Twitter is an amazing platform to personally and directly engage with an audience whether you are a personal brand or growing business. People talking to people; brands connecting with consumers; professionals collaborating with peers. On Twitter, everyone has an equal voice. There is no hierarchical structure that impedes access to each other. With the addition of the beloved @, you can reach out to anyone you want and they may (or may not) engage you back. As a content marketer, I have noticed through my interactions that there seems to be two general positions one takes when it comes to following other Twitter accounts. Some believe you should have more followers than following and remain very selective with whom you follow. Others take the position that it’s about relationships, plain and simple. I think these two positions align in more ways than not and really go hand in hand in terms of how you build your Twitter contacts.

Fundamentally, social media platforms are intended for social interaction and engagement, not a one-sided broadcasting microphone to do all the talking. I personally don’t see value in intentionally trying to have way more followers than following. Red flags go up when I see extreme deviations in the follower/following ratio one way or the other. Accounts that have a lot more followers than following (with the exception of celebrity accounts) and vice versa – when an account is following a ton, but has very few followers definitely causes me pause. Human to human engagement will more closely resemble a 1:1 follower/following ratio and those are the accounts that give me the best perception.

I wholeheartedly agree with exercising discernment with whom you decide to follow. The truth is, if you are posting targeted and valuable content for your audience(s), you attract your intended audience and, subsequently, they should be of *high importance* to you. This leads me to why the second thought also highlights an important truth: It needs to be about relationships.

As a personal brand with a business, I want nothing more than to know my network and to be known. I seek a mutually beneficial relationship with my network that consists of industry leaders that help grow me as a professional, marketing peers that keep it real and grounded – who are also exercising best practices and want to collaborate, and ideal customers whose direct engagement helps me to better understand their challenges and needs. And for ALL of these audiences, it’s the investment in real relationships that make it all worthwhile.

So, then, the question becomes how does one both remain selective with whom he or she follows, while continuing to prioritize relationship-building as a fundamental online social practice?

Here’s how I decide who to follow on Twitter and why:

  •  You followed me.  I don’t follow everyone that follows me, but I do thoughtfully consider it. If you find what I post valuable and follow me, I’m also interested in knowing you. I created or published content for you after all and I definitely want to get to know you better. That was the whole point in the first place. That being said, I don’t follow back dummy accounts, spam accounts, or accounts that represent something very distant from my own personal values. I only know this though, because I look into every account that follows me so that I don’t miss the opportunity to make a meaningful connection.
  • You inspire me.  I follow accounts that inspire me with sayings and quotes. I like to be encouraged and like to be a source of encouragement to my own network. I look forward to reading these account’s posts and retweeting them to my own network to share the uplifting value they provided me. Here are a couple that I highly recommend you follow for daily inspiration, too: @InspiringThinkn  
  • You’re so engaging. Hands down, I follow accounts that are actively engaging with their audience regularly. Twitter is active and I want to be fed with great content just like anyone else. In order to attract me to your account and then keep my interest, you have to be posting regularly and engaging with other people. If I see an account that is just broadcasting content, but never tweeting with other individuals, I usually don’t follow or I will unfollow. There are great tools out there that help you measure how engaged your Twitter contacts are. Simply Measured is a great FREE resource to measure social media analytics that I highly recommend. Here are some examples of some Twitter accounts that take the cake in engagement with their audience. If they can do it with as many followers and followees they have, you can too: @TedRubin @iSocialFanz @ChelseaKrost I love these accounts so much for the great example they set for all of us and how they make me feel like someone who matters, too.
  • I like you and what you’re all about. Twitter is personal brand facing and has allowed me to make some great friendships with people online. I don’t think there is much of a difference anymore between “real” life and “online” life. Online life is just as real and the connections we make with people just as genuine, especially when it goes from online to video chats to in person get togethers. I participate in Twitter Chats regularly and follow people whose insights and expertise strike me. If I like what you said, I want to hear more and so I follow you, plain and simple. You captured my attention and I want to connect with you. Collaborations and friendships have been born out of these initial interactions, because I got to know you better by choosing to follow you and you following me.
  • You shared my tweet or added me to your list. I take special notice of people who like and retweet my tweets. You shared something I put out there with your network and I am very thankful. My reach has gone farther, because you gave it wings. I follow you, because I want to get to know you better and hopefully reciprocate. Most times, people who share my content and posts are posting content that I am interested in as well. Similarly, I am beyond humbled when someone adds me to one of their Twitter lists. In the same way, I want to make an effort in return and often times follow / follow-back. Relationships are a two-way street and I’m here, paying attention to how I can lean in to one with you.
  • Someone I follow, follows you and vice versa. When I’m looking to connect with new people, I oftentimes will go to an account I trust and who is likeminded to see who they are following and who follows them. There is only a 2nd degree of separation between us and I know we already have some things in common based on who we’re connected with.
  • You use #hashtags I follow. You and I are interested in the same conversation, so hashtags are a great way for me to connect with people interested in the same topics I am, whether it’s for personal reasons or professional. Hashtags allow us to tune into the same frequency and connect with folks posting about the same topics, news, chats, etc. This typically means that you also fall into one or several of the reasons I’ve already outlined above.
  • You’re feeding me. Bottom line, you are providing valuable content to me that I am interested in and looking for. And you are doing it in a way that is engaging, personal, and helpful. I like that the buck doesn’t stop at your post, but how you are on social, what you tweet in-between posts, and how I continue to be enriched by what you share. You’re teaching me and I love being your student. I learn and grow from you or you solve a problem or question I had with the type of content you tweet.

There are even more reasons that go into following Twitter accounts, as each of us can go through a different process, but I think the eight I outline above is a great starting point for growing a network organically. We all have several roles when we’re utlizing social and these roles interchange regularly. We are a resource to others and someone is a resource to us. While every person and brand can have different goals for their Twitter engagement, having goals and being specific with what you hope to achieve will ultimately help you reach them over time. Know who you are trying to reach through Twitter that way you can effectively attract the right followers to your account and enjoy valuable relationships with your network. Similarly, seek out accounts that are sharing value to you and growing you. These relationships are equally as important and ones that further enrich your Twitter experience and how you come to develop truly meaningful connections.

 the best part of twitter is you


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