Why it is a mistake not to follow back your Twitter followers

Recently I was in conversation with someone who has had training and experience in marketing when something they said about Twitter made me think that they had completely missed the whole point of Social Networking...

During the conversation this person told me that following back all your followers was not important and that it is far more important to restrict those that you do follow to people only in your own business sector!


This was very recently, but this part of the conversation has stuck in my head and niggled at me since...

Let me explain why this rankles with me:

Restricting your following just to people in your own business sector is akin to being a grocery shop owner who greets their customers at the shop door and asks them what they do for a living. If the potential customer then says they are in any other trade but groceries, the shop keeper then refuses them admission to their store!!!

A recipe for financial disaster!
How long could you stay in business with this attitude?

It disturbs me that this mindset is being taught as "marketing".

Keeping with the grocery shop analogy - everyone walking down the street that store is located in is a potential customer - and if they take the time to turn up at your store why would you then be rude to them and refuse them entry?

Now it may be argued that if you are in a very specialist business sector, for example you run a company that sources and sells parts for only one rare model of vintage car, you might concentrate your efforts on only following the handful of other businesses that exist in your very specialist field, and perhaps a few specialist vintage car clubs. Your rationale may be that not everyone is a potential customer for your very select product - but you are missing a vital point here - ANYONE following you could potentially pass on your details when asked by a friend where they could get parts for their vintage car - but they would only do so if you had bothered to follow them back.

Limiting your twitter following in this manner also means that basically you are using Twitter as a private chat room and there are far better ways to communicate with such select small groups. In this case you would be better off organising monthly meetings in a pub.

However, if you are in a wide-reaching business sector, such as selling food, clothes or holidays - EVERYONE is a potential customer, and everyone is also a potential referrer.

So let's look at why you should follow back ALL your followers, regardless of their business sector, trade or interests:

The argument over whether you should follow back all of your Twitter followers has been argued for a long time. Some say "yes" because it's good manners, those fresh out of a marketing course may say "no" because it does not deliver a high ROI (return on investment). But I can tell you from 8 years of experience using Twitter that those that say "no" are wrong - dead wrong!

You should (apart from spammy and obviously hacked accounts, which should be blocked) follow back EVERY Twitter user that follows you...!!!

My Rationale:

On Twitter, once someone follows you, they can then receive your tweets in their Twitter timeline. So if someone new follows you is is because something you said on Twitter aroused their curiosity, and now they want to read more of your tweets. As there are no Twitter rules stating you must follow everyone back, then Whether or not you follow them back is a personal decision.

For my own 2 Twitter accounts (one personal and one business), I follow everyone back. I also do the same on accounts that I am promoting for clients. Why do I do this? Because following that new follower back is a matter of respect, and, importantly, they may one day become a client - or refer me to someone else who may one day become a client.

Every new follower is just like someone you meet totally by chance at a large social gathering such as a wedding. By not following them back you are doing the equivalent of turning your back on them when they try and start a conversation with you. That is rude, extremely rude - surely you would not behave like this in real life? so why behave like this online?

A lot of the "NO" brigade who say you should only follow back those in your own business sector put forward arguments such as:

  • Some followers are spambots - OR
  • It is impossible to keep up with thousands of users

Indeed some followers are spambots - which is why our Twitter Promotion service checks each new follower to ensure they have a valid Bio and Profile Image and also check their last tweet, and the date of their last tweet. We then block those that are obviously spammers.

As for keeping up with thousands of followers? This is EASY since Twitter introduced LISTS...

Twitter lists allow you to categorise your followers based on any criteria you can think of. Your Twitter Lists can be set to be either public or private. So if for example you wanted to create a private list of your top 100 followers, the only person that will know about the list or its members is you!

Maybe now you are starting to see why the "no" sayers arguments are not valid (they may have been valid a few years ago, but are not valid now).

By organising your followers into Twitter Lists (most Twitter programs or Apps allow this by simple drag 'n drop) you can then give your undivided attention to a very small group of your preferred Twitter users while at the same time being respectful by returning the follows of everyone that has followed you.

So always remember that on Twitter, just like in the real world, the human being, and human behaviour, is most important. So always take the time to show each new follower that you care about what they may have to say by following them back (or let our Twitter Promotion service follow them back for you). Whether you then actually give them your full attention by including them in one of your Twitter Lists is up to you. The important thing to note here is that you need to appear to be not only human, but also polite - because your online reputation could be easily damaged if you were considered impolite by a lot of people simply because you had not followed them back.

On a final note - some of the people I regularly converse with on Twitter, and indeed some of my current clients, I only ever found in the first place because they originally followed me on Twitter and then I did the polite thing and followed them back.

Had I been a "no" sayer I would never have found them and my life would be all the poorer for it.