I used to abide by a strict no-follow rule. Here's how one reader changed my mind.
In a recent post I took the position that Twitter is just a tool. I set up a Twitter account at the request of a few readers who wanted an easy way to know when I post new articles. That’s all I use my Twitter account for, and I make sure potential followers know that in my Twitter bio. Then I got this email from Kat Gordon, the founder of Maternal Instinct, a marketing firm that specializes in marketing to mothers.
Twitter is social media. It's meant to be just that—social. You're under no pressure to follow everyone who follows you back (I don't), nor are you supposed to follow as many people as you have followers.
What I do believe you should do, in the spirit of the community, is participate. That means @ reply certain folks now and again, share content you found interesting from other posters, or just raise a topical question once in awhile.
The way you are using Twitter is solely as distribution for your own work. I understand that you did this because of interest of a few readers. But there are other mechanisms that allow users to be alerted to new posts. Doing so is not meeting the needs of other readers like myself.
Here's what I mean: I liked your post yesterday. Liked it enough to think, "This guy is interesting." I saw you had a Twitter profile and I thought, "Cool—I can hear other things he's thinking and who else he feels is worth listening to." I clicked over to your profile, read, "I only tweet new posts," and at first misunderstood that to mean you only tweet your freshest work. Again I thought "cool" because I dislike when people "regurgitweet" posts from 2008 just to fill their stream.
Only upon closer inspection did I realize you meant you only tweet new posts. Nothing else. The zero follower count and lack of @ replies in your stream communicated that.
And I was disappointed. You were telling me you will not engage with anyone on Twitter. It's just a distribution channel for you. So you satisfied a few readers with a very narrow need and likely disappointed countless others who were dismayed that a business writer doesn't seem to understand the true value of a powerful business tool.
Your fan, but not follower! -- Kat
She’s right. All communication—and all communication tools—should focus on the needs of the audience. My use of Twitter was a little smug and addressed my needs a lot more than it did the interests of my audience. Plus, as Rob Cottingham pointed out in the comments to my original post, there’s a huge conversational potential that a broadcast-only Twitter presence like mine misses. Still, I won’t follow people just because they follow me. But I will start tweeting when I find cool people or ideas I think others might benefit from. I will start engaging in conversations. And will try to keep listening when smart people tell me I’m wrong.
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden