Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Should You Have a Twitter Follow Policy?

Social media is an ever evolving field, and as such, there aren't a whole lot of rules and set procedures for how to use it from a professional angle (or even a personal angle). Actions that one day seem de rigueur suddenly fade out; something else will take their places. For example, the #FF (Follow Friday) tag that used to overwhelm my stream at the end of every week has slowed to a trickle.

Since the beginning of Twitter, following has been a contentious issue. Who should you follow? If someone follows you, must you follow them back? And now we are seeing the rise of the "Follow Policy."

Here's an example from MySocialPro:

No Bullshit Twitter Follow Policy:  
Who we Follow… we follow all those that are Awesome, this includes any persons, places, or things that exhibit Badassery. Simply put, we follow back everyone who follows us. If for some strange reason you don’t understand what this means, feel like you’re not Awesome or feel like you’re not exhibiting Badassery, that’s okay because we believe you’re Awesome even if you don’t! 
Who we Unfollow… 99.9% of the time we unfollow those who don’t follow us back. We’re looking for win-win relationships on Twitter and very rarely are we able to create a win-win relationship when one of the parties is not interested in getting in to a relationship in the first place. We also unfollow people who clog up our Twitter feed with 100% self promotional Tweets e.g. “Get 2,000 followers for $5, no password required” all day long. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doggin’ this type of activity/tweets. Believe it or not, there is a time and a place in our world in which this stuff adds value. It just so happens that it doen’t add value to OUR Twitter feed.

This Follow Policy is somewhat aggressive in its language, but in addition to telling you who they do and don't follow, it's conveying a message about MySocialPro's online persona as well. For one thing, the policy shows that this company is looking for a mutual relationship on Twitter, not a one-way dispersal of information. What's interesting is that they don't address whether they will continue to follow you if you never interact with them.

Author Debbie Ridpath Ohi, also known as InkyGirl has a lovely, concise Twitter Follow Policy. An excerpt:

I will likely follow you back if: 
  • You're someone I would like to get to know better because of your job, intriguing bio, interesting tweets, your Web site, or devastating wit. 
  • You're an aspiring or published writer who often posts about writing, especially if you write for young people. 
  • You're an editor who often posts about editing, especially if you edit books for young people. You post about e-books, digital publishing initiatives, or the future of publishing. 
  • You post book reviews and we share reading interests.

This policy neatly lays out, in a friendly manner, that Ohi uses Twitter to communicate with others about books and writing. Simply put, if you aren't tweeting about books and writing, she's probably not going to follow you.

So, is a Twitter Follow Policy necessary for everyone? No. Who should have a Twitter Follow Policy? That would be the people who have a particular focus on Twitter and want others to know that they are only on Twitter to talk to certain people or about specific topics.

For myself, I follow many different people for plenty of different reasons, and keep them separated in HootSuite columns. I follow the #UsGuys chat group for lively conversations about social media and customer service. I have a group of feminist writers that I follow for news about women's issues. I separate out my favorite news sources for breaking news, and have a stream of local twitter accounts to know what's going on locally. I see Twitter as a giant smorgasbord, and I like to sample a bit of everything. I do honestly check the bios of every new follower, and if I see something interesting, I'll follow back. 

Do you have a Twitter Follow Policy? Please share your experience in the comments.