Creating a Twitter ‘Follow’ Philosophy

What can you do in 140 characters?

Perhaps a more appropriate question is what can’t you do with a brief, targeted message that has the potential of immediate feedback and ongoing engagement.

Why Twitter?

Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone founded Twitter in July 2006 as a way for employees to share internal communication, according to the book Twitter Power 2.0. Twitter officially launched in October 2006 and won a South by Southwest web award in March 2007, the book reads.

Two things immediately were recognized as different about Twitter, according to the book:

  1. Its simple 140-character format and
  2. Its critical mass

The first likely is the reason the service still is so popular today with more than 100 million active users. You should take a look at this visual history.

The second is the reason for the introduction of the Fail Whale, but also a key in attracting people to the social network.

Twitter’s mass usage makes it an obvious tool for communication including that regarding personal branding and business marketing.

A ‘Follow’ Philosophy

Perhaps the most debated question about Twitter is the best approach in determining who to follow.

There are three general philosophies on followers.

The first is that you should follow back everyone who follows you. This approach was more popular when Twitter was younger, probably because of the increased amount of spam accounts on the site today. The typical argument for why you should follow everyone back is manners and engagement. Perhaps it makes sense for a company to take this approach so as not to alienate customers.

The second approach is to vet who you follow back, striking a balance by keeping the number of follows slightly lower than the number of followers. I generally use this approach. It helps me avoid following spam accounts or those with content that doesn’t interest me. However, I can see how it might be problematic for a company that receives hundreds or thousands of follows per day. Also, there is the chance of alienating a customer or potential customer.

The third philosophy is more recent and pretty exclusive. Individuals who have built their companies by amassing followers are performing mass unfollows under the guise of increased engagement. Regardless of their intentions, this method doesn’t seem to do anything but make others angry. It may be a good way to get people talking about you and your brand, but it doesn’t seem to generate favorable feelings.

Let’s Talk Nerdy!

Now that perhaps know more about Twitter, what do you see as the best follow/follower method for companies using the site for marketing? In other words, how do companies strike the balance between creating noise and generating business through pure engagement? Can this be done through Twitter?

Real Nerds Read!

Check out these related posts:

48 comments
aschexnayder
aschexnayder

In a perfect world, the individual or team in charge of an organization's Twitter prescence would review each follower's profile, or be otherwise engage in finding new individuals to follow. The perfect individuals to follow would be those who are interested in the field, leaders in the field, or content creators. But who has the time for that? Everyone in charge of social media has many different aspects to their job, and finding new people to follow falls low on the priority list. There shouldn't be a blanket "follow-back" policy, but following industry leaders and content creators is extremely important. I think a good idea would be to follow any individual who has sent you a public reply- it helps to create further engagement, and gives them a positive image in those consumers' minds. These are the consumers who obviously have developed strong voices and have opinions on the product. I think a balance can be struck, but it isn't easy to find. One has to learn from their successes and failures. Finding that balance can be done, but it isn't easy.

Nik T
Nik T

I think companies can generate business through pure engagement, and in my opinion go with a mix between 1 and 2. They shouldn't follow everyone like spammers, but they should follow every legitimate person they can that follows them. This will help generate a feeling like "hey the actually use this thing" with fans and it would help when they promote discounts or new products on twitter. I don't really use my twitter, but the thing I like about it is you can tell the tweets from the professional athletes are really them and not just some agent. That's pretty cool, and if every pro personality I followed was to follow me back that would be a pretty cool feeling. Sadly lol they don't.

malexander
malexander

Companies should obviously never set their Twitter profile to private. That just makes them seem illegitimate. Also, companies to be sure to promote their Twitter on their website. Not somewhere on a little icon on the bottom of a page, but it should be visible as soon as you get to the main page. Some companies should hire a social media expert to tweet, but for some, it is probably unnecessary. For example, Big Truck Tacos and Mutt's both tweet about their special and interesting foods each day. @KoriCasey also mentioned the waffle truck, which I follow. There are other food trucks that do the same thing. They're very popular in New York City and Washington D.C.

