How We Follow

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Tire Tracks Disappearing into the Desert

Choosing who to follow on Twitter is like the tagline of any action movie sequel: this time, it’s personal.

Talking to fellow PRBC-ers made me realize all the different barometers people use to decide with whom they interact on Twitter. There is no right and wrong way, I guess, except spam-following. Which is totally doing it wrong. But discussing what makes someone followable or not is, I think, valuable because lots of us still aren’t sure what our personal rules should be.

Take me, for example. My following patterns make me look more like a schizophrenic than an even-keeled adult. I started on Twitter by following people I knew but soon saw that some of my friends (God love ‘em) just weren’t good follows. Then I started following people I didn’t know but wanted to: journos, bloggers, Stephen Fry, people who said smart things. Then I started stealing a lot of Christina’s good follows because, dang, that girl knows everyone. A bio, I think we can all agree, is key in the follow decision. If there is no bio or URL? No can do.

My unfollow rules are more carved in stone than my follow rules. I usually hit the unfollow button after a series of irritating tweets that could be of no benefit to anyone, anywhere in the world. (One can be forgiven, but six is my limit.)

Now I’ll let the other PRBC-ers chime in with their follow rules.

Kate says: “I usually follow anyone back if they have PR/public relations or communications in their bio. I follow writers (@redheadwriting), journalists, fellow Quinnipiac people, PR and MarComm people. I also follow fashion, John Mayer, Mo Rocca, and Obama. There is a rare instance when I will follow someone with protected tweets.”

Danielle says: “I review people’s recent tweets (usually about two pages worth) and analyze the content of their tweets. My goal is to be a good source of relevant, industry-specific (i.e. PR) information for my followers, so I am looking to follow people who can supply me with that information. Besides those sources, I follow people who provide content related to my extracurricular interests (i.e. baking & cupcakes), media, people I meet at networking events and, on rare occasion, a celebrity. People who auto-dm me are typically unfollowed.”

Chris says: “I typically follow people based on their photo and what their last tweet was. Of course if they interact with me I follow them as well. I enjoy fun people, if someone has a stream of fun things I can interact with, then I’ll follow.”

Marie says: “I will follow back anyone that talks about anything remotely interesting. Primarily I follow back parenting and social media/PR peeps, but if someone talks about music, home decor and/or sports I’m down. However, if their streams are filled with ads, there’s no interaction, or they look like they are a porno star, I won’t follow them back.”

Keith says: “I follow people within the areas that I have both personal and professional interests (PR, marketing, baseball and running), with more of an emphasis on PR and marketing folks, since I get a ton of great info, resources and blog posts from my Twitter followers. I also like to take a nice look at people who retweet my blog posts or who have really passionate things to say about the PR business, as they interest me and I find it easier to engage with them.

“Major turnoffs with Twitter followers are those that only tweet promotional things for themselves or for their business, or who have an overly snarky/elitist attitude about who they are and what they do within the social media space. I’m not looking for someone to tell me why everyone else is wrong and they are right; I’m looking for people to follow that want to help those around them get better at what they do and enjoy life.”

Christina says: “I joined Twitter for two reasons: to learn and to build relationships with people I would never have met before. When I first joined I searched for people that were passionate about the things that interest me: public relations, music, travel, coffee, etc ;). I then sought out the people conversing with their community and tweeting information, articles, that they thought were interesting. Now that I’ve found my niche/community, I turn to my peers and see who they are connecting with and who  they recommend on Follow Friday. I’ve found some great new people via Twitter lists too.

“As far as ‘follow back’ goes I’m more apt to follow back if you’ve conversed with me. Don’t just hit ‘follow stina6001′ and never introduce yourself. You’re following me because we have things in common (more or less) so just say hi!”

If y’all have an interesting or efficient way to figure out who to follow, let us know in the comments.

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  • PR Cog

    Great post ladies & gents – far too many provide no content on themselves (bios, urls, any worthwhile tweets) and immediately start following others expecting to be followed back (perhaps there's an assumption of ESP).

    Though I wonder, how with such strict requirements, Danielle ever started following me?? :)

  • PR Cog

    I know, replying to my own comment is probably right up there with top 10 twitter things to NOT do.

    But it's worthwhile – if you're tweeting in a language I don't read, I'm unlikely to follow you back.

