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Gini Dietrich

What Is Your Twitter Policy?

By: Gini Dietrich | November 22, 2010 | 
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The Beast and I went for a run this morning (what can I say? It’s too dark to ride and waaaay too warm to be inside) and I listened to Mitch Joel and Mark Schaefer debate the Twitter elite on the Six Pixels of Separation podcast. If you have 40 minutes while exercising or commuting to work, I recommend you listen to it. As always, they debate professionally and with great respect for one another. It makes me heart them both even more.

But this isn’t a love fest for the two of them. This is a discussion on Twitter policies. And I half agree with Mitch and I half agree with Mark.

When I started on Twitter, it was after I saw Robert Scoble speak at the PRSA Counselors Academy conference in May of 2007. I joined as BearsFan07 to really understand what it was Robert was talking about and to see if it really had any application to business. I was really terrible at Twitter. I didn’t get it at all. I couldn’t understand how people I didn’t know were texting me (yes, it was only text back then) about the Bears games. And I would respond, but without an @ reply, just respond…to the entire Twittersphere. I did not get it.

But then I decided it was time to take it seriously and I shut down BearsFan07 and grabbed my name sometime in 2008 (I think March?). And then I began to really get it. I started following people who had “CEO,” “entrepreneur,” “PR,” “Vistage,” “cyclist,” or “marketing” in their profile. I spent every Saturday morning following 100 people and choosing 10 of those people to engage with at some level.  To say I spent a lot of time curating my followers is putting it mildly. But that shouldn’t come as a big surprise – I’m obsessive about everything.

Some of the people I met in those very early days – Justin Brackett, Adrian Dayton, Mari Luangrath, Julio Varela, Kat Jaib, Rochel Roland, Shelly Kramer, and many, many others – have either become really good, in real life friends or people I would actually travel to meet. People I would NEVER have met without Twitter and without my policy of engaging with 10 people a week.

When I speak, I extol my Twitter policy that seems pretty pervasive among everyone:

* If you are following more people than are following you, you’re seen as a stalker.

* If more people are following you than you are following, you’re seen as Twitter elite.

So when I say I half agree with Mitch and half agree with Mark, that is why.

I totally get where Mitch is coming from when he says Twitter is like going to a bar, talking to all of the girls there, and being frustrated when none of them are interested in you. He says that’s what it’s like to follow a bunch of people on Twitter who either have no interest to you or you are not interesting to them.

And I agree with Mark that the way you behave on Twitter, what you tweet, who you follow, and whether or not your follower to following numbers are balanced creates a perception in people’s minds that you may or may not intend.

Solely going on the numbers alone (sorry, folks, I know numbers aren’t supposed to matter, but let’s not pretend they don’t) and the Twitter philosophy I discuss when I speak, Mitch is Twitter elite and Mark is wavering on extremely approachable.

Let’s say they both create, and provide, extremely valuable information for you. Who would you rather follow, if you could only follow one of them?

Thanks to Ken Burnett for the funny Twitter elite image

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

94 comments
3HatsComm
3HatsComm

I commented on Mitch's post, on Mark's.. somehow missed this one. Great conversation here. Guess I'll have to make it official via a blog post of my very own someday. @jennwhinnem and I were discussing this the other day and mine like yours is a mix of approaches but nothing too complicated. I will follow if 1) you share interesting stuff and really engage and 2) if you're not a hater, troll, spammer or douchebag. For brands and companies, I think I'm less picky. If all you do is tweet deals and I want those deals, I'm cool with that. But if they tweet connections and engagement and fake it, then I'm not. FWIW.

lauraclick
lauraclick

Great post and even better debate in the comments. Now, I just need to find time to listen to that podcast!

I think this just proves that everyone uses Twitter differently. There is no right or wrong way to do it. And, as Gini pointed out, it's important to treat everyone with respect, no matter how they decide to use it. (Though, I think we can all agree that spammers are for the birds.)

Although I don't have an official Twitter policy on my site, I recently wrote a post that sums up how I choose to follow (or not follow) people - 7 reasons I won't follow you on Twitter: http://su.pr/2QrNpi

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

You can't pretend numbers matter -- when you also agree they don't.

