#Follow, #F4F, #FollowBack — Who to Follow on Twitter?

Follow me robot by Geralt CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay

I #Fol­low, #F4F* and #Fol­low­Back. They are pow­er­ful tac­tics for Twit­ter users to grow their net­work. Twit­ter is such a great place to tell peo­ple about things you are doing. It is not just a place for writ­ers, but for peo­ple across all walks of life. You are as like­ly to encounter some­one post­ing their lat­est cat video or apple pie recipe, as any oth­er top­ic. Yet that per­son can be your next fol­low­er and the next avid read­er of your site, if you play your cards right.

      There are cer­tain­ly some good prac­tices to learn about Twit­ter for the blog writer. #Fol­low and fol­low­ing back are among the best.
      *To let you know #F4F is a term mean­ing fol­low for fol­low­back of fol­low for fol­low. It is good Twit­ter eti­quette to adopt and I encour­age all read­ers to do so.

Who to #Follow?

Social Stuff By Peter B. Giblett      If you are a writer, who reg­u­lar­ly cre­ates blog pages, you will need to use Twit­ter. It is a great pub­lic­i­ty tool. With Face­book or LinkedIn most peo­ple only fol­low oth­ers that they know. With good rea­son, they are net­work­ing with their friends and col­leagues. I found fol­low­ing those I know was nev­er enough.
      This is why I became an open-net­work­er. That means I am open to con­nect­ing with any­one. If you use Twit­ter you, too, should be open to con­nect­ing with any­one. That said I do have lim­its, as should you. Here are the types of peo­ple you should follow:
  • First and fore­most peo­ple who are like­ly to read your blog. (Tar­get audience).
  • Those, whose opin­ions you admire.
  • Peo­ple who speak your language(s).
  • Search for people.
  • Peo­ple with Twit­ter activity.
  • Peo­ple with a bio and picture.
  • Unfol­low peo­ple who don’t fol­low back.
What every writer wants is fol­low­ers. I have more than 16,000 fol­low­ers and that num­ber grows every day.

#Follow to get Followers

      It may seem per­verse that you have to fol­low peo­ple in order to get fol­low­ers, but it does work.
      If you start a new Twit­ter account today, the sys­tem will offer to find the first hun­dred peo­ple for you to #fol­low. Gen­er­al­ly the peo­ple it will have you fol­low will lead­ers, and famous peo­ple from your coun­try. Fol­low­ing such peo­ple will give you things to see in your time-line, but those select­ed almost cer­tain­ly nev­er fol­low-back so they don’t help you grow your net­work. Oth­er than pro­vid­ing an ini­tial stream of tweets it is unlike­ly they can help your goal.
      You will need to find your own fol­low­ers. The first rule to gain­ing fol­low­ers is that you must fol­low peo­ple to get fol­low­ers. Of course oth­er peo­ple will find you and fol­low you. It is good eti­quette that you should gen­er­al­ly fol­low them back.

Opinions you Admire

      Most peo­ple admire a famous author, like Seth Godin, who has left pow­er­ful thoughts which guide people’s lives. Some of these authors are active on Twit­ter. but they are not the only ones you should fol­low. Oth­er, ordi­nary peo­ple, talk about those same sub­jects and give good advice as well. Many will be in your indus­try. Many will have writ­ten about their expe­ri­ences and shared them with the world. Even if you don’t know them you should fol­low them.
      You don’t have to agree with a per­son to fol­low them, but it helps.
      Gen­er­al­ly, you should avoid fol­low­ing, those peo­ple whose opin­ions you dis­like. If peo­ple post tweets about sub­jects you do not sup­port then you should think about whether you should con­tin­ue to fol­low them. This is increas­ing­ly true the more hurt­ful their opinions.

Your Languages

      I only speak Eng­lish, so I only fol­low peo­ple who post tweets in Eng­lish. The rea­son is sim­ple. Lan­guage is one the few lim­its to who I fol­low. See­ing a stream of tweets I can’t under­stand slows me down. I know I can trans­late it, most­ly news I already knew about, regur­gi­tat­ed, hence not worth my time.
      If you speak French, Eng­lish, Dutch and Man­darin, then of course Tweets in those lan­guages have some inter­est.

