My Following Policy

My conclusion is that “A following policy cannot be finalized”.
I started this post and didn’t complete it as I couldn’t find any conclusion. 8 Months later I realize it’s just an ever open topic: it will never end. Following, not following, tools and practices change constantly and we need to adapt. It’s an example of VUCA we can experiment for real.

To leave it open, unachieved, unperfect fits the mindset I wish to use on social media: open-minded, generous, questioning and experimenting.

Here are my guidelines. I chose to present it as a list because there is no cookie-cutter, no easy heuristic. They arose from conversations and I follow this order.

All numbers should be appreciated with Twitter inflation of 30% per year. An account with 5000 followers will gain 1000 more followers in a year just by virtue of being listed high in recommendation engines.

What I describe is follow strategy, I added a follow-back case to describe how I decide when I consider following back.

I usually write down in @Kneaver why I followed someone to be able to reconsider my decision after a while.

Ted Coine: Twitter must be a two-way street

This is something I picked from a great post from @TedCoine. It’s several years old but Ted claims he stick to it. It’s a very open policy favorable to enter two side way conversations. I love this concept of two-way conversations.

One of the benefits of following someone is that his conversation with other friends will show up. if this person doesn’t engage this benefits dries up. Following is not about getting continuous updates.

I largely differ from Ted’s policy but I admit I like it and I follow the same idea. It’s generous and I like generosity. I’m taking into account other constraints like volume and density and I’m not dedicated to social media like him.

The second thing I picked at that time is “you must have a personal policy, not just wander”. This is why I started to write one.

1. I check popularity as measured by the number of followers. Above 50k, I rarely follow because I tend to think you will never read me even if you follow me. If I ever wish to engage, I will use mentions or hashtags. Occasionally I break this rule when it is someone I appreciated during a “blab” or a webinar and I want to learn more.
Follow-Back: If you follow me out of the blue my first reaction is “wait and see”. Many people use automatic engines to grow their follower base. They follow, get a follow back and unfollow automatically after a week.
2. If it’s an institutional account and it follows very few people, it’s likely a broadcasting account. I will not follow it. If the stream is very interesting and original (no retweets) I have a private list called “source” and I will place it there. I use “source” like RSS feeds, newsletters or radio. In fact, I turn it into an RSS feed. Follow-back: don’t apply.
3. If your friends/followers ratio is less than 10 but a moderate number of followers and an old account. you are very selective and picky. It’s a bit defensive and often goes with single-sided opinions. Since the goal of following is to nurture open mindset, discover new people, I will resist to follow you.
I may follow you later if I know you, I’m sure you know me and we engaged in conversation before. I will rarely follow you to engage.
Such encounters happen often during Twitter chats or via a common friend.
Follow-back: I will usually follow back as it is rarely coming out of the blue.
4. It could be also that you are proactively growing your follower’s list. This would be easy to see if your account is recent, you follow a lot of new accounts every day, mostly retweet links and curated content. I will rarely even consider following you and will be very reluctant to follow you back. Like for the case 1 if you unfollow me shortly after I follow you back then I will also stop following you automatically. Sorry for that 🙂

Marketers follow strategy and prioritise

They have goals, a strategy and they keep measures. There are no tricks, no bad intentions but more business-minded.

The topic came again during #JVMChat. I collected a few interesting tweets to illustrate my point.

5. Selling is human, we all sell in a way or other at some stage of our lives. Denying it is absurd. I don’t blame people because they follow marketing goals. On need, I can opt out and unfollow business accounts when they keep repeating the same message. I rarely unfollow when people do their job with taste and measure. At the end of the day, I always learn from them if only about my own reactions.
6. I’m more disturbed by people denying facts, having repeated negative stances or rants, doing false claims, self-appointed experts.

It’s all about conversations.

Finally the same topic came before on the video from GaryV where he features @ChristinKardos’s Twitter account. Again I tend to agree with his views.

MicAdam expressed his view day before in #S4bizDach and I tend again to agree. It’s all about conversations.

7. Let the convo begin! The quality of the conversation primes on everything else. I’ll let go any rule for constructive conversations with whoever

Social Listening

Social Listening is a part of Marketing that takes from customer relationship, community management and influences of Design Thinking. It is an art of being attentive to what potential customers or influencers share and discuss. A good listener can learn what are the concerns of his customers, how they describe it and what they are expecting. In a second stage, Social Marketing is about sending signals and engaging.

I learned about Social Listening from @rachelLouMiller and @mne90

8. I use following and following back as signals indicating an interest and a desire to engage.

This is should be used with discernment. I felt a bit guilty sometimes to apply and I was interested to see how it relates to #WOL

#WOL ala @JohnStepper

A considerate view

John added generosity and dual communication to #WOL practice. Instead of a person showing his work (aka broadcasting), he suggests establishing a tactfully build network and holding tiny communities around work on progress. I felt I could share some of his humanistic views of network building although we surely have a different background. It all boils down to mindset, isn’t it? Speaking of mindset, some marketing adverse people would be surprised to learn that I see communalities between @RachelLouMiller and @JohnStepper practices.