I don't care how many people someone follows or is followed by. I'm looking at tweet content only.

hackmanj
hackmanj

I performed a little test after listening to the podcast and reading this post. I followed and engaged both of them on Twitter. Schaefer was on top of things, sorry Mitch, Schaefer wins ;)

FischWorks
FischWorks

I am absolutely myself. I follow who I want when I want and unfollow if uninterested. My twitter stream has become the most unexpected view into my soul. Policy is as Shelly said, no different from real-life. Mind your manners, be kind, clean-up after yourself, and open doors for other people. Follow, unfollow...bla bla bla

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

I wanted to listen to the podcast yesterday before commenting, what a great topic and debate. For me personally as long as someone doesn't look like a spammer I like to do the courtesy of following back..even if perhaps they don't have the exact interests as me...this way I can broaden my perspective and not limit myself to staying in my own niche and people that only have my same views. I partially disagree with Mitch when he says you can't possibly keep up with all those followers...sure perhaps you can't but...that is what lists are for and you can make a point to reach out to people.

I understand though that both Mitch and Mark are getting a lot more followers on a daily basis then myself....so I agree with Mark when he says that if someone reaches out to him and engages with him he tries to follow back. It is after all about engaging with others so if you want to stand out as a follower and really get to know someone (who is as busy and flooded with followers) as some people you should put in some effort.

I am not a fan of this whole "twitter elite". Like I said that is what lists are for. I think Gini, you do a particularly good job at this, you have a lot of followers but you take the time to try and get to know some of them or engage with those that put in the time to also get to know you. I think it's smart in that you are using the tool to build relationships but also it's a great business tactic. People get to know and trust you and want to follow you because you have invested some time in to them.

All I'm saying is don't forget about all the little people...we all have to start somewhere ;)

JamesDBurrell2
JamesDBurrell2

My original policy was an effort to apply the principles of Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Work Week to Twitter. In other words, greatest return/value from following the the fewest possible people. Who has a greater value: someone who follows 1000 and engages 20 (2%) or someone who follows 100 and engages 6 (6%)? (I follow across the spectrum - sports, business, PR, politics, etc). I was trying to avoid accumulating follows that provided no unique value, only redundant retweets. But, the true beauty of "social" networking thwarted my plan. Many of the folks that I now follow, I discovered by pure accident or through mentions by another person that I follow (plus Twitter has gotten increasingly better at recommendations). Often, I absolutely feel like Alice seeing how far the rabbit hole can go. Now, I, apparently like many others according to their comments, will follow just about anyone so long as they are real and don't spam. I'm not overly concerned with your interests so much as your ability to be interesting. I feel written communication is the most candid and honest medium available to us, and I don't want to close off my access to unique & broadening perspectives by not following someone to abide by the protocol of the strata of the Twitter elite.
Sorry for the rambling, I'm still on that first cup of morning coffee - cobwebs still firmly adhered to the brain.

Ike
Ike

My Twitter Policy is out there for others to see. It's linked to my Twitter bio.

http://ike4.me/tp

mirbiz
mirbiz

My only policy, which is kind of a new one, is that the other person has to have a mention in their twitter feed. Meaning they sent a message to someone and the message has to be legit not a random question that looks automated. This is to make sure the person is conversing with people on Twitter and isn't just Tweeting stuff.

In addition to people who don't socialize on Twitter, I also don't followback people who have mad RTs in their stream. There needs to be an RT limit. Some people really abuse it.

The worst is when people RT themselves.

antwizzel
antwizzel

First time for me on this blog. YAY. Hi :) I have spent SO SO many hours on Twitter over the last year and now that I read your post, I'm thinking I don't really have a Twitter policy. I follow both. The elite and the approachable kind. I tend to lean towards the approachable kind simply because they are more fun and deliver just as valuable content. If I had to choose one of the two, I'd choose Mark. To me, people are people. Elite or not. Content is important but character is more important to me. I don't mass follow, I look at Twitter streams first. The numbers don't matter to me.. what matters is if people engage with others & share interesting content. Nice post! :)

delwilliams
delwilliams

I sort of agree. I followed for followed, but found way too much spam on my stream, so I did the "no, no" and unfollowed all. The benefit has been I am talking more to people, and zero spam. The downside is lost some good people who took it as a personal assault on them when it was not. I have thought of following more, and now that I see how Gini did hers, I may do mine that way. I like it.

