Social You: 4 Reasons No One Follows You


Weekends are all about wandering off topic, which is why I’m introducing this new weekend thread on Switch and Shift, “Social You.” And let me preface by saying that social is not currently what I do for a living, so no matter what Forbes or anyone else says, my free advice should be considered worth exactly what you pay for it.

But having said that, I’ve noticed a few things people and companies do on Twitter that they might want to rethink. Today, let’s discuss why you might find few people following you, despite all your desires to the contrary. Here are four big ones that are holding you back..

  1. You rarely tweet. I hope this one is no mystery. You can’t win if you don’t play. For instance, I’ll check Tweepi before I follow you back. If you haven’t tweeted in the last 10-20 days, I’ll just ignore you. Want more followers? Tweet!
  2. Your avatar sucks. Egg head? Unlikely folks will follow you, because you look like a spammer or lazy – or a lazy spammer. Animated avatar? Yes, they catch my eye – and they bug the sh!t out of me!! No follow back. And here’s one that few companies get: logos. If your avatar is a logo, rather than a person, that means you’re here to broadcast and sell. That’s not social, and people will avoid you. Twitter is a social medium. S-o-c-i-a-l. Look it up.
  3. All broadcast, no engagement. There’s that word again, broadcast, which means one-way communication – it’s how old school media works, or (guess what?) no longer works. Speak with me, not at me.
  4. You don’t follow back. If I see you have 200 followers, or 2,000, yet you only follow 16 people yourself, I won’t bother following you. Why should I? You don’t reciprocate; you aren’t social. (My policy rant here).

To illustrate that last point, let’s try an experiment – you can do this one with real people, next time you’re out and about. Ready?

You: “You sure are clever and interesting!”

Them: “_________.” (This is where they reply.)

If they don’t reply at all? If they say, “Yes, I am clever and interesting, aren’t I?” and leave it at that? That’s like you if you don’t follow someone back. You’re telling them, “You rock.” They’re returning that compliment with, “Yes, I do.”

Four little things that make a big difference in the world of Twitter, my favorite medium. Will this advice change your life? I doubt it. Will it help you have more fun, and make more friends? Yes, I believe it will – and some of those friendships are bound to enrich your life, as they have mine. But you tell me. Give these tips a try and let me know how they work for you!


About Social You (and social me):

It turns out that through a lot of tweeting and engaging with social media leaders and poking around different social sites, I myself have learned more than I ever realized about social. It’s funny. I spend all my time focusing on business leadership and culture, and people look to me for social media advice. Oh, well. As my Mom always says, “What are you gonna do?” Mom’s smart. You’d be well-served to take her advice, too.

Graphic by  Infekted.It 

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Ted,
    Eggheads don’t get a follow back from me. The other one is no bio. As you point out this is S-O-C-I-A-L. Tell me what you’re about or what you do or what you like. If you don’t I’m not going to stop long enough to follow back.


  • Ted,

    Excellent rant, I mean commentary, sir.

    Social networking is (check the dawn of human existence) years old. Digital social networking is about 20 years old. Twitter is 6 years old. Following, friending or connecting with someone on a social networking web interface is about a 3 second event, four if your mouse sticks.

    Social networking – of any kind – begins after the handshake.

    • I agree, except about the company logo. I follow companies on twitter to get news, hear about their latest products, get deals on their stuff, etc. Yes, that’s broadcasting and selling. If I get wind of a huge deal or a new product, that’s exactly the point of following them. When people follow accounts with company logos, they know that they’re signing up for message from a company, not from a person. If companies quit using their logos, it would be much more difficult for me to visually process the information and understand that this post is from a company, that post is from a person. It would lose its positive impact for both me and the company by making the news feeds even more difficult to keep up with!

    • Hi Charley, Thanks for your words of support! The buttons are immediately to the left. If you don’t see them… I’m not sure what to do. Sorry.

  • Absolutely right Kneale, especially that last part, which is phrased so exquisitely. Consider yourself quoted!

  • Liz

    I agree with all of the above. And in reading the convo between you and Kelly…I’ve represented both brands with a logo for their Twitter avi as well as those who use a photo of an actual person, and it’s definitely much more of a challenge to get people to follow back a brand logo.

  • Because of you, Ted, I now follow back almost everyone. I changed my avatar recently (for fun…most people seem to really like it). I think I follow your four steps, but I don’t see the rise in followers I’d like…what am I doing wrong or are my numbers on par with what I should expect?

  • To add my piece: It’s all about sharing value and giving your audience a good experience. If that’s not evident right away they will move on. I call it ‘enlightened self-interest’, and it should be visible.
    Thanks to the two of you for the reminder about the bio – just updated mine.

  • Hello Ted,
    Top of the morning to you (or is it afternoon) .
    Could you please add tweet or retweet buttons to the site to enhance / encourage the passing on of the good articles. I would appreciate that. Thanks
    Always nice to hear from you and keep it information flowing.

