#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. Unfollowspy​.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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