For a larger company or organization, it would be good to have someone who is more professional in their use of social media. I have more and more friends being hired as social media directors or directors of new media. I think it takes a different skill set to handle social media than it does other types of media and marketing. Additionally, social media for a large company is very time consuming, so having one person dedicated to that will improve the quality of the content.

I also dislike when companies link Facebook and Twitter. If I follow a company on Twitter, I don't want every link taking me to Facebook. That isn't the point. I think the website should have links to get to the Twitter and Facebook, but they shouldn't have the exact same content. That makes me only want to follow them on one platform.

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

I’m torn, because I agree the best method would be the second approach so that you don’t seem to needy. I don’t use twitter, but all of my friends do so I actually asked them more about and their opinions, and one of my friends told me to go with the first approach because in order to be noticed and seen as being personable a company should follow as many people as possible. Which I agree with, but wouldn’t they be viewed as trying to hard?

KoriCasey
KoriCasey

I think companies should allow anyone who wants to follow them to do so. There is a waffle truck around Okc and they tell their followers where they are going to be at certain times so their followers can find them. I think bigger companies should hire a person specifically for social media so they can be in constant contact with the consumers. And they could also retweet some of the positive tweets or even some of the negative ones and apologize for the mistake. Twitter is a great way to promote specials or new products.

jai.grant
jai.grant

When using Twitter, I think it is good for a company to except all people who ask to follow the company. It can create more customers, and lets the people know that someone is monitoring the website. Twitter is a good tool to use for quick conversations, alerts, and comments to keep the company followers up to date. Since twitter does not offer as much information on their page as Facebook, a company’s twitter page may be an easier one to analyze and monitor. I think Twitter is also good when it comes to having real time information being posted. By engaging in any type of online media, a company can generate revenue if they put some effort into it. There are specific strategies you can use on Twitter to make your page a beneficial one. One way is by having someone from the company always available to post responses to consumer’s comments. This creates a good relationship with consumers, thus creating a steady flow of revenue towards the company.

jcmalone
jcmalone

Pure engagement can be created through Twitter, but it takes an employee who is very dedicated to the company's Twitter account to do this. I think that companies should follow back who follows them, it gives each customer some source of appreciation when a company sends them a follower request. Also companies can somewhat monitor what their customers are tweeting about and what interests them. The biggest way for a company to make their Twitter account a viable part of their marketing strategy is to Tweet honestly. Do not have your website blog automatically update your Twitter, dont link your Facebook and Twitter together, and do have your Twitter feed on your website. Customers do not want your Facebook, Twitter and website all to say the exact same thing, you have three sources to advertise for yourself, why not do something unique on all three. Also another great way to help your Twitter be the most successful is to take full advantage of suplemental Twitter applications like Instagram. Instagram is a photo sharing app that can be linked to Twitter and Facebook. This allows customers one more outlet that your company post in, creating more and more buzz.

eayoung
eayoung

I just think companies should only follow companies that they may have a partnership or something with. Or maybe a charity they are interested in as a whole. The vet method is proven to be the best. I learned in Moose class the value of a person on Twitter depends on how many people they follow and how many followers they have. They should always have less people they are following than following them. Companies should use Twitter only for professional reasons, events, announcements or something of that nature.

FReyes
FReyes

I think the best method on following is to vet who you follow back. Twitter is a great networking site for businesses to promote products and build relationships with potential customers. I feel that if a company uses the vet who you follow approach, it will help to eliminate spam. This will allow businesses to engage more with actual customers. I thought the article on the 17 twitter marketing tips was interesting. I like tip #7 to cultivate relationships. This also mentions the importance for businesses to build relationships with customers. This helps to keep them interested in the business.

JKA
JKA

I agree with the 2nd one, vet who you follow back mostly because It helps avoid spam. Because for a company following a lot of people can run into lots of spam problems. And yes you may lose potential customers but it may be an advantage to being closer to the customers you do have.