  • Ted, I enjoyed your comments, and I agree. Those are the same reasons I follow–or don’t. Twitter is a wonderful chance to get to know people. It takes some work, but the rewards can be very gratifying.
    The lazy spammer is also the one that copies someone else’s bio and picture, which has happened to me three times now. Each time there have been mistakes in the bio like misspellings or numbers inserted in words. Does that happen to anyone else?
    Keep up the good content. Lyn

  • Even the so called pundits often tweet a lot of rubbish. It’s the balance between interesting info and “spam tweets” that keeps my interest going.

  • This post, and the discussion it has generated, deserves a retweet, and an add to favorites

  • Pingback: Consistent Online Branding, Except for Twitter()

  • Pingback: The Friday 5: 5 things you (may have) missed this week on Twitter |()

  • Number 2 is a big one. I can’t believe how many people refuse to post a decent headshot. How many times have you had a chat with an egg or a logo? Because for me personally, the count stands at 0. :)


  • I appreciate your views on this topic. I have a personal twitter account and a corporate twitter account. On the corporate side, I do use the logo. We’re relatively new at this and we’ve made mistakes. I’m sure we’ll make more; but, that makes for interesting learning. It’s harder to process when we get conflicting advice. I get your point on using a headshot instead of a logo. We’re still inclined to use the logo; but, may consider using a “mash-up combo” of the logo and headshot.

  • April

    Love this! I also think your policy on folowing back rocks as well! It’s nice to be nice, that’s how we learn – that’s the point right?


  • Hi Ted! Always enjoy a play on words “because you look like a spammer or lazy – or a lazy spammer.”

    I agree on all fronts. Convoluted hashtag bios are my pet peeve. I often say hello to a new follower and include an impromptu rewrite of their bio. I giggle when I see my subtle suggestion was implemented. Not everyone can creatively shuffle and reshuffle words like Dr. Suess.

    The anonymous egghead and exclusive one-way blasting is unforgivable! Even “Anonymous” has an image.

  • Ted,

    I really appreciate this post as well as your follow back policy post. If you don’t mind, I will be blogging about your follow back policy and posting a similar policy myself.

    I do have a question about #2 – Avatar above. I agree about the whole egg head lazy thing. If you’re astute enough to use twitter and tweet meaningful or interesting 140 character posts, but not astute enough to add your avatar I’m probably not going to follow you back either. Could be my arrogance but hey, it’s my option.

    You also mention the company logo isn’t a good avatar because you assume all companies are on twitter to broadcast and sell, but what if you have multiple twitter accounts and your company brand is where you tweet about industry specific topics?

    What if your logo is part of your brand and you want your customers to relate to your brand on twitter and you have several people tweeting as a company spokesperson?

    Would you frown upon a company avatar if the tweets were engaging? Do you check out a few tweets and then decide to follow or not if there is a company logo or do you just say.. eh.. company logo.. no follow?

    Looking forward to your reply.

  • One of my biggest pet peeves are the tweets that contain no original content. I don’t mind if someone points me to a great article (like this one) but I have “unfollowed” several because of their tweets were only worn out quotes or retweets. Am I alone on this one?

  • Hi Ted…
    I so enjoy your posts. Your comment on the logo as avatar is of high interest to me. I have two twitter accounts and two blogs. One of each for me, personally (as a writer), and the other – the agency for whom I work. Our President is sure that using our logo is the only way to go, although I disagree because in my mind it is less personal, too. But if we were to change it to a face – should it be mine, because I’m the social voice of our agency? Or our President’s? And if it’s mine, how do we ensure that it differentiates itself enough from my personal twitter account? I imagine that would be in the description of our twitter page (i.e. The official twitter page of SJI, Inc. Tweets from Beth M. Wood)…? I’m using your comment space to think out loud… But I would welcome your thoughts on this. And any further advice that might help me to convince our fearless leader that a face is the best way to go. Thanks much… Great, thought-provoking post, as always!

  • I have seen some companies setting up “Twitter Support”, which makes sense because some people have been doing IRC support for quite some time now. I look at Twitter much like IRC. On Twitter, everyone is an @Operator, and a #channel is called a #hashtag.

    Anyway, I don’t think a Corporate Twitter Support account would want to #follow you unless you were a customer. Seems to me like a good application for Twitter, as you will often find the answer to your (often idiotic) question at the @ or at the #. But if they have a live body on the other end, they can offer live support. And the real energy vampires can only steal your irreplaceable time and irreplaceable life in 140-character increments.

    (yes, I am a fan of, and, and in the old days I did telephone support for MS-DOS users. “Now I want you to type ‘type’ and then the filename”.)

