Twitter: How to make me want to follow you

Judging by the number of short bios I’ve read on Twitter and LinkedIn, there are at least 2.5 million self-proclaimed social-media experts in the world. I am not one of them.

However, I think Twitter is an invaluable tool — especially as a writer — and I’m an expert on me, so I can tell you with some authority what makes me want to follow you on Twitter. But while I’m speaking only of myself and my preferences, I think some generalizations can be made about the list I’ve compiled. So here are 10 things that will make me want to follow you on Twitter.

  1. You have a photo of yourself. You’re not a faceless Twitter egg. You’re not an avatar. You’re not a picture of your cat or a cartoon rendition of yourself. Twitter is about interacting with people, so simply show me that you’re a person. *Bonus points if your Twitter handle is your name or something close to it and I’m not left wondering if @pandagurl18 was something cruel your parents did to you.
  2. You have a bio. If you can’t think of anything interesting to say about yourself, why would I want to follow you? You don’t have to fit your life story in those 160 characters. Just tell me who you are, what you like, what you do, what you aspire to do, what your cat’s name is, something.
  3. You have a URL listed. You don’t have to have a professional website or keep up a blog, but if you’re on Twitter, you likely have a Facebook page, a Tumblr blog, a LinkedIn, a Last.fm, a Pinterest page or something. Heck, put your MySpace page on there. Yes, I’ll judge you a little bit, but at least it’s something.
  4. You’ve included your location. Why a location? Because sometimes I’m curious! When you tweet about the tornado in your area, the local mayor’s latest antics or the alien invasion that just began, I want to know where you are! It bugs me to see an interesting location-based tweet and I’m directed to GPS coordinates or “Narnia.” Tell me where are! And be very, very specific and leave your blinds open. I want to make sure I’m looking in the correct window at night.
  5. You @ reply me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t watch to see if my number of followers has increased from day to day, so I don’t know that you’re following me unless I’m uncharacteristically observant that day or you say something to me. Say hello, butt into a conversation, ask a question, talk about cats. Just say something. If you follow me and talk to me, I’ll follow you and talk to you. I bet other Twitterers will do the same!
  6. You tweet more than just your own promotions or links. If I go to your page and just see lots of “Buy me e-book!” and “Like my Facebook page,” I’m going to assume you’re just here to get people to buy your stuff. You’re coming off as the kind of person who’s in it for yourself and isn’t going to bring anything to the table. And if you’re just tweeting link after link without interacting with anyone else, you come off as pushy and boring. Are you ignoring the people who talk to you? Are you so boring no one cares to reply? Or are you so busy pushing your own agenda that you don’t have time for the rest of us?
  7. We have things in common. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that I can meet and engage with new people of various backgrounds and interests on Twitter. However, the reason I prefer Twitter over Facebook is that I don’t have to read the constant political rants and what-I-had-for-lunch status updates from the GOP-loving guy I sat next to in English sophomore year. Perhaps it’s silly, but when I’m on Twitter, I don’t feel like I have to befriend the girl I worked the Schlotzsky’s counter with in 1998 or tweet the dude who dumped me before prom. I’m here to interact with people whom I actually have things in common with — writers, environmentalists, cat people, vegetarians, falafel eaters, other people who got dumped before prom, etc. If your bio reads “Nickelback-loving deer hunter. Hates to read. Helping get the Mitt Romney vote out,” why exactly are you following me?
  8. You’re tweeting fairly often. I’m not talking hourly or even daily here, but if I’m going to follow you, I want to see that you’re putting content out there on a somewhat regular basis. Don’t suddenly follow me if you haven’t tweeted in a month. What’s that about? What are you doing that has you so occupied?! I’m intrigued! And don’t *sniff* just disappear on me… I’ve followed incredibly interesting people who I enjoyed chatting with for months, but then they just … stopped. I waited. I refreshed their pages. I Googled them and searched for obituary listings. I don’t know what happened to them, but it *sniff* felt like getting dumped before prom. Unfollow. Also, what’s up with only posting Foursquare updates? I don’t want to stalk you unless you’re actually interesting, so please post something besides the fact that you just ousted your roommate as the mayor of the couch.
  9. You don’t look like a spambot. You may not be tweeting about celebrity sex tapes or get-rich-quick schemes, but if you’re following 2,000 people and being followed back by 57, you just don’t look legit. For all I know, those 2,000 people you’re following could be super interesting to you and you just have to know what they’re doing and thinking throughout the day, but try to hold off on so many follows at once. Follow some people, chat them up, let them follow back. And, of course, don’t post nude photos of yourself, and please avoid tweeting about penis enlargement.
  10. You’re engaging. Now, I don’t mean that I find you charming and interesting. I mean that you’re interacting with people on Twitter and using its many features. You have lists and favorited tweets that show me what you’re interested in and that you care about what people have to say. You’re sharing photos and videos. All of these things show up on your profile page and tell me that you’re more engaged and more Twitter-savvy than the average user. I like that.