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

I learn so much from all of you guys...thanks!!!! But, to the topic at hand, I will say I am still learning as I go. I do not immediately follow-back, nor do I expect it in return. I follow people in marketing, pr, social media, programming & graphics. As well as my Blackhawks & Disney gang!

I try to follow people I can engage with, to experience the "social" as well as those whom may benefit our clients, or could be a potential client or partner down the road. I dont believe in following just to follow or to increase my follower numbers. Who cares if I have 200 or 2000 followers. If I have 200 and have some great conversations, learn along the way, maybe pass on some great information and maybe grow our business along the way, that is perfect for me. If I have 2000 and dont engage or help anyone, really what's the point?

mitchjoel
mitchjoel

@hackmanj @Ike My policy is very open to. Again, Mark says follow everybody who follows you. If you like that, great. If you do anything but follow everybody who follows you, you're curating - which is what I do. Mark will be the first to admit that - in essence - he is curating (he doesn't add everybody - he hates those MLM people... ;)

hackmanj
hackmanj

@Ike Those are not my words Ike, the snob thing came from Mitch's original post and the subsequent debate. Maybe you should ask Mitch :)

I've already acknowledged that there is no right or wrong, it is a matter of choice.

Thanks for your comments.

Ike
Ike

@hackmanj @mitchjoel Why does it have to be "snob?"

Why not just say that one policy is more open than the other?The problem I have is when you start imposing value judgments, because they have VERY different goals for Twitter, and as such should exhibit very different behaviors.
This isn't like baseball, where everyone is trying to score runs.

hackmanj
hackmanj

@mitchjoel Point well taken Mitch, thanks for your response. I am a (relative to present company) newbie to Twitter, but as I said earlier find my policy to more close mirror Mark's so where the debate over to be a snob or not to be, I agree with Mark. You should stick to what works for you, I could not agree more. I did not find any compelling reasons to change my position. That could certainly change over time. Have an excellent day.

mitchjoel
mitchjoel

@hackmanj Well, if that's how you're keeping score, I guess he does "win." Just remember, my Twitter is not your Twitter... Twitter is not one thing: it's many different things to many different people. What's working for you, might not work for me. My Twitter strategy is not your Twitter strategy.

hackmanj
hackmanj

@mitchjoel I followed, listed and complimented you both on your podcast and mentioned this post. Mark followed me back and responded on Twitter. That's why I said he wins hands down.

Awesome podcast by the way, very professional intro and polished site/player.

hackmanj
hackmanj

@Ike There was a bit more to it than responding Ike but my values are definitely more in-line with Mark overall and my experiment proved to me that I preferred his position. I think while they appear to largely agree during the podcast in practice they are very different. I admit it must be hard for anyone with that kind of a following to keep up, you can certainly become a victim of your own success. :)

Ike
Ike

@hackmanj I just tried looking for your engagement. To be fair, I can only see the public side of it, but you really didn't "engage" that much.

Which brings me to another key difference between the two: their existing audiences.

Mitch has cultivated a more low-key following, and one that does not expect a "noisy" Mitch chatting things up. Mark's audience is very different, and I know it is because we've talked about his mission and what he's trying to do.

Asking Mitch to be more chatty would be an abrupt shift for his existing followers. Sometimes you have to factor in the expectations of those who are already there.

Just my two cents.

(FYI... if you had tweeted that to me, I probably would have thanked you, if I had the time. I probably wouldn't have followed you. I follow people who engage me in conversations, but generally not people who are just RT-ing my links.)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rachaelseda I agree with you on the following back philosophy. I remember when I was starting out on Twitter, as Gini Dietrich, and people in know IRL thought I was "invading" their territory on Twitter and acted as if they didn't know me. It really hurt my feelings and I vowed I would never behave that way, no matter the number of followers one had. Like @shellykramer says, you never know if the janitor is going to be WAY more interesting than the CEO. We're all human beings. Let's treat each other with respect, even on Twitter.

