To Follow or Not To Follow, That is the Question

Posted by Mark Thompson - November 10, 2010 - Social Media - 12 Comments

Whenever I am trying to educate a social media client, I find that they all seem to ask the same question in regards to Twitter.  How do I know who to follow and who not to follow?  That is a great question and frankly there is no exact answer to that question.  However their are a set of guidelines you can follow to help you engage with people who are worth engaging with on a regular basis.

Profile

Hands down, your profile is one of the most important and basic aspects to your Twitter presence.  It is your 140 character summary of who you are and what your interests are. Usually if I notice that someone didn’t even take the time to fill out a brief bio about themselves, I don’t even bother following them.  If they don’t even take the 2 minutes to fill out their profile, what makes you think they will go the extra mile to build meaningful relationships?

Depending on the goals you have for your Twitter strategy, try to build relationships with people who have similar interests and passions as you do.  Usually I only follow people who have similar interests in the Internet Marketing space.  You should also take the time to check out the URL they provide to their website or blog.  You can get a much better feel for the person and their credibility by looking at their personal site.


Followers/Following Ratio

Your Twitter authority has a large bearing on how many people are following you vs you following others.  If all you are doing is following as many people as you can, to try and get others to follow you back, that is a red flag for someone you don’t want to follow.  A good rule of thumb is to follow people who have at least a 2/1 (or close to it) followers/following ratio.  This is a good ratio that can gauge if the user is somewhat credible and serious about social media.  Of course these rules are not set in stone….there are many times that I follow people with a 1/1 followers/following ratio.  If they meet the other criteria I look look at, I will still follow them.

Tweets/ Followers Ratio

This is probably the easiest way to tell if someone is a spammer or an actual user looking to make relationships.  If you notice that someone has 2,000, 5,000, or 10,000 fans and 0 tweets, 10 tweets, or even 100 tweets…then obviously they are mass following people.  Nobody can build meaningful relationships with thousands of people by only a handful of tweets.

I’d like to think that a good ratio for Tweets/Followers would be 2/1 or 3/1.  Again this is not something set in stone, but as long as you see that the user has a certain number of tweets that is around equal or more than the number of followers; this means they are fairly active.  Just be careful for the mass follower who is in it, just to get as many followers as possible.

Quality of Tweets

I also do what I call the “Eye Test”, which just means that you view the latest 10-15 tweets of theirs.  You can get a quick idea of the type of Tweeter their are by looking at their most recent tweets.  Are they ReTweeting a lot?  Are they @ messaging people?  Are they sharing only their content or others content as well?

If you notice that they are just a self promoter, not really engaging with others or sharing others content, then it is probably someone you want to stay away from.  Odds are if you start following them, they probably won’t share your content or want to truly connect.

Look out for the Tweeters who just syndicate RSS feeds as their posts.  Many spammers do this to try and make it look like they are being active on Twitter, but all they are doing is auto-posting RSS feeds from relevant blogs.  Usually their tweets will all follow the same format and show no uniqueness or @mentions in their tweets.

Now that I shared how I evaluate whether or not I am going to follow someone on Twitter, it’s your turn to share what factors you look at when deciding on whether to follow someone.

About the Author

Mark Thompson

Mark is the creator of StayOnSearch and president of Search Creatively, a full-service Internet Marketing Company located in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also contributes to many industry related blogs including Search Engine Journal and is active on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Mark on Twitter