I was chatting with a friend the other day about Twitter etiquette. She’s someone who believes that you should follow everyone back on Twitter. I disagree. Here’s the deal. I’m old-school. I use Twitter on Twitter.com and I read every Tweet that passes through my stream while I’m on there. Most people are in the habit of using a third party reader, where they follow a list of their favorite people and just occasionally look in at the stream at large. So those people are "following" you, but that doesn’t mean they are paying any attention at all to what you’re saying. I’m more upfront. If, for whatever reason, I don’t think I’ll be engaged by what you have to say, I don’t follow. But I always want to reply to people to tell them why I’m not following back. Instead, I’ve put together a quick blog post about it. I use Twitter as a place to have conversations and so I look through your description and your recent tweets to see if I think we can even have a conversation.
Here are 12 reasons I may not be following you back:
1. Private account. If I don’t know you and I can’t see what you’re tweeting about, I’m not going to follow you. Period.
2. "Inspirational" tweeting. You only tweet inspirational quotes from other people or, worse, from yourself. Not a dialogue.
3. Links, links everywhere. You only tweet links to your blog. Unless your blog is a topic that I’m fascinated by, I won’t follow. Once again, no engagement.
4. Retweet-happy. If your whole stream is full of retweets of other people’s content, I might as well just follow them directly. You obviously don’t have anything to say.
5. Share Button-aholic. So glad that you got several +K’s today, that you checked in at Starbucks, and that you unlocked a badge on whatever the site of the day is, but I generally don’t care. Those would make poor conversation starters at a party, and they aren’t any better on Twitter. If the majority of your tweets fall in this category, I just can’t engage.
6. You’re a cat, dog, or other creature/object that I would never find myself having a conversation with in the offline world.
7. Angry/angsty/mean. We all have bad days, but if your life is one big rant, complaint, whine, or moan, I can’t bring you into my life. Sorry you’re having a rough go of things, though.
8. God is your co-pilot. In truth, it doesn’t bother me at all if God (or any other deity) is your co-pilot, but if you feel the need to talk about it incessantly, I don’t want to partake. Have a lovely day.
9. Extremely conservative and/or offensive. Generally, I don’t want to talk politics on Twitter. I occasionally will, and know that the people in my stream come from a broad range of philosophies. But if your political view is too far in one direction, or you promote racist/sexist/classist or any other nasty-ist propaganda, you’re going to piss me off. It just doesn’t seem like the start of a beautiful friendship.
10. Text-speak or anything else that doesn’t resemble English. I believe that we each should be able to speak our language of choice on Twitter. On the other hand, if I can’t understand you, we’re probably not going to chat all that much.
11. Internet marketer. Ick. Beyond the negative connotation that has for me, you most likely talk about how to get more followers, and there is a very good chance that you’re just following me so that I’ll follow you back (at which point, you’ll unfollow me). I’ll look at your stream in case you’re a real person saying and doing interesting things, but chances are… no.
12. You have no posts, implying to me that a) you may be a spammer, b) you very likely could turn out to be any of the categories above.
So my Twitter followers aren’t as high as some people. I’m OK with that because I know I’m actually engaging with the people in my stream. And I engage with a lot of different people with different beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and interests. I’ve just been on there long enough to know which people I’ll end up unfollowing after a day or two. Now, if, for some reason you don’t fit into any of the above categories and I’m still not following you, chances are I just missed your original follow message. Please don’t take it personally… just send me a tweet and say Hi!