Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Should I Follow You?

I've been either traveling or dealing with a hectic schedule the last two weeks. I finally had the chance to spend some time this morning catching up with Twitter. I like to check out Twitter first thing in the morning to get the buzz on what's going on in the genealogical community and the rest of the world.

Since I am so far behind I had to take some time to sort through my list of new followers. This is decision time. Do I follow them back or not? Since Twitter can be kind of confusing until you get the hang of it I thought I would describe the process I go through to pick new people to follow.

Making the Cut

First off, let me say that if I don't follow someone back the first day, don't worry about it. I have a busy schedule and I'll get to it when I have free time. Some people live and breathe the "instantaneousness" of Twitter. If you don't follow them back right away, they unfollow you. I don't believe in that method. I don't live and breathe Twitter. It's a tool to serve me and I'm not going to get caught up serving it.

I will say, though, that once I follow someone I am unlikely to stop following them. They would have to Tweet something offensive or be repeatedly annoying for me to go so far as to unfollow. So there you have it, I'm loyal if you can catch my attention.

Locked Accounts

I don't follow private (locked) accounts. I say locked because it shows a little padlock to indicate that it is private. I see that you want to follow me, and that's great. I'm assuming you are new to Twitter and not certain about what is going on and that's why you prefer to keep your tweets private. I'm not going to go to the effort of requesting to follow you because I'm not sure if you would welcome it or not. If anyone has a private account and wants me to follow them back then they need to send me a private direct mail and invite me to follow them back. End of story.

Your Profile is Key

My first tier of decision making is your profile. It's that really brief sentence after your Twitter username and, hopefully, your real name that gives you a little chance to explain what you're about. People who leave that blank typically don't make the cut for me to bother with a second tier of decision making, especially if you haven't customized your profile icon.

I follow most people who say something about genealogy or history. I will follow other people who have an interesting mix of topics listed or maybe even just something witty or intelligent.

The Second Cut

I don't necessarily decide simply based on  the profile information. Next I will click through to see what your last 10 tweets or so have been like.  If you say you like genealogy in your profile but then you have lots of tweets about getting a haircut or going to the grocery store then I will probably not follow you.

I'm not looking for people who post just about genealogy. Your last 10 tweets could be on all different topics but they need to be interesting.  Your day at the hairdresser is not interesting to me unless you happen to be a particularly funny person. Some people can pull that off, most can't.

Twitter is a rapid fire environment and people make a decision to follow based on whether you are bringing added value.

I followed a cartoonist once. He had nothing to do with genealogy or any of my other interests. But I found his profile and his tweets to be fascinating. That's what I want. Someone who will expand my horizons or give me something to think about.

Attracting more Followers

If you want more people to follow you make sure that 1) you have your profile filled out (check out other people's profiles to see what they do) and 2) make sure your tweets reinforce what you have said in your profile. If not, you might confuse people. Lastly, 3) let your personality shine through and tweet items that will be of value and interest to other people not just yourself.

Good luck and happy tweeting!


  1. Excellent post Marian and in sync with my own Twitter "Dos vs Don'ts" list.

    I also tend to hesitate when I see that horrid egg instead of a profile photo. I don't immediately discard the person because perhaps they're new to the Twitter field, but it's a tick mark in the "maybe not" column

  2. Excellent post Marian. My "strategy" differs a bit from yours, I think. I don't follow everyone who follows me. It has come to the point now that I follow people who have caught my eye in some way. They may regularly use a hashtag that I follow to tweet brilliant things and then I'll start following them. A friend may suggest that I follow them. Or, someone may tweet @ me and start a conversation, and then I'll follow them. (I love people who are willing to converse best of all!) I am a very active social media user and I can't easily keep track of everyone anymore. ;)

  3. Just a point of clarification re locked accounts; a person cannot send you a DM unless you follow them. And overall, I would not assume that someone who follow you is implying you should follow them back. Twitter is not necessarily bidirectional - that's part of the freedom of it. :-)

  4. Taneya,

    Thanks for the clarification! I didn't realize that about private accounts.

    And yes I love the fact that you can follow someone and not have to worry about whether they follow you back. But the unspoken truth is that when someone follows you, many of them are hoping you will follow back either to engage in conversation or to beef up their numbers. But, yes, you're right about that.


    1. Thank you for your input on Twitter...I sometimes worry I am not on twitter so much. Sometimes I am in the swing of things and at other times I am not.

  5. I love Twitter, but I only follow people who are smart, witty, charming or just plain fun. My mother felt that way about her children. Luckily, my sister and I both fit the profile. "You may have been a nuisance but you never were a bore." It's been a strange life with that playing in my head. Can you say too clever by half?