Twitter Search

SearchIt is said, that Twitter’s search engine is more pop­u­lar than Google. I use it most times I use Twitter.
      Using Twit­ter search you can find top­ics that are of inter­est to you. Some­times the results are bet­ter that avail­able from Google. For exam­ple if your hob­by is fish­ing then you may search with the hash­tag #fish­ing. You may use alter­na­tives, like #angling, or the words with­out the hash. Each spe­cial­i­ty has words that peo­ple use. Search­es allow you to find oth­er peo­ple hav­ing sim­i­lar inter­ests. Fol­low­ing those with impor­tant things to say is the log­i­cal next step.
      If you find a tweet you like then ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ it, this is a way to gain approval from the orig­i­na­tor. If it has links on the tweet, then click on it and read their stuff. It is always good for blog­gers to know oth­er blog­gers. Per­haps they may link you to a pro­fes­sion­al jour­nal you did not know existed.
      I search for new peo­ple to fol­low dai­ly. Remem­ber­ing the name of some­one I worked with will cause me to search for them. I search for top­ics that inter­est me as well. This allows me to fol­low active people.

Follow People who are Active

#Fol­low only active peo­ple. How can you tell they are active?
      Active peo­ple cre­ate Tweets most days at least, (remem­ber most peo­ple take some days off). Use search to find peo­ple dis­cussing a par­tic­u­lar top­ic. Ignore the “Most Pop­u­lar” tab, these are often pro­mot­ed tweets. The “Lat­est” tab will show the most recent tweets on the sub­ject of your search. Some­times this will high­light spam­mers, e.g. where all the tweets on the page are by the same per­son. Most of the time you will find peo­ple with inter­est­ing things to say. These are the peo­ple you need to con­sid­er following.
Tip: Retweet­ing posts you like can also get you fol­low­ers. Not only is the orig­i­na­tor like­ly to fol­low-back, but oth­ers in their cir­cle are like­ly to fol­low as well.
The “Peo­ple” tab will show the most recent peo­ple who have tweet­ed on this subject.

The Biography

No Bio - why follow?
      It may seem a small thing, but one of the most impor­tant rules on Twit­ter is not to fol­low peo­ple who don’t have either a bio or a pic­ture dis­played with posts. It may seem a small thing, but it is impor­tant. I will turn it around — it is a small thing, so cre­ate you biog­ra­phy and include a pic­ture that is per­son­al.
      The Bio shows you care, it shows peo­ple some of the key sub­jects that mat­ter to you. Use hash­tags for your main inter­ests, that way you will appear in search results. It is 160 char­ac­ters that can mat­ter so much to your fol­low­ers, it allows them to gauge if you are the type of per­son they should fol­low. Two hash­tags worth search­ing for are #fol­low and #fol­low­back
      A spe­cial note about pic­tures. The Twit­ter default is the worst pic­ture you could use. Some reli­gions oppose the use of per­son­al pic­tures, for a vari­ety of rea­sons. I didn’t say the image must be you, but the image should rep­re­sent you. One per­son I know, once used a moun­tain goat as their image. They saw it as a rugged durable ani­mal, qual­i­ties they wished to por­tray in their pro­file. The pic­ture is anoth­er way of pre­sent­ing your­self. Your clos­est con­nec­tions will often know you from your image.

No #Follow Back

      The plague of the Inter­net are those who don’t fol­low back. These are peo­ple who don’t seem to under­stand the eti­quette involved in the act of fol­low­ing. There are four types that don’t fol­low back:
  • Cel­e­brates (Stars, Sports stars, Politi­cians etc.).
  • Social Media super­stars, like Guy Kawasa­ki, they are well known and get a mas­sive following
  • Large cor­po­ra­tions
  • Those who cyn­i­cal­ly use their networks.
For the first three cat­e­gories it is under­stand­able why they don’t fol­low ran­dom strangers. Many stars have stalk­ers through social media, nat­u­ral­ly they would not fol­low those peo­ple back. They enjoy hav­ing fol­low­ers but don’t know who will become a stalk­er in the future.
      Com­pa­nies should know bet­ter. Sad­ly, many brand man­agers think about tra­di­tion­al brand­ing tech­niques and do not see the val­ue of interaction.

