Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, because if there’s one topic that could be considered controversial about the usage of Twitter, it’s this one. When someone new follows you, should you follow them back?
Some say yes, of course; it’s rude not to. Some say no, why should I? Twitter isn’t meant to be reciprocal. Others (like me) land somewhere in the middle. And still others are baffled, overwhelmed, or totally undecided.
Today I’m going to break down each school of thought in hopes of putting things in perspective, and maybe helping the undecided figure out where they stand. I am not – I repeat – I am not trying to convince anyone of one method over another. I’ve seen people use each of the options below to great success, so I suspect the answer lies less in “which is the best overall” and more in “which is the best fit for you.”
The plan: Follow back everyone who follows you, barring spambots. These people usually end up with a higher number of “following” than “followers.”
The goal: Build a high number of followers. Be inclusive. Maintain a wide pool of people to interact with.
The detractors: Many social media instructors teach that a “good ratio” is part of building a platform as a writer. If you follow everyone who follows you and then some, you look like a fan instead of someone to be a fan of.
The reasoning: This school of thought believes that following back is common courtesy. It costs you nothing, so there’s no reason not to. If you expect people to follow you, you have to be willing to return the favor.
Some supporters of this method also argue that it’s just smart to acknowledge fans/readers. If someone follows you and you follow back, it’s like a tip of the hat for their attention. Happy fans are good fans, after all.
Every Tweep for Him/Herself
The plan: Follow only people who offer you value – connections, prestige, information, entertainment, etc. These people usually end up with a lower number of “following” than “followers.”