In a perfect world, there's nothing wrong with returning a favor. Being cordial and such. But Twitter's not the real world. It's a bizarro world where people take pictures of lunch and share it with friends. It's a good world. A world you should be a part of - particularly in this business. But a strange world.
And while reciprocity is a cornerstone of social media, it's also the conduit for spammers to get in your face, kinda like a little kid who sneezes in your mouth when trying to give you a hug. See, spammers are brilliant bastards. Where there's a channel available to reach people, there'll be someone looking to abuse it in bulk.
Blindly following them is part of the problem. It encourages them. And it makes it a lot harder for spammers to push the Follower/Following threshold that Twitter uses to keep spam out.
So don't do it. Be more selective. No one likes a followslut. Before you go following someone like @$workathome on Twitter, use a vetting process. Don't have one? Here's what I look for before I give my love away:
1. Follower-to-Following Ratio. Not the end all be all, but it's a good start. If they are following WAY more people than are following them back, think twice. It's probably not worth it. Their account'll probably be suspended by Twitter for violating TOS anyway. On the other hand, if someone has more followers than the number of folks they're following, it could mean that they are a valuable source of info and conversation, and that they don't give freely of their attention. Or it could mean they follow a crap-ton of people, then ditch them later on to make their follow-ratio look good - kinda like the cheerleader who dates the lovable dork, but then totally stands him up to go to prom with the quarterback. Or something.
2. Profile Page. Did the user build a bio? Are they using the default Twitter avatar? Or did they take time to upload a picture? Is there a background design? Spammers deal in bulk and rarely build this stuff out. If I don't see any effort to build a profile, I don't follow.
3. Location. I'm a homer. I admit it. Even if the Orioles waterproof the basement of the American League East for the rest of my life, I'll continue to root for them. And for Baltimore. If you're from my town, you get preferential treatment. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt because there's a better likelihood that you'll have something to say that interests me, whether it's recommending a local coffee shop or suggesting places around town not to get shot.
4. Tweet Content. I look for a good mix of retweet, @ mentions, and link sharing. It tells me that the user reads and shares others' content, has conversations, and posts potentially interesting information. They could be worth a follow. If any of their tweets include the phrases "making money from home", "look at my pictures", or "social media expert": run.
5. Frequency of retweets. I like an active tweeter. What I can't stand is someone who tweets incessantly and clogs my twitter stream. It gets exhausting to follow. Set a tolerance level - how many tweets are you willing to see from this person per hour? For me, if you tweet more than 6 times per hour consistently, I won't follow.
6. API. If I'm still on the fence, I check the API (Application Programming Interface) the user's broadcasting their tweets over. Are they using Tweetdeck? The web? Twitterfeed? That can help give you clues as to whether this is simply an account that rebroadcasts RSS feeds or is manned by a sentient being. I prefer to follow people who talk back.
So, what's your process? How do you determine which followers make the cut and which ones can go pound spam?
Previously in How To Be a Social Jerkhole: Talk about yourself all the time.
3 hours ago