How to Handle Your Twitter Followers

0711twitter.jpgA 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.

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9 Responses to “How to Handle Your Twitter Followers”

  1. Will Budreau Says:

    I was wondering what etiquettes had developed around following, back-following, etc.. thanks for putting one person’s interpretation out on it.

    As with any publicly published content, it’s no surprise that followers will consist of a mix of acquaintances and non-acquaintances.

    One comment on facebook twitters – At least using TwitterSync you set it to not re-post any @username replies.. keeps the one-sided conversation part down.

    -A new non-stalker of yours

  2. xian Says:

    It’s an interesting subject. I can’t feel that the whole thing should be reciprocal, although certainly symmetry is nice where possible.

    My rules are similar to yours. People I recognize and want to follow I follow back.

    Similarly, when I follow people I don’t necessarily expect them to add me back and I don’t get offended when they don’t.

    Also, some people I unfollow if they tweet too often or in ways that don’t work for me. This is not a vote against them as people or friends but simply in the twitter context.

  3. sarah Says:

    Will — Ooh, thank you for the TwitterSync tip. I’ve been looking for more options around that stuff. And thanks for being my new non-stalker. :)

    Xian — “Also, some people I unfollow if they tweet too often or in ways that don’t work for me. This is not a vote against them as people or friends but simply in the twitter context.” YES, that’s totally my take on it. Overcommunicators (especially the ones of the shameless self-promotion variety) tend to fall off my radar quickly.

  4. xian Says:

    right… and of course I’m aware that I post more often than others might prefer and I would hope they would feel ok about silently dropping me and not just deciding that I’m an obnoxious hog of their incoming tweetfeed….

  5. sarah Says:

    Same here. :)

  6. Darryl Says:

    What kind of idiot can’t figure out how to use twitter and who they should accept as followers? I don’t get the insight here.

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