Twitter Etiquette: Must You Follow Back?
BY Jeff Haden
Is a no-follow rule a serious social media faux pas? Inc.com columnist Jeff Haden tests the waters.
Is not following people—and especially not following the people who follow you—a sign of arrogance on Twitter?
That’s what one reader, Jordan Koene, suggested to me in a comment on a recent post that had nothing to do with Twitter. He wrote, “Jeff's article is almost as arrogant as his twitter profile which follows no one.”
I’m fine with differences of opinion and negative comments regarding posts. (Decoded, the last sentence means, “I’m actually bothered by criticism as much as anyone and probably have a thinner skin than most but accept it comes with the territory.”) Check out the post above and you’ll find plenty of, um, constructive feedback.
But Jordan brings up a point worthy of some debate for both writers and entrepreneurs alike. Must you follow anyone on Twitter?
I set up a Twitter account at the request of a few readers who wanted an easy way to know when I posted new articles. I don’t tweet witty aphorisms or amusing anecdotes or trenchant commentaries because I’m not especially witty, amusing, or trenchant. All my tweets are links to new posts.
And I don’t think my profile is arrogant since I don’t claim to be a guru, or strategist, or leading authority, or unique or passionate. But Jordan is right about one thing: I don’t follow anyone.
Why? There is no right way to use Twitter. It’s just a tool. In my case I don’t hope to build a massive following by targeting power tweeters, using hash tags, retweeting or—heaven forbid—buying followers. I only use Twitter as a way to tell people who, by following, have asked me to tell them when I post new articles. But is it rude not to follow them back?
Even if I wanted to, it’s not practical; anyone who follows thousands or even hundreds of people can’t possibly read everything and probably never intended to. Many people follow others as part of a strategy designed to build a larger following and not to show respect or consideration. (I have a few friends with six-digit followings and they all readily admit they see piling up the followers not just as a business tool but also as a game they like to win.)
Still, I do “follow.” I keep up with a few blogs. I use Google Alerts. I connect in other ways. I don’t follow people on Twitter because I’m happy with the set of tools I’m currently using.
Following people on Twitter may work well for you, and if so, that’s great. The specific tools you use to connect, build relationships, and expand your network are largely irrelevant; what matters is that the tools you use and the ways you use them best serve your needs.
And as for etiquette, automatically or routinely following people back isn’t polite, courteous, or the opposite of arrogance. When you will rarely—if ever—read a person’s tweets, following them only pays lip service to the idea that you care about what they have to say.
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