I like Twitter. It's one of my favorite platforms to communicate with people on. It's quick, it's easy and it's concise. I get content from people I have manually opted in to get content from, and I'm only exposed to what I want to or choose to be exposed to.
I use TweetDeck to manage the various Twitter handles I operate, and I have about 9-10 columns open that range from notifications for the accounts, to their homefeeds, to following a hashtag of my choice and checking for particular domain mentions.
So I guess TweetDeck has made me love Twitter even more, since it gives me a sublime way to operate my account.
There's a lot that comes with being a heavy Twitter user though. There's a lot of tracking, monitoring, optimizing, responding and following to do. I use a tool to track the amount of unfollows I get on a weekly basis because I feel it's an extremely important metric to track.
Apart from finding out the number of people who unfollow my accounts on a weekly basis, I also see who unfollows me. I go through their profiles to see what background they're from. One of the Twitter accounts I manage tweets primarily about interesting social media and community management news and developments. So if someone who has unfollowed that account is a small restaurant in the South of France, I don't think much of it. It's fine.
If the person who unfollowed me is a Social Media Marketer, however, I get worried. Did they not like my content? Was I tweeting too often? Did I make a remark they didn't like?
Which is why, after I analyze the unfollows, I contact the people, send a tweet, saying that it's unfortunate that they unfollowed me and that I'd be greatly appreciative if they'd let me know why they unfollowed the account. It shows them that they aren't just a number to me, and that I honestly care about their opinion and want to know if there's anything I'm doing wrong on Twitter in their eyes.
And that's when it began.
I noticed that a lot of the people who unfollowed me had a near 1:1 ratio when it came to "following" and "followers". They were following 1,428 people and had 1,490 followers. Or they were following 5,092 people and they had 4,908 followers. This seemed extremely strange to me. Sure, if a friend of yours follows you on Twitter, you realize, "Oh hey! Sam's on Twitter too!" and you follow Sam back.
But does that happen with every single follow you get?
When I sent out these tweets, I received a decent response rate. Some people said they "accidentally" unfollowed me when they were "clearing" their list, and promptly began following me again. Some people said that my content was no longer relevant to them becuase they're in Public Relations or that they're hardcore SEM guys, not quite in the Community Management bracket.
And some people flat out told me that they stopped following me because I wasn't following them back.
That's bizarre, shallow, but most of all - insulting.
Let me tell you why.
Their saying that, roughly translated to: "I have no interest in your content. I'm only following you so that you can follow me back and I can get a +1 to the count of my total followers. That way my account looks a little more authentic, I come across as an "influencer" and the chances of people following me or respecting me as an authority are higher."
And for me, the idea of these people using Twitter breaks down right there. If you as a professional are following people just to get follow-backs, you may as well not be in the business. If that's the only strategy you have to get follows, you shouldn't be a social media strategist.
"Follow Me if I Follow You" should die out in the social media industry. Let the teens do it. We as strategists know better, and resort to better methods of increasing our follower count.
You know, by sharing interesting content. By actually engaging with people who tweet to you, by actually being someone worth following for the opinions you have and for how well informed you are.
Not because you'll follow them back and diminish yourself and them to just a number on a Twitter profile.