10 Reasons You’re Not Getting Followers on Twitter

ThePaulSutton
Paul Sutton Head of Social Communications, BOTTLE PR

Posted on July 6th 2010

Twitter thrives on the relationship between you and your followers. And yet many small businesses struggle to gain a following and end up abandoning their profiles due to fundamental errors in the way they manage them. This often boils down to a lack of understanding of Twitter as a social channel and an inability or unwillingness to invest the time to learn. But the secret to success is simple: put yourself in your followers’ shoes and consider what you’re adding to their lives. There are some common mistakes that I see again and again on Twitter, and encountering one or more of these on a profile significantly decreases the chances of me following and/or increases the chances of me unfollowing or blocking.


1. Incomplete Profile
Setting up a Twitter profile is so quick and easy that any time I encounter one without an avatar or with a non-existent biography it just says to me: I couldn’t be bothered. If I’m going to follow you I want to know a little about you both professionally and personally. Don’t be shy, we’re all friends here...

2. Selling on Your Profile
One of my personal bugbears is people who describe themselves as ‘guru’ or ‘expert’. Maybe you are, but please have some humility! I’ve also come to despise overly corporate or salesy custom backgrounds. By all means customise your background (in fact, I recommend it), but please don’t try to sell to me before I’ve even made contact.


3. Indiscriminate Follows
Several times a week I get followed by seemingly random people or organisations, and sometimes I don’t have the faintest idea where they’ve found me or why they’re following me. Generally, if I don’t follow back they unfollow me within a few days. So if I can’t even figure out why you’re following me in the first place, why would I follow you back?

4. Imbalanced Follower/Following Lists
It’s not that I have a problem with individuals following more people than follow them. But if you’re not relevant to me (see point 3) and you follow significantly more people than are following you, it suggests you use an automated follower tool and are after numbers. Unless your annual bonus is linked to follower numbers, there’s no point.

5. Automated Tweets
Let me be clear that I’m not talking about scheduling handwritten tweets using Hootsuite. I’m talking about an obviously automated stream from a news service or from a Facebook page. If I wanted an automated stream I’d sign up to your RSS feed or your Facebook page. On Twitter this is nothing but noise; it’s like someone screaming in your ear. And I don’t much like that.

6. Unbalanced Twitter Stream
The ideal Twitter profile should consist of about 30% conversational @replies, 30% retweets and 40% interesting broadcast tweets, hopefully with an opinion or link, of which only about 25% (10% of total tweets) are self-promotional. This tells me that a) you’re trying to add value, b) you’re reading others’ content, and c) you’re conversing and aren’t all “me, me, me”. It’s worth noting that all @reply conversation can be as bad as all broadcast, so try and stay balanced.


7. Automated Welcome Messages
So I think you seem cool and interesting and decide to follow you. It could be the shortest following in history if seconds later I receive an automated direct message that thanks me and directs me to your website/blog/Facebook page. Auto responses are from the dinosaur age of Twitter and, just like the T-Rex, should be extinct.

8. Repetitive Tweeting
Once I’ve been following someone a while, there are three main reasons I will unfollow or block someone. The first is if you keep broadcasting the same tweet or link repeatedly. A couple of times for a blog entry or something relevant/cool is fine, but any more than that on a regular basis looks like you’re trying to sell something. Unless you’ve discovered the cure for cancer, leave it be.

9. Packing ‘em In
The second unfollow golden rule is not send half a dozen tweets in 30 seconds and then nothing for four hours, and then another burst of six tweets. This is especially true when combined with point 8 above. Use a tool like Hootsuite to spread out your tweets across the day/week – you’ll touch more people anyway.

10. Please Add Value
I’m demanding, I admit it; this list is pretty challenging. But then most others on Twitter are demanding too. If I’m not providing you with interesting links or conversation or sharing your content, there’s no point in following me, right? The same goes for me and for others: make your Twitter stream relevant and focused and your follower numbers will grow and continue to grow.
ThePaulSutton

Paul Sutton

Head of Social Communications, BOTTLE PR

Paul Sutton blogs at www.thesocialweb.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thepaulsutton. I am Head of Digital PR at BOTTLE PR, one of the UK's fastest growing PR agencies, and am a communications professional with 14 years experience in marcomms, PR and digital media. My area of interest lies in completely integrated communications strategies, and the changes happening in the communications industry at the present time make it, for me, the most fascinating and exciting business to be in. I'm responsible for devising creative social media strategies and ensuring that account teams make them work across the board to meet commercial client objectives. I'm also fascinated by the psychological and cultural impact of digital media and the web.
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Comments

Posted on July 6th 2010 at 8:35AM

Good article and some good points, however I can't agree with you on point 4.

