To follow back or not to follow back? That is the question

Michael Marchese
March 8, 2016

To follow back or not to follow back? That is the question

Michael Marchese
March 8, 2016

Twitter is a very useful tool for marketers. Using social media to connect with customers and prospective customers is a way to build trust with your following. However, a typical business can quickly accumulate hundreds and then thousands of followers. You want to engage with these users, but should you follow back every account that follows you?
What’s the right ratio?
If you have a couple million followers, is it acceptable to only follow back a few hundred? For example, this is the case with @WhiteHouse. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk), famous for challenging others to top his number of Twitter followers, has more than 17 million followers, but follows fewer than 1,000 accounts. Even Katy Perry (@katyperry), who is currently ranked number one for most Twitter followers (with more than 83 million) only follows fewer than 200 accounts.
Neal Schaffer, founder and editor-in-chief of Maximize Social Business, states that the “never-ending question of quality verses quantity of Twitter followers is similar to the argument of how many people you should connect with on LinkedIn or ‘friend’ on any other social networking site.”
The difference between Twitter accounts and other social media is that the more people who follow you means you have a better chance at viral marketing. “Wouldn’t you rather have 2,000 Followers vs. 200 Followers?,” asks Schaffer. He then goes on to try and figure out the best followers to following ratio and believes the healthiest ratio is “100 Following to 100 Followers = 1.0 Ratio” because it “tells new people that if they follow you chances are you will follow them back.”
Have a plan
Before you began using social media, you likely had a plan regarding the platforms you would use, what you would post and when. It makes sense to also have a plan in place regarding followers. Before you get a large number of followers on your Twitter account, know what steps you will take for various accounts that follow you.
One policy you might consider is if the account is real and relevant to your business, then decide to take the time to follow back. For others, you may just want to thank them for following.
Why or why not?
You don’t want to make any of your followers feel badly. That’s how you lose them. When someone decides to cut back on the number of people they follow, if you’re not following them back or if you haven’t been relevant to them, they will likely unfollow you.
On March 21, 2012, American Express tweeted a tip to small businesses: “Make sure you ‘follow’ customers who follow you, to foster dialogue & show appreciation.” However, Sheena Medina, community manager at Fast Company, notes that following everyone who follows you “does nothing but fill your stream with noise.” She recommends that businesses, “Don’t fall into the trap of something I call a ‘courtesy’ follow-that is, following someone that has followed you out of a desire to appear grateful.”
How to decide
When you create your plan for Twitter, here are some things to keep in mind about who to follow (even if they aren’t immediately following you back):

  • Your competition
  • Larger companies in your industry
  • Trendsetters in your industry
  • Industry leaders
  • Local and/or national media

When these types of accounts do begin to follow you, be sure that you are also following them back.
Of course, you don’t want to diminish the value of your account by following all the same kinds of accounts your competition does. You want your account (and ultimately, your brand) to be of value to others who follow you. In order to separate yourself from the pack, be clear about your goals and marketing strategy. Then, when accounts begin to follow you, reciprocate “follows” by asking some of these questions:

  • Is the content of this follower relevant to my business?
  • Do they have valuable content for me or my followers?
  • Are they part of my industry?
  • Are they consistent with their message?
  • Are they regularly active?
  • Do they have a good following?
  • Are their followers real or does it look like a spam account?

If you, like Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media Group, consider connecting with another account on social media to be the same as an endorsement, then it is necessary to filter and manage followers before deciding to follow them back.
Brogan reminds, “Your reputation is one of the biggest assets you have, especially in this online space. Endorsing someone in any fashion is a withdrawal from your own reputational store with others. Meaning, if you vouch for someone and that person turns out to be not as respectable or reliable or civil as you originally thought, and this is all experienced by others in your various circles, your reputation (potentially) takes a hit for the other person’s efforts.”
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