Cynical Network Users

      The fourth class is of most con­cern. These are, cyn­i­cal net­work users. It is their intent to have you fol­low them, but they don’t wish to fol­low any­one. They have lit­tle regard for oth­ers. Their tac­tic is not about engag­ing their net­work, sim­ply using it as a pub­lic­i­ty tool. They are cyn­i­cal net­work users because they don;t care about you or your thoughts. They sim­ply wish to use you. Their only rea­son to fol­low you in the first place is to have you fol­low them. To these peo­ple their only inter­est is get­ting you to read their infor­ma­tion. There is no such thing as rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion for them.
      If you know any­thing about net­work­ing then you, like me, will not approve of cyn­i­cal net­work users, those who are inter­est­ed in one thing. Their own self-interest.
      We are all moti­vat­ed to some extent by self-inter­est, but this func­tions on an entire­ly dif­fer­ent level.

Follow then Unfollow

      At one time Twit­ter had lim­its to the num­ber of peo­ple you could fol­low. Because of this some users devel­oped a tac­tic to get around it. They would fol­low a set num­ber, say 100, then a week or two lat­er they would stop fol­low­ing those peo­ple, then fol­low anoth­er 100 peo­ple. Of the 100 they fol­lowed 35 might fol­low back. The tac­tic was re-used, over and over again to build a mas­sive list of fol­low­ers to broad­cast to.
      Twit­ter has changed the rules, but many of these peo­ple still fol­low the same tac­tic today as a way of build­ing their own following.
Even #follow-following count
      When you fol­low oth­ers on Twit­ter the num­ber of fol­low­ers should be sim­i­lar to the num­ber being fol­lowed, as shown in the image to the left. Irre­spec­tive of how many fol­low­ers you have, you are like­ly to fol­low a few more than fol­low you. The rea­son is sim­ple, you are always look­ing for peo­ple to fol­low. Gen­er­al­ly though the count is even.
Uneven #follow - follower count
      If a user’s followers/following pro­file looks like the pic­ture on the right then you should not fol­low them.
      The sec­ond exam­ple is clear­ly a user that is not inter­est­ed in what oth­er peo­ple have to say. They are only inter­est­ed in telling the world things. As explained lat­er, even if I fol­lowed this per­son I would soon stop following.

Manage who you Follow

      Every few days you should be on the look­out for peo­ple who stop fol­low­ing you. These are the broad­cast­ers in your net­work. There is one sim­ple rea­son to cut this type of dead wood from your net­work, and you can look at this from ques­tion­ing how they can help you.
      There is only one way they can help you is by pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion you need. Oth­er­wise they are dead wood, that you don’t need to car­ry around. Do you need them in your network?
      There are sev­er­al tools and apps avail­able and you should use them every few days to remove those who  stopped fol­low­ing you. Unfol​lowspy​.com is per­haps the best tools avail­able. Go to the web­site, then sign in with Twit­ter. Under Twit­ter Fea­tures you will see a func­tion called “Not Fol­low­back”, as shown in the pic­ture. I go to this page every day or two and remove 50 of the peo­ple who have stopped fol­low­ing me.
Unfollow Spy
Tip: Don’t try to remove too many peo­ple as you may get your account sus­pend­ed. 45 to 50 seems an opti­mum num­ber of peo­ple to stop fol­low­ing in one day.

Buying Followers

I guar­an­tee that you have seen this (or some­thing sim­i­lar) on a person’s Twit­ter Bio:
“Want to know how experts get 12,000 fol­low­ers in 1 week? This web­site can help you achieve it.”
Buy followers
      It may also say “Buy 5,000 vis­i­tors for $29”. These ads are not to be believed.
      Truth is you can­not buy any fol­low­ers that are worth­while hav­ing. There are two things to note from this pic­ture, first this per­son has used Twit­ter for two years and sec­ond they only have 32 fol­low­ers. Clear­ly the sys­tem doesn’t work.
      Young trendy pop­stars, like Zara Lars­son, or Shawn Mendes may get thou­sands of fol­low­ers every day. Espe­cial­ly when they release their lat­est hit, but most of the rest of the world do not. It is a fact. Grow­ing you fol­low­ing requires management.

