10 Rules for Followingback on Twitter

Jeffe Kennedy and Carolyn CraneThis is me and bestie/CP Carolyn Crane at the Rita Awards ceremony in New York City. So fun to get shined up and celebrate her final!

The whole week of the RWA National Conference is a major whirlwind of activity. I try to post stuff online via my phone, but it’s really hard to keep up with replies. All those real-life people interfere with the online conversations! I also try to post nuggets of wisdom I hear in workshops and panels, mostly to Twitter. People really seem to love those and often begin following me on Twitter as a result. Which is lovely, of course, but it creates this backlog of follows for me to retrace and then decide whether to followback.

I know some people pay no attention to the follow notifications. Others automatically follow everyone back. I pick and choose via a shifting system that’s pretty subjective, but does follow a few rules. I thought I’d share them here.

1) How many followers vs. people they follow?

As of this writing, I have 3,958 followers and I follow 2,630. No way I keep track of everyone I follow. I use lists in Tweetdeck to see what I can, which the last statistics I saw indicated is around 200 people on average. Apparently that’s about as many as a human can really keep up with. So, when somebody follows upwards of 10,000 people? I’m dubious. If they follow just a few hundred more people than follow them, I’m HIGHLY suspicious. If they have huge numbers of followers and follow very few, I know they only want to collect my follow and will unfollow as soon as possible so they can broadcast to me. No. Just no.

2) Hashtags in the Profile

Easy decision. Makes me think they’re only in it to market. An instant decision for me there.

3) No profile.

Either lazy, a scammer or just wanting to lurk and view. No need to followback.

4) A plea to followback in the profile or the #teamfollowback hashtag.


5) Lots of book titles in the profile.

This is a maybe. Lots of authors follow me and plenty do this. It’s not an instant no, but it’s a flag. I want to follow and support people, not be bombarded with pleas to buy their books. I don’t KNOW that they’ll do this, which is why it’s only a flag, but it increases the likelihood in my mind.

At this point, if I’m still a maybe – and a nicely done profile without follower/followee imbalances would already be a yes – I look at the timeline.

6) Is it full of thanks to people for following back?

Depending on how much, this is a no as I’m inclined to think they’re simply collecting followers.

7) Is it full of promo for something or other?

No no no.

8) Is it all output and no replies or conversations?

No. I’m not interested in reading a billboard.

9) Is it all retweets or inspirational quotes?

Eh. Nothing against that, but also nothing to interest me. No.

10) Did you unfollow me?

This comes much later. I get a weekly report from Tweepsmap that tells me how many followed that week, how many unfollowed and other metrics. For the most part I don’t look at it. Some of the maps are fun. I don’t look at who followed, because I already do that via notifications. I do usually look at who unfollowed, just to see if I still follow them. The majority – and I seem to get 15-20/week – are ones I did not followback, which is fine. They were either in it to get me to follow and quit me when I didn’t (or planned to do so on a certain schedule anyway), or didn’t like following me, which is also fine. But I don’t need to follow them. That isn’t to say that I don’t follow people who don’t follow me back – there are plenty of those. This is only people who followed me first and never gave any value back.

All of this said, I occasionally miss new followers – like when I’m crazy at a conference! – and the surest way to entice me to followback is to talk to me. Say something! When people reply to me I always look to see if I’m following and remedy that, if not.

Of course, there was that one guy who kept replying to me with annoying mansplaining, then would chide me for not following back, declaring his intent to give me EVEN BETTER content so I *would* followback. Yuck. He eventually went away.

So, what about all you Twitter people – any rules of thumb you use on deciding followbacks that I missed? Or maybe mine that you don’t agree with?

13 Replies to “10 Rules for Followingback on Twitter”

  1. I’m pretty picky with follow backs too. Like you I check to see who has followed me, and what their tweets look like. If it’s someone with 10,000+ followers – forget it, unless it’s actually an author I know (then I’m flattered!). If their tweets consist solely of retweets then no thanks. I like having conversations too. If it’s an author I haven’t heard of before, I might follow them back ( if it looks like something I’d read) but if all I get is promo in my feed I’ll unfollow (and I hate getting those direct messages that say “Thanks for following me, you can find me on facebook at …” – that’s just annoying). I’ve had this one mystery author follow me at least 5 times (he obviously unfollows me when I don’t follow back, then a week later follows me again as he shows up as a new follower). He obviously hasn’t gotten the message that I’m not interested. I do follow back other romance book blogs and reviewers in general. Right now I’m being followed by profiles like “Hunt For God’s Chosen”, “Sporting Times”, “William Shakespeare” and some women who look like porn stars. I haven’t followed them back.

  2. I do a lot of this too, but I also look at who I know that’s following the account.

    Culling is a big theme for me too. I regularly go through and see if people who don’t do much for me have unfollowed, if someone hasn’t tweeted in three months… and if all they ever tweet is pleas or ads, I’ll make a special trip to the “following” page and drop them like monsoon rain.

    I don’t have lists and such – I mute some people I like personally but don’t like their tweeting style, and with 300 or so in my feed, it’s about at my limit for enjoyment.

    1. Yeah, with 300 or so, you don’t really need lists. I have a few people I adore IRL, but whose twitter accounts are listed as inactive because they only lurk and never tweet. Love your analogy of the monsoon rain – particularly as we are in the season!

  3. Yes, ma’am. Reminds me of the new friend requests on Facebook, all men with only one other friend in common. Not happening. I don’t use Twitter much, so I don’t go looking for followers, and I’ve probably followed back a number of folk I shouldn’t have. Naive of me. But I only joined Twitter at the behest of my agent and find Facebook much more fun.

    1. OMG, yes! What is WITH those Facebook creepers??? I think followingback on Twitter is less perilous than FB friending. So easy to unfollow and even if you don’t, they can’t access nearly so much about you. It’s so interesting to me how some of us love FB and others Twitter, rarely both. Twitter is totally my jam, but I’m trying to be a better Facebooker. 🙂

  4. Haha! And yet somehow we are still twitter friends. #iamlucky LOL.

    Generally, I follow people I have conversations with. Not just a “hello” but actual discussions. Sometimes I seek out people who’s blogs I read (bloggers and authors). I never auto-follow someone I don’t know. I also find people to follow at cons (people I meet in person). I rarely unfollow people unless that person becomes obnoxious.

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