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To Follow Back Or Not

by Shonali Burke on December 16, 2010

Sexy Tweet: Follow Me  @DianaGavrilita*Distressed mumbling.*

“Ok, what are you doing?” I threw my hands up in the air and sighed my question so that the full weight of my slight annoyance could not be missed.

My friend had been grumbling under his breath for half an hour. He knew I was writing. He knew I hated to be interrupted when I was writing. And that was his passive-aggressive way to get me to interrupt him instead, so I couldn’t yell at him for breaking my flow.

“I can’t decide how to do this.” Clearly he wasn’t going to walk two feet with his laptop and show me what the problem was. So I got up and looked over his shoulder.

“You type 140 characters or less in the box.”

“Har, har. I know how Twitter works. But what do I do about this?” He pointed to his follower number. It was approaching 1,000.

“That’s good for two months of tweeting 15 minutes a day. If you’re looking to get people who are really interested in you, it’s better to grow slower and get people who really want to follow you, rather than inflate your numbers by following 1,500 people a day.”

“No, I mean, I just don’t know if I want to follow all those people back,” said my friend.

“Okay, well not everyone does. My personal belief is that it depends on whether you’re using social media to broadcast, or interact. Do you mind if I ask you why you don’t want to follow people back? Is it a time challenge?” I asked.

“Not really. I mean, well, a handful of them seem kind of borderline spammy and I feel like I should block them.”

“Dude, then block them. How about the rest of them?”

“Oh, I want to follow them. I’m just not sure if I should. See, I was reading these articles.” Oh, for heaven’s sake, said my face. He caught it, too.

“Don’t look at me like that. One popular article doesn’t an expert make. We talked about this. You don’t have to do what I say or even agree with it. But please don’t base a person’s expertise level just on their articles.

“And if you pick an expert on all this stuff, even if it’s not me, just pick one person whose philosophy makes sense to you and run with them.”

“I know, look at their results, the reputation of the publication, thought leadership, yada yada. And I listened; this was from like, reputable guys, people who measure up to your insanely rigid standards. Their advice conflicts but they all have a point.”

I ignored the “insanely rigid” comment.

“Great. As long as you did your homework. So what did they say?”

“One said that it’s rude, dismissive, arrogant, condescending even, not to follow someone back who is following you, even if they’re boring, or don’t post as much as you like, or don’t share the kind of stuff you want to read. But then the other guy said, you can’t really truly follow the streams of more than 100 people max, before you’re not really paying attention.

“So if you do, you’re essentially making a false promise to all the people you’re following back that you’ll pay attention to them, when you actually won’t.”

And therein lies the controversy.

a whack one I think, but a controversy all the same.

Some people believe that you should only follow as many people as you genuinely feel you can offer, and want to offer, maximum engagement to at any given time.

Others believe that this makes sense for individuals, but for a business largely dependent on the prominence and personality of a single persona, all fans, followers, devotees, and enthusiastic customers should be treated equally.

According to them, that means they should all be given an equal chance to be able to reach you through all of your social media channels as the limitations of each system would allow.

As far as I go… but wait. Let’s hear what you have to say first.

Will you share a comment below, and I’ll share my viewpoint tomorrow – what do you say?

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Image: Seattle Clouds via Flickr, Creative Commons

Tinu Abayomi-Paul is a website promotion specialist and author. She invites you to join her for a 90 Minute Google Search Strategy Crash Course. Talk to her on Twitter.

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