I find a lot of Tweeps out there interesting. I have many different networks on Twitter. My local social scene, industry and general news feeds, people i admire (e.g athletes) and those that tweets about my interests and passions.

I have friends that follow me, those in my online social scene and other who for some reason find me interesting.

Considering the above, why would or more to my point, why SHOULD they be balanced? It depends on what your purpose is with Twitter. My purpose is to learn, participate but most of all connect and have fun.

Posted on October 21st 2010 at 11:41PM

Same sentiments exactly. I totally disagree with point no. 4!

For me, my company is new in social media and our purpose is to learn. So we've been following people with good Social Media knowledge to learn from...many followed us back (although I don't see how we can ever help them) At the same time, we've been following those who have the same interest as us - - eyewears, design, colours. As much as we try to connect with them as much as we can, giving feedback, retweeting their tweets which we find really good, our number of followers in comparison to the number we follow is a huge gap. Perhaps after applying what we have learnt and we start to contribute our knowledge, our purpose would have shifted to educating, engaging, promoting (and of course still learning) through Twitter.

As you (millionsofmyles) said, it all depends on the purpose with Twitter.

ThePaulSutton
Posted on July 6th 2010 at 12:23PM

 

Thanks for the feedback. I think it's important not to single out one point out of the 10. If your profile is complete, you converse with people, you tweet interesting stuff, you don't automate things and you generally use Twitter as it should be used, then the fact that you choose to follow loads more people than follow you isn't really an issue. Where warning bells ring for me is if your followers are vastly outnumbered by those you follow and some of the other 10 points are also applicable.
For example, someone on Twitter highlighted a profile to me today for someone who follows over 1900 people and is only followed by 83. His biography reads: "How can I tell you about myself with just a few lines of text?" and his avatar is a graphic that reads: "I don't need a profile pic to prove I'm hot". He tweets things that promote his website and thank his new followers and that's it.
Now I'm no expert, but I'm thinking this guy may just have used an auto-follower tool or be following random people in the hope of bumping his numbers up. The question begs: why?

 

RonHeimbecher
Posted on July 6th 2010 at 12:57PM

A scary thing about your list is that I've unfollowed people guilty of all ten.

I would also add a small addendum to point four. Even if the follower count is tied to an annual bonus, why should anyone but the tweeter have a reason to care?

 

Posted on July 6th 2010 at 5:43PM

You forgot:

#11 - You're writing top 10 lists about why people aren't getting "followed"

 

Posted on July 6th 2010 at 5:55PM

I think this is a great list - I'm getting so sick of people abusing Twitter, or just going about it in an annoying way - I went on an unfollow frenzy today.

I realized I had been too free and easy with follow backs, and my stream had got to the point where all I saw all day was quotes, retweets, duplicate tweets and sales pitches.

I love Twitter when it's used well, but my gosh, there is some real cr*p out there!

Thanks Paul! (Or should I say 'The Paul'?)

 

Posted on July 6th 2010 at 6:43PM

I do not like It when people with a business profile on twitter who mix business twits with personal ones. Ex: 1) interesting article on business topic link here 2) I am in bed with a flu, my husband brought me a great soup. What do you think? I avoid this with two different accounts.

Posted on July 6th 2010 at 8:38PM

Hi Paul, thanks for the great article! I agree with almost all the tips, but I have to disagree with your point on limiting your conversational tweets to only 30%. IMHO, social media is all about relationships. Conversing with people you follow and, perhaps more importantly, people who follow you should be a priority.

Some may argue that when someone new follows them, and their twitter homepage is mainly conversational tweets, they fail to see any value. I highly disagree with this. When you follow someone all the conversationals get filtered out of your feed unless you happen to also be following the person they are replying to. Anyone who doesn't take the time to read between the conversationals may be missing out on some really great content.