AustinClarkEnnis
AustinClarkEnnis

Honestly, I use the vet method; while it's true I used to follow back everyone who followed me, I eventually decided there were too many Twitter feeds to follow that I was uninterested in. But for a company, and I see this all the time on Twitter, companies generally follow anyone who follows them. I'm not sure if its to appease customers, or to be polite, or if they think its looks better if they follow a lot of people/customers, but I don't necessarily think any of those reasons help their company. Frankly even if I were getting paid to run a company's Twitter page, actually reading that many feeds and everything would annoy me and again probably wouldn't do anything for the business itself!

dbvickery
dbvickery

Right now I concur with the "vet before following back" approach. It lets me eliminate the spammers/bots. I also try to go back periodically and remove followers who no longer engage or tend to RT-only from news feeds/etc. I want the engagement, and I'm willing to accept a smaller following that is engaged vs the big numbers.

Ashelihud
Ashelihud

Getting pure engagement is super easy on Twitter. Twitter is only 140 characters as stated above so it leaves less room for a company to get all advertise-ish and annoying. The company can get in and deliver the message in a prompt manner. For example, they can talk about a sale coming up.

I find it interesting in "the first approach to followers is", follow back everyone that follows you. I can't do that..I am very easily irritated by some of the people I follow now and contemplate unfollowing them as it is. They are some that I just can't handle. So that rule would be hard for me personally to abide by.

Some companies that demostrate a great balance is Southwest airlines. They connect with their followers! They talk about new products SWA is putting on their planes, fares, long lines, etc. Keeps me wanting to return to the website and see what else is going on.

A bad twitter user in my eyes is Target. They post irrelevant information constantly! Yuck... This makes me want to call into their Marketing department and send them the above articles.

buildandbalance
buildandbalance

I originally decided to vet everyone who follows me to see if I'd like to follow them back. I wanted to top out at 200 Follows and truly engage with that core group. Only problem was people who were following me were unfollowing me in droves just a few days later when I wasn't following back. As you point out, that's not a good thing for a company using social media. So, now I use the FOURTH philosophy, which is to follow everyone back, but selectively unfollow those over time that tweet out content that I can't connect with in some way. I like this philosophy as it doesn't lose me any followers that I don't mind losing. Thanks for the opportunity to opine on this topic. It's an interesting one! I am @buildandbalance by the way.

AustinClarkEnnis
AustinClarkEnnis

@Nik T Haha yeah man I get so excited when someone even remotely famous tweets me, or even follows me. A couple do. But I totally agree with you in that most celebrity Twitter accounts are really them.

jai.grant
jai.grant

@nik T I agree, Companies should definitely follow legimate people instead of spammers. It does make consumers feel like the owners actually use twitter, which creates a good relationship.

jai.grant
jai.grant

@malexander @KoriCasey I agree. I dont think that a companies facebook and twitter page should be linked. It can be discouraging and may cause a person not to want to join a companies twitter or facebook page at all.

FReyes
FReyes

@KoriCasey You make a good point. I also agree that companies should hire a specific person to handle their social media. This would help to eliminate spam and focus on customer relationships.

Nik T
Nik T

@jai.grant I agree about accepting all people who ask to follow. Well all "real " people that is and not spammers. The reason behind this being, who would want to turn down publicity? Especially free publicity!

jcmalone
jcmalone

@eayoung Yes that may be the way to measure value of a twitter account but because it is a marketing technique it is very difficult to measure the monetary value of a twitter account. I think it depends on the type of company and what they are trying to accomplish with their twitter. News sources should only follw relevant twitter accounts, but a local business or boutique would benefit from following their followers back because they could see what customers were interested in.

