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Not getting followed back on Twitter? This may be why

I am no social media expert. I am not even a member of the Twitteratti, although I have built up 7,000 plus followers to date on Twitter. Truthfully, I only plunged into the social media world because I am a recruiter, and I run a business that works in the digital and marketing arena. I felt I needed to know what the medium offered, how it worked, what I could contribute to the conversation, and how our clients and talent could benefit it from it. What better way to do that than diving right in!

And even though I am learning, I am in no position to offer advice on how to use the social networks.

But I can tell you why I won’t follow you back on Twitter.

I suppose I get 20-30 new followers a day on average. And when I get time – it might be a few days later – I will click on each of their Twitter profiles and see who they are and what they talk about. And, often, I will follow them back if I feel they will add to the conversation and help me build my knowledge and reach. I imagine most people do the same.

But often I won’t follow back. And just recently I was pondering why I choose not to press ‘follow’. My first thought was that the decision was simply intuitive. But when I went deeper, I realised that I do have a sort of mental checklist I flick through when deciding to follow, or not.

Firstly I look at the picture or avatar of the new follower. No avatar is a big #fail, and personally I prefer a real picture of a real person, or maybe a clever icon or cartoon representing that person in a real way. Twitter is about engagement and conversation, and it’s so much easier for that to happen if you have an image of the person you are tweeting with.

Then I read their most recent tweets. That is key. Lots of one-word Tweets or meaningless phrases and it’s a ‘no follow’. Loads of trivial stuff about how much beer was drunk last Friday, or what they like on toast in the morning, also means ‘no follow’. Their stream full of Foursquare updates on where they’ve checked in, ‘no follow’. Self-promoting ads for products or services, or endless streams of automatically generated tweets and it’s a no-go too. I also tend not to follow people who tweet bad language, or who have a penchant for being routinely argumentative and mean-spirited in their comments. That is not what Twitter is about for me and certainly not what I want to see in my Twitter stream each day.

And what about people who ‘protect’ their tweets so that you can’t see them? What’s the point?

Of course I read the bio. I am looking for some connection. In my case a recruiter, or a marketer, or someone in digital. But any field can still get a follow from me, if the bio is interesting and well-written. No bio means almost certainly no follow.

My next criteria is location. Not that I will eliminate anyone because of where they live! No, in fact the worldwide reach of Twitter is a major appeal. But if there is no location on the profile, it leaves a gap in my mental picture of who this is and so they are less interesting and less trusted.

I am always disappointed if the new follower does not list their web address. A link to a blog or a company website obviously adds huge insight to who the person is. It adds credibility too, and it will certainly weigh heavily in my decision to follow you back or not.

But it doesn’t end there. I usually have a quick look at your following/follower ratio. This is not a deal breaker, but in conjunction with other measures, such as Tweet content, can be a knock-out factor. For example, you are following 9697 people and three are following you back. That is a problem.

Twitter, like a lot of technology, can waste lots of time. But I want to extract value out of my involvement on Twitter. So I am rigorous in screening who I follow, and I expect others will be with me too. It’s worth the effort because you end up with a Tweetdeck full of interesting relevant comment at best – and humorous, harmless chit-chat at worst.

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