That said, if there are any Twitter client app devs reading this, please PLEASE add functionality to view someone's timeline with the conversational tweets filtered out. This will give people a much better idea as to whether or not they want to follow the person.

Posted on July 6th 2010 at 11:51PM

Hi Paul, thanks for these great tips! I agree with everything except your point on limiting your conversational tweets to only 30%. IMHO, social media is all about establishing relationships. Talking to the people you follow and, perhaps more importantly, the people who follow you should be a priority.

Some point out that before they follow a person, they check out their Twitter home page to see if the person will add any value, and if all they see are conversational tweets, they don't see any value. I could not disagree more. When you follow someone, all of the conversationals get filtered out unless you happen to be following the same people they are talking to. I argue that if someone cannot read between the conversationals, they may be missing out on some really great content.

That said, if there are any Twitter client app devs reading this, please PLEASE add in some functionality that lets you view someone's timeline with the conversational tweets filtered out. This would really help people decide whether or not someone is worth following.

Posted on July 7th 2010 at 12:17AM
From a female perspective I'd like to add: 11. Males using Twitter to make unsolicited dating connections.
Posted on July 7th 2010 at 6:20AM

Great post. How oten do we forget the basics. Tweeting is about conversatino no automated promotion. 

Posted on July 7th 2010 at 12:21PM

Great post! You definintely picked out several of my pet peeves on twitter ;-)

Another twitter gaffe I would add is when people syndicate their twitter feed to the facebook status. Identical messaging across social media platforms is not only lazy, but totally disrespectful to people who are following both. There certainly is room from some gentle redundancy, but the messages should be adjusted for different channels.

Posted on July 7th 2010 at 12:31PM

Great post, one of a very few about Twitter where every point resonates and which I support (though I don't use it, I'm starting to think that scheduling tweets is not totally evil).

The sure fire way to increase followers is to follow back everyone, even spammers. Ugh!  The best way, imho, is slow and steady, methodically over years, not weeks or months.

@uMCLE

Katie Urbain
Posted on July 7th 2010 at 2:03PM

I disagree with Katia. Within reason of course.

First of all, having more twitter accounts than necessary is just a pain. Secondly, I love to see someone who is always sharing great ideas and articles throw something personal in there every now in again. We get to see their human side. Now, I am not talking TMI personal, I am talking about little funny things that happen to them at home. Or a picture of something funny at home. Or a little note about them enjoying doing xyz with a family member or friend. It makes them human and when you are following people who have written books and are very well known, this makes them approachable, friendly, normal, "one-of-us".

Posted on July 7th 2010 at 3:36PM

Great points! Now I know why you wouldn't follow someone on Twitter. :) I think these types of lists are fairly subjective - all your points make *complete sense* to me, but I still know people (and businesses) who don't or haven't responded they way you state they do/should, according to this list. 

All great points to think about and consider. Thanks!

Posted on July 7th 2010 at 9:25PM

Cheers Paul, this sums up all the reasons I have unfollowed people on Twitter. I am especially miffed about number 9. I don't use TweetDeck where you can push people you supposedly don't read to the back burner. I read every tweet from people I follow and if there's a burst of tweets every six minutes drowning out everybody else... ugh.

As for not following in the first place, people with Twitter account but no tweet. That should be obvious but still a lot of them are out there.

And another thing, locked profile. Again lots of them out there - hoping for a follow back and yet not open for exactly that.

ThePaulSutton
Posted on July 8th 2010 at 4:35AM

I totally agree, Katie.

I too am not talking about endless updates about what someone had for breakfast or what they're doing every minute of the day. But the whole point of Twitter is that it's 'social'. In the real world, we don't talk business at work 100% of the time - we get to know people and what makes them tick. We get to see their personality. As you say, Katie, this mixture of business and personal updates makes people, well, human.

Posted on July 8th 2010 at 2:32PM

This article proves the point that you can't just post articles and expect to have a successful Twitter account. You have to go out, interact with customers/followers and engage them. Great article. Thanks!