Nik T
Nik T

@eayoung Hmm it seems to me like this would draw interest, but at the same time doesn't it seem a little snooty? I have more people following me on twitter than i follow, but i rarely get on it. If i was an avid user i'm sure i would be following way more people

JKA
JKA

I agree that company's should have less people they are following than the amount that the company is following.@eayoung

eayoung
eayoung

@FReyes I learned about the vet method in another course at OCU, when the mathematics is done to see someones "Twitter worth" it shows the vet works, but you should always have less amount of people you are following.

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@FReyes It certainly seems that by building relationships with customers and potential customers, you would create greater loyalty, therefore using the social medium most effectively. Excellent points!

FReyes
FReyes

@JKA I feel the same way. I think that the vet method would be the best approach.Eliminating spam will help a company build a better relationship with customers.

eayoung
eayoung

@JKA Avoiding the spam is the best part about the vet method.

JKA
JKA

Yea too many follows can be overwhelming and you would have to deal with all the spam thats why i agree with you the Vet method is my pick as well.

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@AustinClarkEnnis So what is the best option for a company? How do you vet without making people angry? And how do you decide who to follow?

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@dbvickery I used to follow then vet, but it really takes a lot of time to do it that way. Now I vet, then follow. I also have no problems unfollowing people if they aren't adding value. There is way too much information available to waste time on things/people that aren't helpful to you, right?

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Kenna

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@Ashelihud Ashley, do you think Southwest follows back all of their "real" followers?

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@danielnewmanUV It took me awhile to find my "perfect" approach, but it's much more No. 2 than any of the others.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Kenna

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@buildandbalance@buildandbalance Thanks for pointing out this fourth approach. Do you have problems with spam? I've also heard horror stories about people auto following and then being penalized in their company because they are following inappropriate accounts. Is this a concern for you?

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Kenna

Ashelihud
Ashelihud

@FReyes@KoriCasey Totally agree. Then they can devote all their attention to it making it a better experience for the customer.

Ashelihud
Ashelihud

@Nik T@eayoung So true! I do however follow some celebrities and when I am not interested in what they are saying I unfollow.

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

That was the desperation i was referring to I feel like they would seem needy if they follow more people than they are followed by @JKA @eayoung

jcmalone
jcmalone

@profkrg I think building relationships through social media is one of the most important things that a company can do. I know that I frequent local businesses more often when I have built a relationship with them through social media or in person. On Twitter it can become obnoxious to reply to each user who tweets at you, I think people should utilize direct messaging more.

AustinClarkEnnis
AustinClarkEnnis

@profkrg I feel like the best option for a company (depending on the situation) is probably to follow anyone who follows them, mainly because that's what I see most of on Twitter and there has to be a reason for it. I guess it can't really hurt a company even though it may not help much. As for me and vet(ting?) I decide on who to follow based on if I either A)Know them or B) Know who they are (like if they are famous) and whether or not I'm interested in stuff they do.

Ashelihud
Ashelihud

@profkrg They do not...I looked into that. They do however make an outreach to some of the current trends they notice that occur in the world of Twitter.... Maybe because they have too many followers?

buildandbalance
buildandbalance

@AustinClarkEnnis Yes, I agree. One tool I use from time to time is Nutshell Mail, which tells you who has Quit following you. If you don't have too, too many followers you might find this useful, but then again, who really has time to care much about who stops following them? I mean I don't play that game where if you unfollow me I'm going to unfollow you. I may still find your content interesting!

buildandbalance
buildandbalance

@profkrg Kenna, Hi. No, I've not noticed problems with spam...yet. Interesting point about being penalized for following inappropriate accounts. I'm a company of 2 and I'm the owner so this isn't a concern for me. However, I could see how it might be for larger companies, but then again you have to take the good with the bad, at least initially, if you're going to auto-follow. As soon as I see an inappropriate account I unfollow them.

Lnkeesee
Lnkeesee

I know if the do their research the would know enough but if they hire someone just for social media would they know as much insight as the people who actually work there? @Ashelihud @FReyes @KoriCasey

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@AustinClarkEnnis I would imagine that most companies follow everyone because it is the easiest approach. You can do it automatically without issue.