Why are you following me?

Twitter birds of a feather?I’ve been gratified and a little puzzled by some of the people who follow me on Twitter (or any other social network for that matter). I mean, sure I hope you follow me, and a lot more people too, but sometimes a girl’s just gotta wonder what makes people choose to follow one person and not the other.

I did a little rough surveying of my Twitter friends and it seems there are really only a few ways people make the decision to follow or not follow on Twitter. Here are some of the insights I gained from these discussions. I hope it will help you decide who to follow as well as understand some of they dynamics involved. Oh, and hey, if you do happen to follow me, I’d love it if you tell me why in the comments. It’s not an ego stroke kind of thing. I really want to know!

Auto Followers
Many seem to think it’s rude not to follow back everyone who follows you. Now I can see this back in the old days when there weren’t so many people and we all took it personally if we followed you and you didn’t reciprocate. Those days are over chum. These days if you automatically follow everyone who follows you you’re likely to find yourself following spammers and Multi-level marketing scams will clog up your tweet stream.

Celebrity Follow
It’s fun to feel in touch with your favorite celebrity isn’t it? I follow Steve Martin and John Cleese. Both of them crack me up and so they add value to my day. Do I really think we’re friends? Well, the other day Steve and I were talking about Banjo Pickin’…uh..no. Not really. But still I enjoy reading what they write. Did they follow me back? Well, no, but that’s OK, I still get value and share their stuff.

Follow co-workers and friends
Need to hang out around the virtual water cooler a bit? Twitter is a great way to keep up with what your friends and co-workers are up to. Sometimes it’s an excellent way to get to know that person in the cube by the coffee machine too. That said, when somebody tells me they “just don’t get Twitter” I can easily guess this is exactly who they’re following and nobody else. You probably already know most of what they talk about right? Borrring. Get out and find some new friends too.

Follow people you want to learn from
This one’s my favorite, and something I tell my clients over and over. Follow people who are smarter than you are. Who can you learn from in your field? Who can you learn from in other fields? What about your competitors? Who’s curating all the news in your particular space and posting it to their Twitter stream? Get to know them.

Follow your friends’ friends
This may seem a little stalkerish but trust me, it’s not intended that way. If you really respect another Twitter user for their great insights you might want to look and see who they’re following. Who do THEY listen to? Where do they get their information? let that person guide you to some of the Twitter users they respect and save you the time of having to follow them yourself. I find some of my best resources this way.

I saw you in a TweetChat
If you participate in Tweetchats on a regular basis, or even just go look at the recorded #Hashtag later you might find some very interesting people. TweetChats are Twitter conversations that are focused around a particular topic and anyone who is interested can chime in. Lots of times the person being interviewed is a big deal on that particular topic, but the most interesting people are often the ones commenting from the sidelines. Here’s a list of Tweetchats to check out. http://www.gnosisarts.com/home/Tweetchat_Wiki

Marketing marketing marketing!
I know, there are people who say MLM’s are a legitimate business model with a bad rap. I’m not one of those. The whole idea of this form of marketing is repulsive and goes against everything that community stands for. You might as well stand in front of me and slap me with a salmon until I beg for mercy. Reciprocity, generosity, sharing and genuine discussion is what you should be looking for. If somebody promises you a million followers in 30 days? Run away. Oh, and while you’re running? Block them and report them for spam.

Search and ye shall find
The search engine on Twitter just got a little better and if you use advanced search you can really drill down to what matters. Do some searches on things you are interested in and see who’s talikng about it. Who are they talking to? Are either of them making sense? Join the conversation and then decide if you want to follow. They’ll probably follow you back too.

The serendipity of Twitter
You never know how everybody finds you, but if somebody reaches out and engages you and you enjoy the conversation follow them. Some of the most interesting people I know on Twitter came from an out of the blue connection. Look to see who’s following you and find out what’s interesting about them. Be picky about the quality of their content and don’t fixate too much on “but I don’t know this person!”. Get to know new people, it’s half the fun.