Ike
Ike

@rachaelseda Rachel, the Lists aren't necessarily the solution. They can be a real Time Suck too, and they are not easy to curate. (I need some drag-and-drop, and some mass delete options, please.)

I've taken flak from people whom I haven't followed back, but in every case, they are people whose first communication with me was "Why are you so stuck up?"

Screw them. I don't need their high-horse sensibility about Reciprocity. (In most of those cases, I hadn't even been on Twitter since they started following me! I *am* allowed to have a life outside of curating Tweets from strangers, right?)

Mitch and Mark are both gentlemen, and that's the lesson we ought to take from them.

And you are only a "Little Person" if you think you are. Share your ideas, get them out there, and don't be afraid to take a little criticism. Also... it's NOT the goal to be liked by everyone. You should aim to be adored by the Good and despised by the Bad.

My two cents. Leave them in the tip jar if you disagree. ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@JamesDBurrell2 I LOVE the analogy to Alice in Wonderland. I may steal it (with credit to you) when I speak!

CathyWebSavvyPR
CathyWebSavvyPR

@mirbiz @ginidietrich @ikepigott One of my tactics earlier on Twitterwas to follow one random person a day, and every couple of dayd to interact with someone in my stream randomly (of course finding some common ground) - just becasue. It's like a networking event and bar scene with a bit of the fourth of July picnic at the park thrown in. You never know when a casual convo will lead to a really cool connection.

mirbiz
mirbiz

@ginidietrich@ikepigott
seriously sad. Whatever.

I really like your "following 100 people and choosing 10 of those people to engage with at some level" approach. I'll prob try it. Don't know that I'd follow 100. I am not as cool as you so I'd probably follow like 10 and try and engage with all of them.

I usually mention a person and talk about however I learned of them (say from an article) and try to start a dialogue with them. It really is like trying to pick up girls at a bar. You'd think it'd be easier.

antwizzel
antwizzel

@ginidietrich I totally agree with you on the following of brands unless I know that there's a person behind it. I even unfollowed Mashable. I still read the site but I rather have it in my reader than on Twitter cluttering up my stream and making me miss the content actual people put out there. I will definitely listen to the podcast. Tomorrow. As it's almost bed time for me! And so so so so happy to finally be here. I've heard great things! :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@antwizzel YAY! Hi! I also have a policy against following logos UNLESS it's clear there is a person behind it. If you have a chance, you should listen to the podcast. It's a great debate between following people back or not. And happy, happy, happy to have you here!

Ike
Ike

@Danny Brown @ShellyKramer (Smart aleck... The butterfly is on the LEFT. The unicorn is on the right. The tiger is in the middle, and I can make it roar...)

Ike
Ike

@Danny Brown @ShellyKramer Shelly... since that was a two-way hookup, how much is it worth to you that Danny doesn't see what YOU were wearing when you installed it?

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

@Ike Ike, of course I read your policy. I don't write blog posts about people without fully vetting. Oh, and watch out for the web cam ... I put it in a tricky spot. You'll never find it. So be careful what you scratch (or pick) because I'll see. And then you know where i'll post the footage. #justsayin #dontworrytoomuch #bahhahahaha

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

@ginidietrich Gini, how remiss is it of me to not even mention how awesome it was to see my name in your post -- I, too, count my blessings to have met because of So Med. But I was so passionate about my response that I forgot to acknowledge. So, thank you!!! And, for the record, I am not sharing my Milk Duds with your skinny ass.

CathyWebSavvyPR
CathyWebSavvyPR

@ShellyKramer @ginidietrich I knew there was a reason I like you Shelly, I too enjoy following people outside of my niche and those inside. And I love people of all stripes and jobs and types. I'll never forget I was tweeting with several mom bloggers one Friday night, I mentioned that I had to get off Twitter as I teach an intergenerational (kids & adults) pottery classs early Saturday mornings. By the next day (after pottery class) 10-15 mom bloggers had connected with me because of some connection to that tweet of mine. One of them later did a review of a book, of interest to moms, from a client of mine. But it started with casual tweet convo, then a mention of teaching pottery: to some I had just become a "real" person not a PR person; to others they tweeted that they had always wanted to take a pottery class and others wanted to get their kids in a pottery classs and did I have any ideas for hwo to find a class local to them (I did). Twitter is an interesting social experiment - it continues to fascinate me...