9. Be generous, tolerant. It’s about human to human connections. Behind every keyboard eventually there will be a human


This new trend is advocated by @Elsua. The following thing is a wreck, let’s rebuild a social media experience built on lists only.

Lists are a must have to keep a clear view of what is going on. Best is to have selected streams depending on context, mindset, and time available. I’m using lists as well. Most of the time I’m on notifications only, several times per day I’m on 2 lists (core, and core extended (PLN) ), both maintained via the Social Relationship manager of Kneaver.

I persist in using following and followers. I tune in my home timeline for serependitiy and connecting to a larger stream. I’m happy that I did great encounters and had interesting conversations that way.

10. Following is expressing a desire to learn more about a large number of people, not a way to get a curated stream. If you don’t follow back, you don’t listen to your followers. They are noisy for sure, contradicting but they have their voice as well

So I oppose the idea of unfollowing everybody. It’s useless and I think most Twitter users don’t understand list and Twitter don’t make it easy. Creating a divide and misunderstanding with new entrants is not easing two-way communication.

11. It’s all about mindset. If you use Twitter professionally, it’s better to have a written strategy, mindset and set goals for your activity on Twitter. @Elsua use the term “purpose”, I’m fine with it as well.
12. I don’t follow people who practice #NoFollow. Anyway, they made it clear that they don’t give a cent for following. So I have a special list for them. One of the reason, I isolate them is that they tend to preach for their cause and encourage others to do the same. They do have good ideas and make good points but the rebel in me tends to dislike such promotion. Expose your ideas, make it crystal clear, incentive but let people decide.

Curate your sources.

Amber suggests we should take action: opt-out, search better contributors.

She is not alone but her post is the most recent one, and she made good points.

She claims that there is no prize for following people back. I agree mildly. I like her call to action as tweeted by @JaneBozarth

“If you want a stream that’s full of valuable stuff, make the effort to find the strong contributors, and give them your attention instead.”

and she goes on with

“Want less negativity (like I did)? Ditch the people who perpetuate it (like I did).”

That’s cool but intentions don’t always align with action. As I mentioned earlier people putting the fault on others may have negativity in them as well ( see I’m guilty of it too). IMHO we have to bear that we all carry some negativity inside us. Also i think engaging, contradicting is not being negative.

What is important is to avoid sharing it, put positive views first.
– Refrain from making bold negative statements that will surely hurt some people
– Welcome opposite views when you share strong opinions
– Refrain from using Twitter for repeated rants outside of our circle of influence.
– Don’t promote endlessly the same posts, pages even without commercial intent.

13. Don’t abuse from negativity, allow me to interact and express my views, don’t flood me with ever the same message and I will remain your follower.
14. I never blocked anyone, I muted 2 people because they spam hashtags I’m following, muting them is a way to filter their tweets. If I don’t like your tweets I unfollow you and don’t read tweets mentioning you. I will rarely unfollow you because you objected and disagree with me. I will unfollow if I consider your argumentations as flawed and ill-intended.

Upate after #Luv4Social

The topic was about Auto DM and I realized forgot his very basic rule

There are free services around that promise that they will thank your follower, or verify them or suggest to follow on other networks. What they really do is send an automatic DM when we follow you. This is all crap. My rule is simple:

14. Don’t setup automatic DM on follow. I unfollow at once if I receive a DM after following you

The sad thing is that many newbies fall in the trap. They think it’s fancy, inviting. If it is really a nice person I know I will send a Tweet (not a DM) to let them know I unfollowed them and will follow them again if they remove their automatic DM.

Many tweeps are also using automatic services like this:

Thanks @XXX for being top engaged community members this week 🙂 (Want this FREE? >>

This is just noise, it would be nice you avoid. yet I will not unfollow you just for that 🙂

Let the convo begin

As I promised there is no conclusion because I gave it already: It’s a work in progress.

Did all those rules sound familiar? In fact, I think most of us go by them. It’s just a transposition of how we deal in real life.

I wish I can name one day my policy as “educated policy” or “open and critical policy”. I’m not there yet. Meanwhile I will continue this serie with a post on my purpose of being on Twitter, the mindset I have, the follower, audience strategy I wish to adopt and how to deal with disagreement, objections, rejections and BS detection. There will be place for discussion.

Join the conversation and add your view in the comments. Let’s iterate and build a new paragraph of our following policies or invent a new one. Just don’t add a conclusion.

Related links
– “Followers” is a Terrible Word.
– same, who to follow
– Christin on #AskGaryVee