Managing Growth

      On Twit­ter I am @pgiblett and joined Twit­ter in Sep­tem­ber 2008, and you can dis­cov­er that from my pro­file. I have a good sized fol­low­ing, but always wish it to grow. Every day I tar­get growth. Yet, Growth requires:
  • Every day activity.
  • Search for a sub­ject that inter­ests you, then fol­low peo­ple who have recent­ly posted.
  • Fol­low back peo­ple who #fol­low you.
  • Occa­sion­al­ly, post quotes of famous peo­ple or RT ones post­ed by oth­ers in your network.
  • Spend time retweet­ing oth­er people’s work.
  • Unfol­low peo­ple who unfol­low you
  • Stop fol­low­ing those who nev­er fol­low back.

Watch for the Plateau

      In 2015 I had grown my fol­low­ing, to just under 10,000. but despite every­thing that I did my fol­low­ing nev­er grew. I did then, as I do now, fol­low new peo­ple dai­ly. But the num­ber of fol­low­ers I had nev­er increased.
      Analysing those I was fol­low­ing and those that fol­lowed me helped me under­stand. Then, as now, I auto­mat­ed many of my tweets. But there were two cru­cial things hap­pen­ing. First­ly my tweet­ing activ­i­ty seemed com­plete­ly auto­mat­ed. I admit it I was going through one of those times in my life when I was focus­ing on self sur­vival. It sim­ply nev­er occurred to me that I need­ed to help oth­ers to help myself.
      In analysing my fol­low­ing I realised there were a mas­sive num­ber of peo­ple that I fol­lowed who nev­er fol­lowed me, and vice ver­sa, a mas­sive num­ber that I didn’t fol­low back. I had reached my plateau and could not grow with­out chang­ing things. Cut­ting out dead-wood was nec­es­sary. Day by day I removed those who didn’t fol­low back. (Please under­stand that you should not unfol­low more than 100 peo­ple a day, as your account will be suspended).

An Active Network

People stars CC0 Public Domain Image
      I stopped fol­low­ing near­ly 5,000 peo­ple in about 5 months. Then I start­ed fol­low­ing new peo­ple, but at the same time used tools to rec­i­p­ro­cate “unfol­low” activ­i­ty. The num­ber who don’t fol­low-back today is about 1.5 to 2.0%, where­as at the time it was a mas­sive 48%.
      Try an exper­i­ment. Search a top­ic that inter­ests you. Find a tweet from some­one you don’t fol­low. Retweet it. Use a quot­ed retweet if you wish to add a com­ment. Then fol­low them. With­in a short time they will fol­low you back and you will attract oth­er fol­low­ers as a result. This results from an active network.
      If peo­ple don’t fol­low you back, then stop fol­low­ing them, but remem­ber it may take a cou­ple of days to respond. Peo­ple have lives to live. My rou­tine with Unfol­lowspy takes care of this as I will nat­u­ral­ly stop fol­low­ing them after a few weeks.

Other Tips for Twitter

A few oth­er tips to end this explo­ration of Twit­ter and the #fol­low rules :
  • No Tweets, no follow.
  • If a user offers ways to buy users, don’t believe them, don’t fol­low them.
  • I do not fol­low peo­ple who post naked (or provoca­tive) pic­tures (or I unfol­low them).
  • If they post repul­sive pic­tures, like warts or pim­ples, (or retweet them) I won’t follow.


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If you like this post then make a dona­tion to the upkeep of Gob­blede­Goox as a way to thank Peter Giblett. #Fol­low Peter on Twit­ter. This has been an inter­est­ing jour­ney, think how you can do this more. Some­thing to con­tribute? Please leave a com­ment. The images here were either cre­at­ed or owned by Peter Giblett or have been sourced from a pub­lic domain loca­tion, such as Pixabay.
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