Posted on July 8th 2010 at 5:19PM

4. Imbalanced Follower/Following Lists

Actually this would show that the account owner is going after numbers of followers. 

A high number of follow and matching high number of followers would suggest the use of automated follow tools. 

I would suggest using a tool like Twunfollow and it's amazing to see how many people use these tools.  Twinfollow emails you the list of people unfollowing you with the date they started to follow you.  I get about 2 dozen of those per day. 

Another annoying thing on Twitter is people who post a commercial link and @ as many people as they can.  It's spamming!

ptamaro
Posted on July 8th 2010 at 6:45PM

Good tips. I'm "in it for the long haul" and it's becomming increasingly obvious that Social Media is here to stay.

For me, Twitter is all about engaging with different people around the globe who have (at least one, typically many) common interests. It's about cultivating relationships and staying on top of a rapidly changing world — I get a good chunk of my news online so it's also convenient.

Add value, keep things simple and have some fun...

Posted on July 8th 2010 at 8:23PM

I agree with everything but would like to add that I think the selection of the avatar and Twitter name is very important.   When you appear on someone's follower list, they see the avatar, your Twitter name and your last tweet.  I would guess that much less than 1/2 the folks don't click through to see the bio.

For businesses, I'd suggest that the avatar not be a person's picture as Twitter is dominated by non-businesses with their picture as an avatar.

Generally, the TwitterName should be generic to your products versus your company name unless you already have high recognition.    You want a name that the followers you want will follow.  Remember, it can be easily changed later and all you lose is your Google links.

@SocialWebMktg

 

Posted on July 8th 2010 at 8:51PM

You mentioned doing an RSS feed to automatically post some Tweets.   If this is done correctly, related topics only and not too often, it will keep your Twitter account as active and draw followers to you with no additional effort.

Its tricky to set up the first time but after that, its super easy.

I set up one Tweeting on the Palm Springs Area and almost immediately I got followers from that area without doing anything else.

[email protected]

 

 

Posted on July 9th 2010 at 8:31AM

Excellent list Paul, but another reason I would add: "you never retweet anyone." Everyone who tweets likes to have their insights, links etc. retweeted. People who never retweet are therefore less likely to gain followers as they look 1) self-centered, 2) in broadcast-only mode (a handful of celebrities can get away with this; most people can't), and/or 3) like they aren't paying attention to the conversations around them. This needn't be overdone of course, but a tweet stream should include at least some retweets in order to attract followers by letting them know you'll listen and help to spread valuable information.

Posted on July 9th 2010 at 9:52AM

Another reason would be that your main focus is to have many followers! This is what pushes you to do some of the things you mentioned - in my opinion, when creating an account on Twitter, the number of followers should not be in your top 3 concerns.

Paradoxically, if you don't care much about how many followers you have and your main goals are to provide great content, engage people, share relevant information, etc, followers will come to you. 

 

Posted on July 9th 2010 at 5:40PM

This list has appeared before. There is nothing new here. Each point embodies a judgment. That's OK, but you assume that everyone shares your values. I rarely reply @ someone. Mainly because I do not cell-phone. Also, I review people who are follow me maybe once per week or less. If I like what they say I will follow back. If not – well, I don't feel obligated.

I just be myself. I say what I feel stimulated to say. I like to retweet other people's tweets. I open the URL before I do to make sure it is kosher. If the landing page is scary or complicated, then I don't retweet.

My follow/followed keeps slowly growing – but maybe some early ones are no longer tuning in? It takes time to dig down to the bottom of my list of follow on twitter. Maybe there is a tool for that. People tend to stay followed unless they are truly obnoxious – such as job tweets. I can't stand tons of job tweets.


Posted on July 10th 2010 at 2:26PM

Thanks, Paul.

As a committed new contributor to the Twitterverse, I need these guidelines.

I can see already that I have violated some of your Ten Commandments and I believe that will not serve me nor those I want to reach.

Glad you're making it easier for those of us feeling our way.

Appreciatively, 

MattinglyMD

Posted on July 15th 2010 at 1:13PM

Too funny. Social Media Today breaks rule #9 everyday ;) Joking aside, you guys always have the best original, quality content. I forward your posts to my co-workers all the time.