  • TJ Dietderich

    Oh, it’s completely pompous! But it would be more pompous to suppose anyone follows or unfollows people with the exact same internal rules as anyone else. And since everyone does it differently, and some people may not realize that, I cobbled this list together. The fact that you yourself differentiate between noise and good tweets says that you’re aware that there’s a difference, and surely that must influence your decision.

    I’m not saying anyone is doing it the right way or the wrong way; I’m saying we all choose who to pay attention to based on very specific factors. And I think it’s interesting to see the range of factors.

  • britt624

    TJ I totally agree. If someone doesn't have a bio then I definitely won't follow them. It also bothers me when they don't have a URL because it lets your followers know more about you. For the most part I agree with different parts of all the answers from other PRBC-ers. I especially liked Danielle's cupcake comment=) I think people should introduce themselves to you when the begin to follow you.


  • TimOtis

    Very nice discussion topic, T.J.
    I have to say though, that as I've been learning Twitter and how people engage, everyone makes Twitter way too complex, and the fact that you're telling people how you follow sounds a bit pompous, don't you think? I have seen plenty of my followers post tweets that are complete rubbish, but just because they're rubbish to me doesn't mean they're not of value to someone else (i.e. Star Wars). Twitter is for the most part subjective.

    Sometimes people can have a whole slew of back-and-forth conversation tweets (what I would consider noise on my feed), but then follow that up with a bunch of good tweets afterward. I hardly 'unfollow' people because I hope at one point they redeem themselves (now I'm being pompous) with good share of info– and there are seldom cases where that doesn't happen. I definitely agree with Keith about people being too promotional, and spam accounts are a no-brainer, but I don't think anyone has the right to say how they follow someone.

    Twitter is meant to be fun and engaging. It seems stipulations came into play when PR/marketing/comm pros decided, 'huh, maybe there is a way to use this contraption for some of our clients.'

    Thanks again for the post. I enjoy reading your stuff!

  • mikeschaffer

    What a bunch of elitists!!!!! (just kidding…love all of ya…even CT)

  • Catherine Patterson

    I have to echo Kate's sentiment about rarely following people with protected tweets. I only follow people with protected tweets unless I know them personally. And I'm also with PR Cog on the language thing. If I can't read your tweets, what are they worth to me? Not a follow.

    Nice post! Very insightful to see the following patterns of the PRBC-ers.

  • TJ Dietderich

    Porque no, Cogito? No te gustan otras linguas?

  • TJ Dietderich

    Oh, it's completely pompous! But it would be more pompous to suppose anyone follows or unfollows people with the exact same internal rules as anyone else. And since everyone does it differently, and some people may not realize that, I cobbled this list together. The fact that you yourself differentiate between noise and good tweets says that you're aware that there's a difference, and surely that must influence your decision.

    I'm not saying anyone is doing it the right way or the wrong way; I'm saying we all choose who to pay attention to based on very specific factors. And I think it's interesting to see the range of factors.

    Oh wait! I almost forgot to add: the “we” in the title of this post is the royal we, not just PRBC. Since the point is that we're all different and all correct.

  • TJ Dietderich

    Yep! I think our biggest fear on Twitter is accidentally following a spam account and looking silly. Bios and good URLs help us all see very quickly that someone's on the up and up.

  • TJ Dietderich

    Hand me my monocle! I need to unfollow some people who are tweeting about lunch!

  • TJ Dietderich

    Yeah I'm really not sure what the purpose of protected tweets is. I mean, if you want to share things within a private group, there's Facebook. Or e-mail.

  • PR Cog

    Keyn, eem ani b'chlal lo m'veen mah she' at oomeret ani lo yachol l'daber eetach.

  • TJ Dietderich

    ā, sanshō shi te kudasai.

  • kauaiianSun

    I also agree that I find it hard to follow someone without a bio and profile picture. Also, I look to see how engaging they are (by way of @-replies and RTs.) Tweeps who only post updates and don't even RT appear self-centered to me. After all, that's why they call it 'social' media, right? Loved this post!

  • Tara & Christine

    I tend to agree with Marie! I try to take a quick glance at a photo and bio (a must!) and see what they have been talking about recently, but other than that I follow and see how it goes. The only reason I have to unfollow someone is if they become annoying with blatant advertising, aggressively pushing their latest product, etc…. — Tara

  • Catherine Patterson

    Right, or if you're that private, don't join Twitter! ha