decide whether I want to follow someone, I look both at the quality of their tweets and at their ratio. If it is close, I pass because their following is most likely full of crap. Following these accounts means the likelihood that they will even see the tweets you post is low. Their level of influence is low because there is no engagement going on when they follow thousands of people. You will get nothing out of clogging up your stream with these accounts.

So when should you follow someone back? I never follow people who don’t 1)talk to me directly on Twitter 2)offer me value in their tweet stream. For me, you are on a trial basis always. I occasionally use Twerpscan to find abandoned accounts to unfollow. I give you 30 days between Tweets. If you haven’t used Twitter in 30 days, I unfollow because you are taking up room in my stream for someone far more interesting and valuable to me. I am pretty militant about it. You might want to give them 90 days, up to you.

-Follow people who are part of the niche in which you are interested-You can find those people using Listorious or Twellow for example.

-Follow people who offer good information-For me it takes time to evaluate this. First I look at their stream and if it seems they actively engage in conversations and post some solid links with a reasonable amount of RT, then I give them a try. So far, there have been very few people I have had to unfollow if I evaluate them first.

-Follow festivals, distributors, production resources, journalists as well as individuals-again you will want to evaluate the quality of their tweets before hitting Follow. Some are administered by bots or people who do not use the platform as intended (one way tweets, no conversation etc) but it can be a good way to strike up a friendship well before you want to ask for something.

-Look at your friends Follow Friday recommendations- usually denoted by #FF, this happens every Friday and these are personal recommendations from your following and follower list. The recommendation serves as a good guide of who is worthy of your attention.

Twitter and Facebook aren’t popularity contests. It is all about the quality, not the quantity. Calling people out because they don’t autofollow to pump up your numbers is NOT a good idea. If the real reason you follow someone is just so you can get your numbers up, you don’t really understand how to use the platform and probably shouldn’t use it. It won’t work for you anyway.

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