Courtney Hunt
Posted on July 21st 2010 at 9:54PM

I happily violate rules 4 & 6 (and also 7, but that one's not a big deal to me to change). Several months ago I unfollowed everyone I was following on my main Twitter account, and my blood pressure dropped considerably. The constant chatter and godawful signal/noise ratio was a HUGE problem for me. I speak to social media novices all the time who are reluctant to join Twitter because they don't see the value in it - and almost nothing a Twitter maven says convinces them they're wrong. And as much as I love social media and preach its virtues, I have to admit I don't "get" Twitter either. I'm looking forward to the day when some of the novelty wears off and the early adopter mania dissipates. Then I think its true value will emerge.

RobertBacal
Posted on July 21st 2010 at 11:56PM

Just plain love it. I actually DO get Twitter, AND I'm looking forward to not paying any attention to it eventually. It mirrors how my brain works, which is the attraction, but the content is terrible, the spam is worse, and the level of interaction is about at the level of a grade 8 student but that would be insulting the student, not that I have an opinion either way.

In all seriousness, the huge majority of people who join/try twitter seem to think exactly as you do if measured by their behavior.

Which reminds me, something I wrote today on my blog about the upcoming social media bust had to do with the boom-bust cycle based on hype and hope, and that is that when you have something that truly adds very little value that is not available anywhere else, once the buzz wears off, it's like people realize the emperor has no clothes, and leave.

Twitter is at highest risk. It has brought nothing new to the table.

Courtney Hunt
Posted on July 21st 2010 at 9:55PM

I happily violate rules 4 & 6 (and also 7, but that one's not a big deal to me to change). Several months ago I unfollowed everyone I was following on my main Twitter account, and my blood pressure dropped considerably. The constant chatter and godawful signal/noise ratio was a HUGE problem for me. I speak to social media novices all the time who are reluctant to join Twitter because they don't see the value in it - and almost nothing a Twitter maven says convinces them they're wrong. And as much as I love social media and preach its virtues, I have to admit I don't "get" Twitter either. I'm looking forward to the day when some of the novelty wears off and the early adopter mania dissipates. Then I think its true value will emerge.

Courtney Hunt - Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

RobertBacal
Posted on July 22nd 2010 at 12:00AM

...and about the original post. I really agree with you, but it ain't happening, and it's basically bad business advice. I wrote a piece titled The Future of Social Media Is NOT Social, and the crux is that business participation doesn't scale, so you have to go to broadcast mode to have any reasonable chance.

That's where it's gone in the last 18 months. Of course it completely ruins Twitter all together, and it's why Twitter will probably end up like Usenet unless it makes radical change. Lowest common denominator, junk content and spam is winning.

Posted on September 29th 2010 at 6:34PM
Most of your list is correct, however if one has built up a nice solid group of people that respect you and your opinion, I think it is very nice to RT one of your friends/collegues/peers. (What goes around, comes around, btw.) And as far as #9 is concerned, some people cannot tweet all day. If I take the time out to read my feeds and then share my research and findings and can only do so in certain time frames, well so be it.
Posted on October 21st 2010 at 11:43PM

Same sentiments exactly. I totally disagree with point no. 4!

For me, my company is new in social media and our purpose is to learn. So we've been following people with good Social Media knowledge to learn from...many followed us back (although I don't see how we can ever help them) At the same time, we've been following those who have the same interest as us - - eyewears, design, colours. As much as we try to connect with them as much as we can, giving feedback, retweeting their tweets which we find really good, our number of followers in comparison to the number we follow is a huge gap. Perhaps after applying what we have learnt and we start to contribute our knowledge, our purpose would have shifted to educating, engaging, promoting (and of course still learning) through Twitter.

As you (millionsofmyles) said, it all depends on the purpose with Twitter.

Posted on November 28th 2010 at 3:46AM

Great post, Paul, and a chain of great comments. It's given me lots to think about - thanks!

Posted on December 1st 2010 at 9:02AM

Hey Paul,

Great points. I'm new to the use of Twitter and I'm constantly refining my use of it. Not totally sure what works yet, but I at least have an idea of for whom my tweets are intended (small business website owners mainly). What I'm trying to figure out is how to attract more of those specific type of followers. Any suggestions?

