Should you follow back that Twitter account?


Twitter tipsBy Paula Wethington

You got a ping that someone followed you on Twitter.

Since you didn’t recognize the screen name, you ignored it.

This happened over and over. Now there is a huge list of people who are following you and the guilt trip whispers begin:

“Follow me.”

Here’s the challenge: You don’t know who those people are. Do you really want to follow them back?

It takes time to sort this out if you have a typical account with about 200 Twitter followers; even more so if you are handling social media accounts on behalf of a company, brand or organization that has built up hundreds or thousands of Twitter fans.

Don’t stress about this challenge! Take time about once a week to look for new people to follow and handling follow backs.

There are numerous tools for finding people on Twitter, and that’s how many of the people you’ve never heard of have found you. But in this discussion, I’ll focus on the decisions you make next.

In other words: “Should I follow that Twitter account?”

Here are some of the criteria I use when making those decisions on the personal and business Twitter accounts I manage:

  • Does the person’s cover art, avatar and photos provide clues? One of the best tricks I’ve used for finding local residents for the newspaper accounts I manage is whether the photos used on profile and cover art include photos featuring local high school and college teams.
  • What topics are they tweeting and retweeting about? Is this content you are interested in, or would expect your customers or clients to be interested in?
  • What’s the proportion of promotional content on their feed? Nearly everyone gives shout outs (or rants) from time to time dealing with a business, campaign or project. But what else are they talking about? Do they have content that is interesting, helpful or fun? Do they retweet other content or get involved in chats?
  • Do you see a repeated pattern of spammy or “not safe for work” content? If so, consider whether you wish to block that account rather than simply ignore it.
  • How often are they tweeting? Some social media managers recommend focusing your time and effort adding on those who are tweeting on a frequent basis. I’m a bit more generous in following seemingly inactive accounts that are in my target audience, as I  know some people who lurk on Twitter and never really post much.
  • What news and sports accounts are they following? Favorite teams and headline interests provide clues as to where they live or whether they have the same interests as your target audience. I use this tactic quite a bit to determine the location in cases where the account doesn’t have a location listed.
  • What accounts are they following that you are already following? When I start seeing a lot of similarities in their “following” list, I assume this is someone I probably want to follow or follow back.
  • If they have “favorited” tweets, what did they favorite? This might help you sort out spambots in cases where content alone isn’t providing a definitive answer.
  • If they have created lists, what titles have they given to their lists? Have they put you on a list? Keep in mind that new Twitter users won’t be familiar with how to set up or use lists. It’s also true that some lists are automatically created with third-party applications. But the fact that there are lists show that the person is a fairly savvy user of Twitter.

By the way, you can follow me at @WethingtonPaula


Author: Paula Wethington

Paula Wethington works on the digital side of journalism for The Monroe News in Monroe, Michigan.

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