Last week I published three short posts about basic Twitter use and account growth. If you’re just joining us for this series, you can find links to those three posts, and other advice for getting started, on our Twitter for Beginners page. I created it last night, so it’s a bare-bones text page, but the info is there.
Today I’m talking about followbacks. Aside from tweeting with other people regularly enough to have a presence, following back is the most important thing you should be doing if your goal is follower growth. That brings up important questions. Twitter is a wild environment, and it’s confusing to newcomers. How do you know who to follow back? Who to ignore? Who to block?
Sooner or later, if you follow my advice, people you’ve never heard of will start following you. Here are four types of accounts you’re sure to see once you gain a bit of Twitter momentum.
- Spammers. Block them, at the very least.
- People you aren’t interested in following because of the things they tweet. Unless they’re egregious, ignore them and they’ll unfollow eventually.
- People who want to tweet with you. Check them out. Look at their websites. If you find them pleasant, tweet with them. Doesn’t matter how large or small their followings are. All that matters is the interaction. It’s critical if you want to be successful.
- People who follow for followbacks. Learn to recognize them and follow them back unless they’re offensive to you. Don’t unfollow them unless they unfollow you, whether they ever tweet with you are not. This one is really the secret to growth. I call it the followback game.
In the next post, I’ll talk about how I read the various elements of a Twitter account and identify people who play the followback game. It isn’t complicated once you understand it, but it will take an entire post to explain. For today, two important Twitter rules and a few red flags.
Rule 1: ALWAYS look at an account’s timeline before you follow back, especially while you’re just learning. If you don’t understand the language they’re Tweeting in, translate the page.
Rule 2: Use a separate, strong password for your account. Change it regularly. Monitor your account often, even when you don’t have time to tweet. More so than most web services, Twitter is a target for password hackers. Having access to your account for any length of time gives them the ability to spam your followers until you notice.
Twitter Timeline Red Flags
- No real image, no tagline, or both. Sometimes people set up accounts and don’t immediately add these things, but if you see a well-established account with an egg for a profile pic, best to stay away. I’m blocking seven or eight new spam accounts per day right now that are following me overnight. They have real images, but they have no taglines, and they’re tweeting untranslateable gibberish in two very specific languages other than English. Spammers are clever.
- Not tweeting with anyone. Scroll through the first 40 or so tweets. If you don’t see anyone tweeting to them, and you don’t see retweets, stay away. Especially if they have hundreds of followers or are following a ton of accounts.
- Tweeting the same message individually to large numbers of people, especially if the Tweets are posting almost simultaneously. These accounts will slip through from time to time. Some people just do this to promote their own links, but it’s too much automation for me. It’s spam even if it’s not malicious. I can’t have that stuff clogging up my feeds.
- Following zero people or have zero tweets, even though they have enough followers to have been around for awhile. I block these immediately when they tag me in tweets or add me to lists. I’m fairly new to Twitter, but these seem like monitoring accounts for identity thieves and password hackers.
These are all accounts that I block if they follow me. I have other, more subtle things that I look at as well, but those are the big ones.
A Note About Bloggers
Some bloggers publicize links and don’t mind their accounts. That’s how I started out, and it wasn’t that long ago that I had only 60 followers. Bloggers are easy to distinguish from spammers by looking for three characteristics, but all of them must be present:
- Authentic tagline including a web address, and a real profile image,
- Every tweet is a non-hastagged headline and a link, and
- All the links are different.
I don’t follow these first. If it’s a blog I read – especially if I talk to the blogger on WordPress, I’ll strike up a conversation about Twitter on their about pages. I’ll follow these for followbacks. I don’t tweet to them or promote them on Twitter unless I see them minding their accounts, but I’m always happy to help a blogger get better at Twitter, and I’ll retweet their links occasionally.
In the next two installments, I’ll talk about reading a Twitter timeline and account management. I hope those two, along with the info I’ve shared so far, will give you what you need to get your account growing.