5 Questions Before You Follow on Twitter

Twitter is a great source of content

5 questions & 6 tips about Twitter

As a consumer of content, I use Twitter to provide news & information about current events, technical issues, politics, leadership concepts, devotional encouragement and such like. I do not use it to keep up with family and friends – Facebook is much better at that. So this article is written from the “consumer of content” perspective.

Today, I received a notice from Twitter that a new user was following one of my Twitter accounts. (As a producer of content, I have several accounts that are somewhat specialized in the content that they provide.) I always check these new users before I consider following them back – I never AUTO-follow. (Auto follow is a function that when someone follows your account, the system will automatically follow them back.) The concepts below will hold true whether you are considering following someone back or if you just found their account and wonder if you would benefit from following them.

Zero TweetsThings that I look for before I follow a new Twitter account:

  1. Does this account offer any content on a topic that I am interested in?
  2. Is the quality of the content worth the bother?
  3. Is the quantity of tweets such that I can keep up with?
  4. What appears to be the purpose of the content?
  5. What appears to be the long term goal of this account?

The reason for question one (topic): If they are not involved in topics that I care about, then I have no reason to follow them. Some people want to post everything about “their” sports team. That may not be of interest if you have a competing interest or are not a sports fan at all. Others are very zealous in their political views while I may not care for that point of view.

Twitter Tip #1:  If you do not intend to READ an individual’s content, then why follow them?

The reason for question two (quality): If they do not post content that is worth reading, why follow? I look at whether they appear to have any background in the topic that they post about. I look at their website if they have one to see the quality of their writing & their content. I also look at whether others value their views (by following them).

Twitter Tip #2: One mark of an individual’s influence is the relationship of the number of followers compared the the number of people that they follow. (Higher is better)

The reason for question three (quantity): People who post TOO many Tweets only swamp the rest of the content that I am looking for in my Twitter timeline. I want to keep my twitter stream such that I can read almost everything that is posted by the people I follow – without spending the entire day doing so. Consequently, I must consider the maximum number of tweets that I have time to view and the portion of that number that I am willing to offer this account. (Note: there are software solutions that attempt to sort the mass of content and present only that which would be of interest to you. However, most of those work as well on the entire “Tweetdom” as they do on just the accounts you follow. At best, you will miss a lot of valuable content because no computer knows what you would like – as well as you know.)

Twitter Tip #3: If you cannot (or will not) read at least 50% of an individual’s tweets, then you are likely missing most of their best content.

The reason for question four (purpose): Trying to figure out someone’s purpose is certainly subjective. But that is what their Profile Page & “Bio” should tell us so look there.  Some “tweeps” (fellow users of twitter.com) are just looking for followers, assuming that they gain something by having more followers than others.  Although difficult to determine, this will eventually show through. Others are advertising. They tweet intriguing questions with a link to a website. Although links are an important part of Twitter, if EVERY tweet is just an advertising link to something else, I do not find it useful. More disturbing, if the link is shortened (just a “random” series of characters) then you may be sent to a MALWARE site that will infect your computer! Some are blatant spammers. I look for individuals whose purpose seems to be a true desire to share content and interact with those interested in the topic.

Twitter Tip #4: If every tweet posted by an individual is just an advertisement for a website then maybe you should just visit the site instead of following their Twitter account.

The reason for question five (goal): Some tweeps offer a lot of good quality content for free and do not appear to “sell” anything. In that case, their goal is likely to establish a reputation and influence.  I see this in some business accounts on Twitter.  They want to “build their “brand” rather than sell their product. I consider that an excellent goal. When I have choices about which brand to buy, the business that offers such support and assistance to their field – not just their customers – will get special consideration! Individuals and/or businesses with these goals in mind will be responsive to their followers’ questions or comments. They will also be aware that they are not the only “experts” in the field. So, you will see that they “ReTweet” (RT) updates from others that add value to the topic. Such interaction is what I believe Twitter is really all about!

Twitter Tip #5: Twitter should be interactive with everyone producing content – either questions or answers.

So, back to this new follower’s account… How does it stack up on the 5 questions?

  1. Does this account offer any content on a topic that I am interested in? I don’t know WHAT topic they have in mind. This account has ZERO TWEETS! What VALUE can that offer anyone?
  2. Is the quality of the content worth the bother? Zero content = zero quality.
  3. Is the quantity of tweets such that I can keep up with? Easy to follow this one – no content. But no “follow” from me!
  4. What appears to be the purpose of the content? No content – no purpose, except trying to get their “numbers” up (why?).
  5. What appears to be the long term goal of this account? Get a following.

Looking at the number of accounts that this individual is “following” (1285) vs. the number of  “followers” (732) that he has, it would appear that he is just sending out “follows” to any account he can find in hopes that many of them will auto-follow (almost 1/2 did). WHY would anyone follow an account that has produced no content? I assume that it is either an auto-follow or else people feel some “expectation” that if Mister X follows me, then I should follow him back. Nothing could be further from the truth – and this account PROVES the point!

Twitter Tip #6: Never feel any obligation to follow someone back, just because they followed you.

Disagree? By all means, please leave your comment in the form below. Or, leave a question & I will answer as quickly as I can get back.

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