A little while ago I did a little (totally non-scientific) experiment and set myself a 2-week challenge on Twitter.

I trained in social media in 2010 after a career in youth and community work because I could see very clearly that this was a communication revolution and I liked that a LOT. Since then I have trained hundreds of businesses and not-for profit organisations in how to use social media to build relationships, because I still think that is the point – network, build trust, build a community and then the business happens.

I know that here in the UK we have a tendency to just import the traditional media mentality of announcing , but I am clear that is not the most effective way to get the results we want.

But then I noticed that the busier I got the less I was following my own philosophy and so I made a decision that for 2 weeks I would follow back every real tweeter that followed me and I would start a conversation with them with an open question (I did sociology degree so I know about these things!).

This is how I went about it;

I pinned a tweet to say what I was doing, then whenever someone followed me I checked their bio, followed them if they were real and tweeted them a relevant question related to their bio information. Sometimes conversations happened, sometimes they didn’t.

These are some of the things I noticed..

  • I became much more aware that some people just follow for the follow back then unfollow – Tacky!
  • Some people don’t respond to tweets at all, even when you ask them a direct question. – Whoops, why are they on twitter?
  • Some people replied but by DM to keep their twitter feed purely on brand – that interested me and it felt ok to be honest if that was their strategy. We still had a very nice chat.
  • Some people just can’t resist trying to sell on first contact – even though they surely must know that people hate it and it certainly closes down any interest in building a relationship.
  • The horribly annoying auto-DM would still get sent despite us having had a conversation already. One man did remove his after realising this. It made me wonder how many people even know they have a tacky auto-DM going out.
  • Some twitter bios tell you absolutely nothing!


I met really some lovely people who I may well have missed if I hadn’t taken the time to do this.

My follower rate increased significantly – because I was being more active and more social?

But I have got to admit that I found it incredibly time-consuming and I can see why we slip into just following and not talking. Which is, of course, a real shame.

Sadly we are slipping into the same behaviour on LinkedIn too and whilst I explain to people the importance of a follow-up, non-salesy message, the feedback I’m getting is that more often than not these go ignored.

So what is going on? Are we an anti-social lot here in the UK? Are we still caught up in bagging numbers and whacking out a sales pitch even though we know it’s inappropriate and counterproductive?

Is social networking just a step too far, or is it that businesses are still using social media as merely an add-on because they think they ought to?