Want to Increase Your Twitter Follow-Backs? Be Interesting
Want to Engage the Right People? Be Authentic
by Bridget Cusick
On Tuesday, Nicole posted a piece called “5 Tips to Increase your Twitter Follow Backs.” I can’t quibble with anything she posted — but I would like to expand on one — “Your tweets matter” — and move it up the list. I’d also like to talk about the reality of follows and followers: who we’re really following and who we really want to follow us. First of all, your Tweets certainly do matter! In fact, to my mind, rule number one of Twitter is “be interesting.” Of course, “interesting” means different things to different people — even different things to different people at different times under different circumstances.
For example, my level of personal interaction with a Tweeter is, in many cases, a big component of “interesting.” That said, I find @BBCWorld interesting because it’s informative — but I’ve never had, nor do I expect, any personal interaction with this account; it’s a news feed. Likewise, I’ve never had a conversation with @FakeAPStylebook, but coming from a journalism and communication background, I find their faux writing rules interesting because they’re entertaining. Finally, I follow some people who are famous or at least well- known within a certain discipline. I understand that with tens of thousands (or more) followers, they can’t engage often one-on-one with complete strangers. But just because they don’t pay attention to ME doesn’t mean I don’t find what THEY have to say valuable: interesting because it’s thought-provoking, or again, interesting because it’s informative or entertaining.
Others’ standards for “interesting” certainly vary, even if sometimes only by degrees. For example, a friend told me she looks for a Tweet mix. If 70 percent of a person’s Tweets are RTs or links, she said, why follow? They offer nothing original. Conversely, she resists following those who simply opine but don’t inform. An obvious corollary here is that just because my friend or I finds someone interesting doesn’t mean they’ll find either of us interesting — just as in real life.
Which leads us back to the seemingly never-ending topic of whether or not one should be obligated to follow everyone who follows us — which in turn brings me to the second point I want to discuss: the reality of follows and followers; who we’re really following and who we really want to follow us. Frankly, I’m tired of the must-we-followback question. It’s childish to expect people to show us Twitter love just because we’ve clicked the “Follow” button, and it’s entirely unbecoming when people have a conniption about so-and-so not following them back. Tired of the topic or not, I do think it’s a natural segue into discussion of another sometimes-crucial Twitter trait: authenticity. Authenticity is important in any communication whose purpose is to truly engage others.
If your point on Twitter is to engage — or inspire people to action — then authenticity is an important component of being interesting. For those of us who live in the worlds of politics or advocacy, or for that matter, branding or sales, authenticity matters. One of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve read recently was an article by Ryan Rancatore on Personal Branding 101. In it, he advocated following everyone who follows you as a show of “respect” — but to prevent cluttering your timeline, relegating some people to lists you never look at. In other words: He’s advocating PRETENDING to be interested in all your followers. Clever solution? Maybe. A little on the cynical side, but it’ll probably work. For a while. Most people aren’t suckers, and technology is always evolving. Sooner or later, these tactics will be exposed (beyond those of us to whom Rancatore himself exposed them in his article).
I know that a big part of my impact on Twitter is my authenticity. If I’m exposed as a phony — nay, if I AM a phony — I’m risking my reputation, or the value of my personal brand. Now, it might be said Mr. Rancatore’s purpose is not to inspire engagement but rather to impart a set of skills or best practices to his readers. Fine. If he wants to pretend to respect his followers and follow-but-not-really-follow them, then he’s free to do that, and it might work for him. But advising his readers to do this without knowing their intentions on Twitter, under the banner of being a personal branding expert, is a bad idea. I think every Tweeter needs to ask him- or herself a couple of questions:
- Why am I here? What do I want my followers to think or do? What do I want to gain from those I follow?
- Do I just want numbers — or do I want to cultivate a list of followers who are genuinely interested in what I have to say?
I’m flattered when anyone follows me. (Well, almost anyone. Bots and spammers, as I’m fond of saying, make Twitter suck.) But ultimately, I don’t need everyone I follow to follow me back. Twitter, for me, is part entertainment, part news- and information-gathering, part advocacy. The reasons you’re on Twitter may differ. But no matter what, I believe these rules apply:
- Want to increase your follow-backs? Rule number one: Be interesting. Interact, inform, entertain, provoke thought.
- Want followers who are going to matter most to you? Be authentic. Be you!
Guest Post: Bridget Cusick is a communication consultant whose career has encompassed corporate PR and advertising and political/advocacy communications. She’s currently based in Minneapolis.