There is no rule, written or unwritten, that requires me to follow, friend or otherwise connect with you in social media just because you connected with me. Even though it takes a bit of time each week I choose to curate my social media networks. I know some folks who do follow everyone back and that’s fine too. It’s just not the strategy I’ve chosen.
Why not just follow everyone back?
If you follow everyone who follows you, then you’ve given up the highest level and most effective method of filtering the messages you see in social media. Sure, on Twitter you can create lists to filter which messages you see but everyone you’ve followed can send you direct messages. I’m following almost 3,000 people on Twitter and, because I’ve been selective in who I follow, my direct message feed is still relevant and valuable. The volume of direct messages I get is still manageable and almost none of them are pure spam.
So by being selective about who I follow back, I feel the network I have created is more useful to me and those I’m following. Look at it this way: Would you be willing give your cell phone number to every person who asks for it? Maybe some of you would, but I wouldn’t. I want to have some control over who can interrupt my day. I also don’t want to have to wade through meaningless and useless direct or private messages to find the one that matters.
How I decide who to follow back depends upon the network
The rules are different in different social media channels. I view social media like an onion. On the outer layers of the onion (Twitter and Google+), it’s fairly easy to get my attention and be followed back. If your profile convinces me you are a real person and your stream contains a minimum of spam, I’ll add you to my network.
As we move in toward the center of the onion, I become more selective. On LinkedIn, I need to believe we have some current or future business connection. This would primarily relate to my business ColorMetrix but now includes the She Said, He Said project as well. You get the idea. Below are my basic rules on following back for each of of the major social media tools I utilize.
Twitter – There are two main ways I’ll follow you. If you show up in my mention feed, I’ll take a look at your profile. If you seem to be a real person (an avatar that is a picture of you helps tremendously here) and your stream is not full of spam, I’ll give you a shot. If I get an automated and/or spam filled direct message from you at that point, I’ll immediately unfollow. If you follow me first, I’ll do the same basic assessment of your profile and stream.
Google+ – For the first couple weeks, Google+ was easy. If you circled me, I circled you. Sadly, in the last couple weeks the spammers and popularity contest crowd has come out. Your profile needs to have a picture and at least an attempt to complete the basic sections. Then, your stream needs to include at least a few posts. If you’re just trying to collect circles, I’d rather not be a part of your crowd.
Linkedin – I connect with less than half of the people who send me invites. If you’re a recruiter and I don’t personally know you, we will probably never connect. If your profile has no picture and I don’t know you personally, we will probably never connect. If you’re a competitor and I don’t trust you, we will never connect. I’m not about to give you access to my contacts and I’m not going to block that feature. To simplify, we need to either be doing business together or at least have a prospect of doing business together.
Facebook – I used to reserve Facebook for close personal friends. Then, I started letting close friends I’d made in social media in. The same general rules as the other networks apply: You need a picture and at least a basic profile so that I can determine how well I know you. These days, however, I’m just about done with Facebook. I’m utilizing that time over on Google+. It may not replace Facebook, but it sure has been more useful from a business perspective so far.
And now it’s your turn. What are your follow back rules?
And if you would like to follow me in social media land, here’s the information:
On Twitter: @raffel
On Google+: Jim Raffel
On Linkedin: Jim Raffel