A new-to-Twitter friend just emailed me asking what she should do about the strangers who are suddenly following her tweets. And I don’t think she’s the only one who’s experiencing an influx of spotlight attention because of SXSW.
Like any social networking website, people use twitter for different things, so no one suggestion is going to fit everyone. Here are my Personal Twitter Policies:
- If someone follows me, I will click the link to their profile and see if I recognize them. If I don’t, I will see what I can learn about them in less than two minutes, silently thank them for caring about what I write, and leave it there.
- If I do recognize them, then I check in on the following things:
- Have I met them?
- Am I ready to put energy into nurturing a relationship with them?
- Do I want to read what they’re tweeting?
- If they get a “yes” on all three of those, then I’ll follow them. If not, then I have to stop and think about it a little more.
- If I’m not sure if I recognize them and I can’t figure it out in two minutes, then I usually won’t follow them.
This is all a function of how I use my incoming twitter stream: as a feed for ongoing conversation. There’s a murky grey area downside in my policy: there are real people who watch my twitters and care about what I have to say, and I’m not returning the favor. This makes me wince a lot, but still, for me it’s more important to protect my relationship feed than to look like everyone’s best friend. My policy is less open than some and more open than others. For the most part, it works for me.
But this does bring up another one of my Twitter Policies…
I use my most recent tweets to update my Facebook status, Skype status, and the “Last Splash” which appears at the top of this blog. Because of this, I try to avoid using the popular “@” reply convention unless I can articulate a thought that will stand alone. Otherwise, I’m just as annoying to the outside world as someone talking loudly on a cellphone; displaying only half of a conversation is a disservice to eavesdroppers.
There are lots of ways to use Twitter, and I know a bunch of people who take completely different (and totally legitimate) angles on the “follower thing.” For example:
“I’ll follow anyone who follows me and who is clearly not spamming people. If they take the time to read my content, the least I can do is show them I care about theirs.”
Or, “I’m not trying to pick up stalkers, so when people I didn’t know started following me, I switched my tweets to private.”
Do what works for you.