I've read many conversations about choosing who to follow on Twitter over the years. I'm always excited to see new followers and think about the new conversations I might have with them. I'm always interested in figuring out the strengths/expertise of new followers so I can learn from them and go to them when I am trying to figure something out. I look forward to following new people.
Not everyone chooses followers using the same philosophy. Sometimes I stumble upon a user with 2,000 followers who is following 200. When I see these discrepancies in number I can't help but wonder how many conversations they are missing. Though I will admit there are challenges with following a large number of people. I find, however, the benefits of a large PLN far outweigh the challenges.
I always look forward to following new people, but there are a few things I consider when following back.
- Is your account unlocked? If an account is locked, I have no idea what the person is tweeting about and thus cannot choose to follow. When I started on Twitter I had a locked account so I understand why some people feel more comfortable locking their accounts. However, it wasn't long until I realized that wasn't going to be an effective way to use Twitter for professional conversation. One of the things I like about Twitter is even with an open account my feed is spam free. I have to "follow back" in order to see tweets. With Twitter I can also easily block or report unwanted followers.
- Have you completed your profile? There are a lot of spammers on Twitter so I look for a photo and a profile statement that tells me a little bit about who you are and what you are hoping to do on Twitter.
- Have you tweeted? This is another way I try to protect myself from spammers. I like to be sure accounts are authentic so I read through tweets. If you haven't tweeted yet, I'm unsure of your focus as a participant and will wait to follow until I can "hear your voice."
- What do you tweet about? I have three different Twitter accounts (professional, public ed advocate, and classroom). I'm interested in following others who tweet about educational issues. I always check through tweets to see if the majority are about education.
- What is your follower to following ratio? I know this one is a little crazy, but when I see someone who is following 1500 and is followed by 273, I'm guessing s/he is trying to build followers and not have a conversation. I look for more stable ratios that tell me you are building a learning network instead of a number.
I Want to Follow You on Twitter
If you have a profile, have tweeted, tweet about education, and seem to be about collaborative conversations I will be following. Sometimes, however, I have a new person follow me, and when I go to find out about them there isn't much information yet. Many of the questions I ask above are still unanswered. In these instances, I may not follow back (for now). I always worry about these accounts as I'm sure they will grow quickly, but I worry I will miss that.
If I didn't follow back it is because I am unsure of your voice on Twitter. What will you be tweeting about? What is important to you? What do you hope to gain on Twitter? What conversations will you be having? Once you get comfortable on Twitter join the conversation and be sure to mention me directly (translation: send me a tweet starting with @cathymere. That will send it directly to my mentions). I always take a second look when a new name pops up in my mentions to see if I am following that user.
I look forward to learning with you. Welcome to Twitter. I hope you'll join the conversation.