Do you think targeting a particular audience with one's Twitter stream is even a good idea?

Thanks,

+Ralston

Posted on December 2nd 2010 at 1:16AM

Great post. You gave me a lot to think about. I don't send automated tweets for a thank you message when someone follows me, but I do send a message personally thanking them for the follow and link for my articles. Does that make me from the stone ages of twitter?

Posted on December 2nd 2010 at 2:21AM

Great advice, Paul. I'm new to Twitter, but your points apply to all of social media whether it be Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  If relationship building is the goal of social networking, then you must give - add value, as you so nicely explain it.  The more we give through the use of these wonderful tools, the more there is for others to share and learn.

Thanks - I will keep your points in mind as I learn how to navigate through Twitter and integrate Twitter into my overall social media strategy.

Posted on December 11th 2010 at 6:19AM
. Thanks for the share Paul . I'm working to improve my status on Twitter & would like more followers . again ... thanks for the tips!
Elaine Fogel
Posted on December 28th 2010 at 2:08PM

Great list, however, I have interesting info on point #2. I read a recent study that indicates using the word "guru" can actually help acquire more followers.

Posted on December 28th 2010 at 2:19PM

Hard but fair

Posted on December 29th 2010 at 10:23AM

Hi Paul---thanks for posting this!!!! Alot of people are running a business or trying to sell something, myself included. I post many articles relating to scuba and follow those people back. I personally like to keep up on all things scuba related, enviroment, ships etc which I am personallly interested in. I believe most people are interested in what they are selling (or they shouldn't be in the business),and are always looking for more info, myself included. Being on top of your game is so important. Most of my tweets are info based stories for my followers which I pick up all over the net!!! Tweeting takes time and research to post articles. I don't follow people that are strickly looking to build up their tweeters, or give little info, or post on occassions e.g their last post was Oct 2010. Like you said, tweet often throughout the day!!!!

 

Kathy

www.kirkscubagear.com

 

 

 

@mgperry
Posted on January 22nd 2011 at 5:29PM

Good list Paul.Thanks for sharing.

I've heard #4 mentioned before and had to scratch my head when I saw it on your list. What is the relevance of this ratio? I thought it was all about the relevance of the tweet(s) that mattered...

Martin

Posted on February 11th 2011 at 5:09PM

I found this really interesting, its hard sometime to know when your just being spammy and when your actually being interesting.

Posted on February 28th 2011 at 5:47PM
The ideal Twitter account has 30% retweets? If I'm following you, I don't want 30% of what you say to be what someone else said.
Posted on March 7th 2011 at 3:10PM

There is an extremely fine line that needs to be walked in order to use social media as a marketing tool.  Sending  coupons over twitter and facebook can be relevant to some, but annoying to others.  An astonishing 51% of people said that simply because they have "liked" a company on Facebook does not mean they are giving them license to market to them. 

Posted on March 15th 2011 at 10:07AM

Very true. Many people do not understand one must make a contribution to be followed. It can't be all about you. 

Posted on May 16th 2011 at 12:18AM

Twitter, like all forms of social media, is all about how you use it. I agree with you, I primarily use it for news updates-which often happen on Twitter before they hit anywhere else- and I use it for social purposes. That said, I've stumbled into more than one project just because I'm on Twitter and people know who I am. Probably the most common question I get from my clients is: "Should I use Twitter?" Since the Search Engines have started paying more attention to social streams, The ability to push out blogs and other site information is there, and the opportunity to connect with others and become part of the community is there, I tend to think it's a no-brainer for most business owners.

http://dpinoytv.blogspot.com

Posted on June 14th 2011 at 3:08AM

I personally don't use my photo because I don't feel comfortable doing so.  I created a gravatar that relates to the product I am selling.  I do often link my tweets to my blog in hopes that the person will find that I am sincere in adding value, and just not sending them to my webpage for a sale.  I have found that it is not a problem getting @mentions as long as you are bringing interesting dialog to the table.

I do however agree with you on most of the other points.

Posted on July 18th 2011 at 9:06AM

Agreed. It's just like real life, if you have nothing interesting to share or talk about why would anyone want to listen?

Share something interesting, unusual or simply something you are pationate about and people will follow.

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