How do you choose your Twitter friends?
How do you choose your Twitter friends?

Many people discuss the value of a Twitter follower in terms of ROI. They want to know how much they’re going to make by having a certain number of followers. That’s business, and you certainly can’t fault people for wanting to make money. As I’ve immersed myself in the world of business and social media, I’ve even come to understand it better.

Still, there are others who look for the engagement value in their Twitter friends, and I fall squarely into that category. Margie Clayman wrote a great post summing up her feelings on the subject of Twitter follows (and unfollows), which got me thinking about my own tactics.

For many, Twitter becomes a game of numbers, but those increased numbers can also lead to increased noise and decreased engagement. Jason Yormark wrote of his desire to use it in the way it was intended: for interaction. He’s purging his entire “Following” list and starting all over, hoping this time to increase engagement.

To some extent, I’ve been taking steps akin to both Margie’s and Jason’s for a while now. I’ve written before about how, in my first attempt at Twitter, I used it in all the wrong ways. The problem with that first account may have been that I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to get out of it. Now I’m more focused in my goals, and one of the aspects of Twitter that I value most is interaction.

People who know me are often somewhat puzzled by how much I love social media and how extroverted I am in that space. In real life, I’m rather introverted. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I process information before commenting, so I rarely speak before I think. I consider numerous outcomes and take everything in. There are surely others like me out there. Susan Steele, for example, has a wonderful blog about introverts in the social sphere, The Confident Introvert.

And being an introvert, of course I was going to give a lot of thought to my process for Twitter followers.

Follow, Not Follow, Block

These are essentially the three choices we have when we get new followers. When I get a new follower, unless I’m already familiar with that person or business, I personally visit each of their Twitter pages. This is a habit I developed on Day 1 of my Twitter Experience and it’s worked well for me in terms of quality information (and, for the most part, engagement). I take a very similar approach when actively searching for new people to add, as well.

I don’t spend a long time on any page. I look at the last 10-20 tweets for the following:

  • Frequent updates. Do you post every day or almost every day? Or was your last post in November of 2010? If you aren’t updating very often, I probably won’t follow you.
  • A real picture. If you look like a Twitter egg, I will likely just assume you are a bot. If the tweets indicate that, yes, you are a bot, I will probably also block you.
  • Quality links and retweets. There’s kind of a fine line, here. If you tweet out nothing but links to your own material, unless you are a news site, I usually won’t follow you. If you only seem to link from one source (Mashable, say), I probably won’t follow you (we’re all following Mashable already). If you have an interesting variety of what appears to be useful information and you’re not just tweeting out the same links repeatedly, then I will follow you.
  • Original content. In short, if everything you post is a re-tweet of someone else’s stuff, and especially if you don’t comment on any of it, I assume you probably won’t do very much engaging (and that you might be a bot).
  • Engagement. I really like to see that you talk to other people regularly. Bonus points if you appear to be having really interesting conversations that I want to join!
  • A real person. Even if you’re using Twitter professionally (and let’s be honest, most of us are, at least to some extent), don’t be afraid to be you. If you’re in the social media industry and spend most of your time tweeting about that, that’s great. But if you have thoughts on the baseball game or that episode of [whatever popular show the kids are watching these days], tweet about it. A real person with multiple interests and a solid online personality will make me want to follow them every time. You’re someone who gets Twitter, and I can’t wait to talk with you.

People aren’t blocked unless they’re incredibly offensive and I somehow missed that when adding them, or if they’re spammers or porn bots. I know some people have no problem with those accounts following them. Some see it as increased numbers while others think they’re not really hurting anything.

I’m a job seeker. From a personal branding perspective, I want potential employers to be able to look at the people I follow and those I attract as followers, if they choose, and see quality lists. That may be a stretch, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

Sure, my follower count isn’t in the tens of thousands. Those numbers are great for those who can effectively manage them. For now, I’m perfectly content with the 375 followers I have at the time of this post. To give some perspective to that number, I’m only following 385 people.

As my overall network gradually increases, I acclimate to the kind of nurturing it requires to maintain the relationships I’ve built there and create new ones. With any luck, I’m establishing a culture of engagement.

Image Source: Josh Semans/Flickr