Apr 07 2009

Why I didn’t follow you on Twitter

Since my post Should every business Twitter?, I have had an email and a Tweet from people asking who they could follow on Twitter. In my experience, it is almost easier to explain why I don’t follow some people (NB: these are in no particular order):

  1. I don’t auto-follow. – It’s no good following me and expecting an automatic follow in return; I look at the profiles of each Twitter user that follows me before deciding whether or not to follow. I don’t use an automated service.
  2. Your profile tells me nothing. – If your Twitter profile doesn’t tell me who you are, who you work for or what you do, it offers little or no incentive for me to follow you back. Give me some information and – better still – a link to your blog or maybe a website landing page (this is my Twitter landing page).
  3. You aren’t a person. – I have nothing against companies, but I like to have conversations with people. If you must tweet behind a company logo, tell me who you are and what you do, so that I can get a feeling for the personality (or personalities) behind the badge (but better still, Twitter as an individual).
  4. Your Twitter ID sounds like a Star Wars name or a porn star. – Names like Razp_1035 do not inspire me with confidence (maybe you’re a bot?), nor does a Hollywood starlet image and a profile that talks loosely about fashion, modelling or shopping.
  5. You haven’t Tweeted (or not much – yet). – When I review somebody’s Twitter profile, I look for some interesting updates that suggest you will be worth following (are you involved with construction, ICT, marketing, PR, social media?). If you haven’t tweeted yet, you have no history to show me (though I do return and look again at recent followers so that I can see a fuller Tweet record).
  6. We share no acquaintances. The relevance of a Twitter follower can be judged from the extent of any overlap between their followers and your own. If I recognise some of my friends among your followers, I will be more likely to follow you (but I – occasionally – play pot luck).
  7. You protect your updates. – If I don’t already know you, why should I have to ask your permission to talk to you? If you are serious about having conversations, are your updates really so special that only a chosen few are allowed to hear them and talk to you?
  8. You don’t listen. – Possibly one of the main reasons I ‘un-follow’ people is because the sender doesn’t appear to listen to any feedback. I’ve experienced automatic feeds from websites that were one-way broadcasts of the same content over and over – a definite *fail* – but people who don’t respond to direct Tweets will also quickly disappear from my follow list.
  9. Self, self, self. – If you only Twitter on … and on … and on … about yourself, your company, your new projects, your website, etc, then good-bye!
  10. Same Tweet, same time every day. – Linked with my wish to talk to real people, I don’t want to follow a business that sends the same Tweet at the same time every day: for example: “Construction jobs in your area, find local construction work in your UK town at [deleted],” sent out daily at 1am (and why 1am?!) shows you’ve opted not to Twitter in person about what you are doing now.
  11. You’re not useful. – My Twitter network will not be identical to your’s, so you can sometimes help me by re-Tweeting other people’s updates, links, hints and tips. It could be a re-Tweet or an interesting update of your own: if – in 140 characters or less – you tell me something that might help me, I’ll be more likely to follow you.
  12. You’re not who you say you are. – Your Twitter identity says you are the CEO of your company, but the updates come from the PR or marketing department, and barely relate to your activities as CEO. Another *fail*.
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  14. Updates take two days to appear. – Most Twitter conversations are responsive interactions. If you need to clear every Tweet with your line manager or the legal team, you are no longer topical and will be unfollowed sine die.
  15. You measure Twitter value simply by how many followers you have. – If  all that matters to you is getting lots of people to follow you, then your motives are wrong. For me, it’s about quality, not quantity of followers.
  16. You use Twitter for private chats. – The occasional brief one-to-one exchange via Twitter can be helpful, but constant use of Twitter for a conversation that could be taken off-line or private (via DM) is not going to win you (m)any friends.
  17. Too much personal stuff. – Particularly where Twitter is being used in a business-to-business world, over-use of Twitter for views on your favourite rock music, football team, TV programme, computer game, etc, etc, will switch me off.
  18. Abuse. – If you regularly engage in insulting or offensive language on Twitter, I’m off.
  19. You try to sell me stuff I don’t need. – Twitter does not immediately constitute a relationship, and I will not be happy getting constant marketing messages about goods or services that are irrelevant to my needs or those of other people in my network.
  20. You over-use Twitter. I have days when I Twitter a lot, others when I Twitter-not, and I expect most people do the same. But anyone swamping my incoming feed with a constant stream of worthless clutter will get Twitter-blocked.
  21. In short, you convey  ignorance of the Twitter Ten Commandments.

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  1. Great list Paul, people should consider this more and take note. With the continual expansion of twitter people would be well advised to seriously follow the above or they will find it a fruitless pursuit.

    I have always taken the approach quality versus quantity with following, with this brings interesting reading and the best out of twitter in my opinion.

  2. Paul

    This is an interesting list but I find the idea of ‘Twitter commandments’ ridiculous. As with any communication medium people will use Twitter in ways that work for them. These may not suit the majority of other users. And that’s fine – those other users can opt not to follow. But to suggest a catch all list of rules fails to take into account the differing reasons that people use Twitter, none of which are necessarily any more valid than the others.

    In fact, what I think we’re already beginning to see are different communities of people springing up on Twitter that want different things from it. Again, that’s to be expected. You could say the same of any communication technology.

    Your personal list is useful to me because, as a built environment professional, you are the sort of person that we @constructingexc want to engage with and if we can do that on Twitter, great. I’d be interested to know if other people in our ‘target audience’ have similar (or different) drivers for deciding with whom they’ll engage.

      • Paul on 8 April 2009 at 2:09 pm
      • Reply

      I think the ‘Ten Twitter Commandments’ are a bit tongue-in-cheek. Of course, people will use Twitter in different ways, but I think some people, especially people just starting to use the service, do not get the benefits they expected as they are sometimes unaware of the prevailing “Twitiquette” respected by many experienced users. There will also be differences between people using Twitter purely socially and those using it mainly for work-related purposes – and my post was, of course, largely focused on the latter.

      In that context, I still like the analogy of Twitter being likened to a large drinks reception in which people engage in a series of conversations with individuals and groups of other people. The “rules” are so similar: listen and talk, introduce yourself, empathise, ask questions, offer information, soft sell … in short, use such exchanges to establish a rapport, mutual understanding, and – maybe, just maybe – a platform for future business collaboration.

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t really agree with your analogy. Because, while Twitter is sometimes like a drinks reception (and many people are using it in the way you describe), it’s also like a baying crowd outside a West End premiere desperately trying to grab onto the coat tails of passing celebrities; like delegates at a conference trying to suck up information but not necessarily expecting to be able to engage in any meaningful way with the speakers; and like a pub full of drunks muttering banalities into the ether.

    Of those using it for predominantly business reasons only the second of those uses (the engaging with celebrities one) doesn’t hold true.

    All of these constituencies exist within the Twitter user base (and obviously many users straddle more than one) and each individual user looks to get what they want from the medium – which may involve engaging with others and conversation but it doesn’t need to, even at a business level. Some, for instance, may just want to use it as a news streaming service.

    • Paul on 15 April 2009 at 3:44 pm
    • Reply

    But, Jon, surely you choose which environment you put yourself in and how you behave?

    I, for one, would try to avoid being part of the “baying crowd…trying to grab onto the coat tails of passing celebrities” (love that analogy!), the “conference” and the “pub drunks”.

    Twitter has many uses (my list was about how *I* use it, why *I* don’t follow certain people; it wasn’t intended as a guide to Twitti-quette for everyone). Some people may use it as a news streaming service. That doesn’t make it wrong; if recipients know that’s how it’s being used, they can choose to follow, or they can unfollow if the news is of little or no value to them.

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