End User social networking

Simple guide to being a real person who someone might want to engage with on Twitter

For me one of life’s little disappointments is to see that I have lots of new Twitter “followers” only to find that they aren’t worth following back. Sounds a little high and mighty?

My approach to life is that I am only here the once so I might as well make the most of it. Because of that I treat all waking hours as potentially time to be doing work but because I enjoy what I do I don’t necessarily consider it to be a chore. In addition I try to make my workplace a fun place to be.

Also I have a major vested interest in the success of the business I work for because I am a shareholder. It is in my interest to be on the case more often than not and I am not therefore a someone who switches off when I leave the office.
I use Twitter a lot – for much of my waking day. The platform suits my natural gregariousness and it gets used for a mix of purposes that reflects my approach to life – that is a mix of work and play.

On it I tweet:

  • work stuff – usually blog posts on but also links to online articles that I think relevant to the business, industry or things I cover on the blog
  • non work stuff – usually creative writing posted on – latest post here 🙂
  • and inanities that perhaps reflect my personality and which people can either gel or identify with or chose to ignore/unfollow – it’s a free world and a reflection of what happens in real life and not just online.

It is always exciting to get new followers on Twitter. At the time of writing I have 1,777 followers. However I only follow 1,058 people back. So what do I (quite reasonably) hear you say?

The point is that it is such a source of disappointment to see that you have new followers but not to think it is worth following them back. I’m a fairly easy going bloke so why don’t I follow these people?

To some extent this is because, just like in real life, you wouldn’t “be friends” with everybody you meet. The criteria for making this decision are however somewhat wider when applied to Twitter.

Whilst I do use Twitter to sell as part of the mix described above I don’t want a constant stream of sales pitches. In fact any sales pitch has to be so soft as to be almost not discernible (feel free to knock me down at this point if you think this cynically doesn’t reflect my own tweets).

Of my last 40 followers I only follow 18 of them back. The ones I don’t follow have profiles that suggests they can help me with things. These include:

  • finding a mortgage
  • finding a job
  • finding a franchise to run
  • making a fast buck
  • helping me market my business
  • etc etc etc

Drilling into the tweets of these followers they are invariably one way broadcasts offering advice, thanking new followers for the follow, selling left handed widgets (for example) or simply retweeting “interesting” stuff posted by others.

If someone wants to be followed back they need to be seen to be someone interesting or engaging enough to chat with in a pub or coffee shop. In fact one of the wonders of the Twitter world is that if you have already chatted with someone on Twitter then when you meet them in real life they seem to be very easy to get on with – you already have many things in common to talk about.

Sometimes “real people” don’t get followed back. Often their profile has no information on the person and not much in the way of tweets at all giving me no help with deciding whether to follow them. Also if someone looks implausibly attractive (I get suspicious – no offence intended girls) or as in one recent case, only tweets in Chinese, then they probably won’t get followed.

Although there are some journalists and news accounts I follow but who don’t follow me back I don’t usually follow people for long if they don’t follow back. It isn’t a personal thing. It’s just that I feel social networking isn’t a one way medium.

In the same way many of the accounts that follow me but don’t get followed back unfollow me after a week or two. Quite satisfying really. These are often accounts that simply seem collect followers because they presumably feel this is the right way to build influence. You have to question this when you see people who follow 70,000 people and have 70,000 followers in return. Who is going to notice anything in that stream? Also I often wonder how on earth do some people go about finding me on Twitter! Businesses advice in the Minneapolis area? No thanks.

The rules aren’t hard and fast. I often follow local businesses even if they are “just selling”. It seems reasonable to support your local businesses online in the same way as you might buy stuff from local high street shops. I also follow some businesses in my industry for competitive information purposes.

This has been a longer than usual post and many may not have stuck with it to this point. I understand:)

I will finish the rambling though with the observation/fact that I get many cold calls and unsolicited emails from people wanting to engage (sell). Most of them get filtered out because otherwise I would spend my whole day listening to pitches.

If you want to make it past the gatekeeper the best way is to first develop a non work relationship on Twitter. A subsequent work related approach via email is then less likely to be ignored because of course we will already know each other. Twitter isn’t a medium for selling but it is great for warming up the contact.

To help facilitate this my business card nowadays contains only my Twitter username (@tref) and no email or phone contact details. All the contact info you need is in any case findable online.

I have just realised Twitter is short for Tref’s witterings.  Better go.

That’s all folks 🙂

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

5 replies on “Simple guide to being a real person who someone might want to engage with on Twitter”

When I first started twitter I made the mistake of following everyone back. My timeline contained so many junk tweets it drowned out anything interesting 🙁

Now I check everyone before following back… I expect to see at least a couple of interesting tweets and I avoid anyone who’s trying to sell something or tweeting 3rd party ads. Automated accounts are another one to avoid 🙂

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