by Paula on May 6, 2011

I regularly see Tweets pop up on Twitter from people declaring that they “know who’s not following them back” or proudly announcing that they have “unfollowed all of the people who don’t follow-back”. This has always intrigued me and I have assumed at times that I might be on this list of hideous non-follow-backers, and yet I struggle to feel guilty about this.

Today I read this article about Social Media Etiquette and I quote from it, ” it is considered very rude to not follow someone who follows you!”

This prompted me into action to write this post. The premise behind these tweets and this article is that if someone is interested in what we have to say then we should automatically be interested in what they have to say. Is this right?

On Twitter I have a blend of people that I follow and engage with. They are:

  • People that I already know and are friends with outside of Twitter.
  • Local people that I follow and have got to know through Twitter or my work.
  • People who work in a similar field to me, or one that interests me, and that I can learn from.
  • People who are recommended to me by other friends or followers.
  • People who make me laugh.
  • People who I currently work with, or would like to work with.

We all see celebrities with huge amounts of followers, and yet following few people back. This is normal and accepted. We the public, as their adoring fans, may show interest in their every word, but their interests would be colleagues, friends and people they look up to. We’re all ok with this, and yet all non-celebrities should show interest in everyone who is interested in them, should they?

I may be sticking my neck out here but I’m going to say no. I do not assume that everyone I follow should follow me back, and I do not follow everyone back who follows me.

I may follow the local news, a shop that I enjoy going to, a restaurant that has special offers, or someone who tells jokes that make me laugh. I would not expect that because they interest me, they should reciprocate. In fact, unless I thought I had something to offer them back, I might be surprised if they do!

I value every single one of my followers and I do not take it for granted that people should want to join in my world. I also assess every new follower and if I think they fall into a category above (or a new one!) then I’m delighted to follow them back and will message them personally to thank them for coming on board.

If I don’t follow back straight away it also doesn’t mean that I never will – I am easily won over with a friendly “Hello!” and some shared interests.

And if you are one of the people striking people off for lack of reciprocation, have a think about whether that’s the right thing to do. It’s always good to have a regular tidy up of followers but make sure that they reasons for dropping people are valid and not hurt feelings. After all, if we all only liked the people who liked us, how would any of us ever step outside of our existing circle and welcome new people into our world?

Instead look at that list of non-followers (if you need to!) and tweet them all to say hello, tell them a joke, make them laugh and hey you might find that they come on board. It’s got to be a more positive approach to make effort to win people over than announce to the world that you’re striking them off! :-)


Julie May 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

Hi Paula – what a lovely blog and I completely agree with you. I’m happy to see new followers and have to assume they’ve followed me because they’ve found something I said interesting – it doesn’t mean however that I will follow them back. I’d have to set up yet another list of people I’ve only followed to be polite and never look at it. I actually went through the process of checking yesterday who has followed me back and did precisely as you suggested – I mentioned them in a tweet and as a result have several new followers today!

Paula May 11, 2011 at 10:55 am

Thanks Julie – what a lovely comment! Glad you enjoyed reading. Sounds like you’ve got a healthy and positive approach to your followers and follow-backs and glad to know that your activity has resulted in some new people coming onboard :-)

Kevin Leighton May 7, 2011 at 12:47 pm

What an extraordinary thing for some to say in an article which purports to be authored by someone who is informed about these things.

The author of the article Deena Spell, has never used Twitter to any extent else she would be well aware of the folk who are either just there to sell you something, repeatedly send out links to sites or who just have nothing to say that interests you personally.

I have looked up Deenas Twitter profile at!/DeenaCSpell and the facts as I write are this.

Tweets 14, Following 95, Followers 39, Listed 1

First Tweet seems to be 27th April.

Not really the basis on which to write an informed and balanced piece.

In my opinion, deciding who you follow on Twitter is no different to choosing which newspaper to buy, what TV programme to watch or who to get pally with in the pub.

I often Tweet a message to new followers to see what response I receive, often there is none but for the rest they are usually very pleasant. I can very safely say that I now have some lovely Twitter acquaintances all around the world.

Paula May 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Thanks for your response (and your research!) Kevin. There are a lot of people with opinion about Social Media and this does show the value of doing a bit of digging into who you are taking your advice from!

Your approach to Social Media of being educated and then continuing to learn and experiment is a good example and it’s great to hear it’s offering you so many benefits. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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