As chaperone for Xero’s social media I may be late to the party but I’m looking for some advice on the etiquette of ‘following’. I always have my ears and eyes open for how others manage Twitter for their companies, and indeed people always ask me what approach I take when tweeting for Xero, and recently I’ve come across two differing opinions on following.
One: you should follow everyone who follows you, or everyone that mentions you. You can’t be truly engaged and having a conversation if you don’t.
Two: follow selected tweeters you’re particularly interested in or those who tweet snippets relevant to you (or your company).
There are pros and cons either way when I think about what we ‘should’ do at Xero. Following habits from a personal account are probably driven differently than from a company account – as a company, your attachment by way of following is probably fairly loaded and open to interpretation, more so than when you’re following someone as a friend or stranger.
- If you follow loads of people, or indeed everyone that follows you then you’re probably sending the message that you want to listen, that you’re not just doing all the talking. However you’d undoubtedly miss tweets from many of your followers; does it seem rude to say ‘hey I’m interested in what you’re you’re tweeting’ by following them, yet don’t actually see much of what they tweet? That doesn’t seem like true engagement, however one measures that!
- If you follow based on selection, what’s the criteria and how political does this become as a company? How time consuming is it to background check each new follower and bring brand allegiances and influence into it let alone checking for spammers and bots? Social media is supposed to be open and free of the triple-checking shackles of traditional publishing and that’s taken away if you have to give considered thought to everyone you follow.
- If you follow all who follow you, then you’re giving everyone the opportunity to send private direct messages to you – perhaps as a company this is good because you don’t have to have those awkward conversations and complaints aired in public. However in the age of social media, you’re ‘doing it right’ if you don’t hide from this, you should have the good, bad and uncomfortable conversations where others can see them and contribute.
- If you follow everyone that tweets about your company or everyone who follows you, you may be thought of as spamming, the hollow-follow. Perhaps following those who you at least have a back-and-forward exchange with wouldn’t be as bad.
- Is there actually not much thought to this and it’s all about getting as many followers as you can so everyone’s following each other, even though many say it’s not about the number of followers you have, it’s the quality of the conversation?
- Using Twitter ‘favorites’ or the concept of ‘fans’ doesn’t require any following, and is a way of showing appreciation for good feedback about your company if you use it for this purpose and not just as a bookmarking tool. Although this could be seen as a bit one-way too, it’s a pat-on-the-back and thanks for good tweets but the only reciprocation is that person’s tweets being published on your list of favorites.
Where are we at right now? Xero follows a few hundred that I inherited when I took over the account as primary tweeter and under my watch I’ve followed those who expressly ask for the purposes of direct messaging … and now I’m at a crossroads!
I’d love to know how others tackle this. Do people really think about this and make a conscious decision either way? Is there a middle ground? If your social media management is outsourced do you or they make this decision and what did they decide? Is Xero not following you and you’re upset about this? Why? Or does it simply boil down to the type of twitterer you are and how much time you can give to your Twitter stream – someone who’s pretty anal and goes through every tweet, winding the stream back to when they last looked, or someone who’s OK to have it streaming in the bottom right-hand corner of their monitor to glance at from time to time, to see what’s going on ‘in the moment’. (Guess away re my Twitter personality type if you like!)