JoyFull_deb
JoyFull_deb

@ShellyKramer @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich Shelly...I am SO with you on following folks that "interest" me and folks that are in my arena of non-profits. And, guess what, I've made incredible friendships over the past 2 years. I will NOT follow folks that are just tweeting & not engaging. I've had Elite tweeters tell me how to tweet, and I said, well, I'll just figure this out myself & take a dash of your advice on top. I LOVE people, too. It doesn't matter what your stature/position in life is...just be REAL...and a good sense of humor helps, A LOT....like yours & Gini's. The connections that I have made have furthered my education in many areas. How cool is that???
I would also like to add to list of conversation starters: ice cream & chocolate & coffee.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ShellyKramer @sydcon_mktg Ah - sorry for the confusion. I totally agree with Jennifer in that it doesn't matter if you have 200 or 2,000 followers/following. But I agree with you in that I'm as interested in the guy who parks cars for our building as I am of the chef-owner of Gini Dietrich's cafeteria in our building. Of the people I listed in my original post, you (Shelly) are the only one in a similar business. Everyone else are just people I genuinely like.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

@sydcon_mktg @ShellyKramer @ginidietrich Shelly, I know just what you mean. I do look at the whole 2000-some people I follow for a while every day, usually when I'm having a snack or making tea or other thing. I owe it to the world to watch the entire news ticker go by to see what surprises me - and something always does. I reccomend it highly - although not for long!

I also have many lists that I follow which allow me to manage by topic a bit more. I glance at each one of them when I have a chance. I don't follow everyone that follows me, but I do follow everyone who seems like a real human. They go into the big ol' feed for consideration at least once a day. :-)

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

@ShellyKramer @ginidietrich I see what you are saying. But I wouldnt say that I am judging someone worthy or not. There are lots of people I follow outside of my "niche" and many are follow backs, after I peruse their tweeter feed and see if there is a connection there, no matter what it may be. Otherwise, if I didnt have some type of guidelines where or how would I decide who to follow.

As I said, I am still fairly new to this (compared to this crew here) and over the course of the past year I have expanded whom I follow based on my learning along the way. For me following back all who follow me, doesnt always work, but I do look at the feed of every person who follows me when the follow and base my decision on what I read. If I immediately follow back because I am honored, sometimes that would fall under "following to follow".

I do appreciate your insight, and will rethink my approach.

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

@sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich I actually disagree. Vehemently. Specifically with your following strategy. Why follow only people in your niche - so that you can all talk about the same things? I can get that crap any day of the week. I follow people interested in my areas of interest - sure. But I also follow many different types of people. Who am I to judge someone "worthy" of my return follow. If they have a decent bio and seem legit/interesting, that warrants my return follow. And I follow some people - many way smarter than I am, and am not at all offended if they don't return the follow - so you're right on there. But do you have any idea how many random conversations start out talking about wine, or cupcakes, or children, and turn into deep and true friendships? Not to mention sources of referral business or connections or opportunities for my clients. I'll tell you - A TON!

People so often want to turn social media into something that's different than real life and that leaves me shaking my head. In "real life" I am as interested in speaking with the janitor I encounter in a hallway as I am the CEO whose office I'm heading into. Thing is, I just like people. And I try never to judge a book by its cover. Thus, I make the most amazing friends, in the most unique ways, and find that part of the reason for my "success" (for lack of a better word) is that I don't judge. I'm not elitist. If someone honors me with a follow, I honor them back.

But following only people who fit into what I define as my interests seems short-sighted. Who knows what I might be interested in tomorrow.

I do agree on the following just to follow - that's gaming the system and lame. But you might think about being less focused on who you follow and obsessed with numbers and just make friends, have conversations, give a lot to the community -- and it will come back to you a hundredfold.

(Climbing off soapbox)

Yours truly,

Shelly
@ShellyKramer

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@sydcon_mktg TOTALLY agree with you! That's why I have the 10 new people policy. If you have a chance, listen to the podcast. I think you'll enjoy it...because they both agree with you!

Trackbacks

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