On the flip side, here’s my short list of what will make me unfollow you immediately:

  • You’re using TrueTwit or any other Twitter validation service. Why? Why? WHY?! Do you think I’m going to take an extra step to follow your updates? Because I’m not. And I bet most other people aren’t either. Stop doing this. Right. Now. Twitter has spammers. Deal with them. Block them, report them, get over it. If you’re using TrueTwit, disable it. I bet you’ll be amazed by how much faster you get new followers.
  • When I follow you, you immediately DM me about your company, the book you wrote, your Facebook fan page, etc. I don’t care. I bet most people don’t care either. Honestly, a simple “thank you for the follow” DM is OK and I’m not going to unfollow you for it, but I still find it annoying. I’m going to get an email about it, and every time I log in to Twitter on a different computer or on my phone, I’m going to get a notification about your “thank you.” Ugh. But if you DM me about something you want me to buy — your e-book, your writing services, the sweaters you knit from cat fur, etc. — I will unfollow you. Unless your bio says you like kittens.
  • You pick fights with me or others. I might tweet something you disagree with. Maybe you like cats better than dogs. Maybe you think Scott Stapp sings like an angel. Maybe you voted for George W. Bush and you want the world — including me — to know about it. Fine, but handle it maturely. Don’t curse, don’t tell me I’m wrong, don’t mock me, and don’t point out my mistakes. Just don’t be that guy! In return, I’ll do the same for you. I love learning about different viewpoints, but sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

 Photo: shawncampbell/flickr

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9 thoughts on “Twitter: How to make me want to follow you

  1. Yes, yes! Must. Have Pictures!!! I want to see your pretty face! It helps me feel like I’m chatting with a real person and not a roboterotica spambot. I am guilty of number 4 though… I don’t have my location on there. (Too many peeps looking through my blinds, hehe.)

    I’m also right there with you on tweet validation and DMs. HULK SMASH! I HATE the instant “I think you’ll like my FB page” tweet. If I wasn’t so lazy (so I could figure out how to unfollow on all my gadgets), it’d be “hasta lapasta batman” in a nano second.

  2. Looks like you and I have almost-identical Twitter preferences. And something tells me there are more peas in this pod than just you and me! :-)

  3. Thanks for these tips! I’m new to Twitter and some of these things I hadn’t even thought about. I’ll be sure to give you a follow.

  4. Hey, Cally! I think a lot of us Twitter folk have the same grievances. I especially don’t get the TrueTwit obsession. Why, oh, why do people use that thing?!

    Sara, be sure to @ reply me! Looking forward to chatting!

  5. Heh. If a self-proclaimed “social media expert” follows me on Twitter, I don’t follow back unless he or she has VERY interesting tweets. In other words, I don’t follow them back.

    I can vouch for the correct window thing, since Laura has been spying on my neighbours all this time…

  6. Your neighbors are surprisingly interesting people, but I shouldn’t have let them distract me from my real target, Su. ;)

  7. Hahahaha this post sound like I could have written it.

    I’m finding it really sad that my twitter timeline has started reading like a classifieds of book sellers. I mean, where have the real people gone?

    Sometimes I go back as much as 6 hours before spotting a tweet that doesn’t look automated.

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