  • Ted, thank you for being a gentleman. I’m new to your posts, but I’ll be back on a regular basis because of your mutual respect for your online community.

    I’m also interested in Beth Wood’s “outloud thoughts” and questions.

  • Yes, I do. Rock. Thank you. [grin]

    And so do you.

    Below are some complementary considerations about succeeding in social. Enjoy!

    Faux Pas

    Those getting started in social often get off on the wrong foot because they don’t parse the text as they do face time. But the online faux pas tends to be forgiven and forgotten quickly – especially if people know you’re a noob.


    Reciprocate follows, retweets, mentions, tags, etc. Failure to reciprocate is the most common error made by social apprentices, acolytes and veterans. Of course, we all get busy. But don’t let your social debt run deep into the red.


    Thank those who share you (or your message) with their followers. As quickly and often as possible. Publicly. Enthusiastically. AND by personal message. Don’t take people for granted. Of course, it happens as often in social as it does on the street or in the office. And we know who you are.


    Online is no different from offline. It’s all real. And if you want attention, you’ve got to serve people. Give them something they can use. If you want followers, you’ve got to lead. And true leadership is all about service.

    Recently on my blog:
    When your best is suck. And other social media DOHs”

  • The people on this site seem to be very clever how they manage their Digital Reputations. For one thing ‘Facebook’ might be ‘social’, as this is where our friends are, who we know, speak frankly with, speak in politically incorrect terms with, share private pictures with, schedule private parties with, etc.

    Trying to run a business relying on a ‘social network’ like Facebook (where the 5000 limit gets you pretty fast) is like being asked to sell Amway to your friends. Or having no boundary between your friends and your audience. Not a recipe for a well-balanced life where people are correctly identified.

    Among your audience are going to be whiners, energy vampires (term I coined in January 2006 on the Sarmite Bulte federal campaign in Parkdale-High Park – find it earlier on the Internet and I will send you $20.00), internet abusers, conspiracy theorists, racists, political and religious bigots, stalkers, well you know, the 99% of the world we have to be polite to (as successful entrepreneurs), but you sort of need to make your presence felt somewhere (anwyhere) else at 11:08 A.M. People who you would not want to have anything to do with personally. The reason we are successful to some degree is that we have some breeding, manners, and taste, or enough of the other two to make up for the relative lack of one.

    Twitter, thus is not a ‘social’ network, but a ‘socializing’ network. You do find wonderful people on Twitter! But they are not all of them. 1/100 I might say. The good ones, you draw into Facebook to be a delight to all your other friends and vice versa.

    As I write in some detail on my canadaorangecat dot com, the “SEO” and “social networking businesses” are mostly not worthy of consideration. Building a digital reputation is done one person at a time. The front page is a long screed on facebook/twitter nonsense, and then on other pages are my SEO triumphs and an even longer screed on Netiquette. Oh, and my C.V.! What all my activity has done is shot my LinkedIn page to the top few of my name on Google, from SEO nonexistence a month earlier. For not a penny! Hoots mon!

    I think we should stop saying we are doing ‘social’ and start asking others what they think it means. Being in the ‘social’ business puts you in the same quarters as penny stock scamster fraudster spamsters, Foreign Facebook API script kiddy exploitz-ers who trigger ‘Likes’ on big accounts (thinking they will not notice) for money, People on Twitter with 68 followers saying how they got thousands of followers today, people selling 100k youtube views (oh how are you going to get 100,000 to voluntarily watch my video if it is just some anticipation about what it might be and you will never find out unless you send money at the end)

    Please. We are intelligent business people and this garbage is polluting the best business environment humanity could have ever created for itself. Let’s call ourselves ANYTHING but ‘social’. I like ‘Internet Marketer’. or even ‘Digital Reputation Manager’. Part of our deal is running traffic into websites and thence to paypal/Visa/MC and then to the client’s bank account. This is where we reverse engineer from. What have websites and finances got to do with social networks? Social networks (or socializing networks, I should really say) are just part of the story. And why not be a little vague? We know how it really works! And that must be worth something!

  • A very interesting read & you hit the bulls-eye hands-down, Ted!

  • Ernie

    A goodie.

  • What I love about Twitter above the other social networks is the amount of interesting people you could meet and talk to from all over the world. I don’t understand how some people are in broadcast mode when you’re at a giant cocktail party. You wouldn’t walk up to a group of people and say follow me, then buy my stuff, that would be rude.

    Anyone jumping into social should apply these principles to not only Twitter, it should also apply on Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram or any social network. It’s annoying to have someone on Instagram post a comment on a picture I posted to follow them and they haven’t posted one picture. How do I know if I want to see your pictures if I have no idea what you’ll post?

    It also depends on the social network, make sure your content is targeted at the right audience when you do create a post. I look on Pinterest for inspiration and would likely follow a restaurant that posted recipes I could make at home or how as a home cook, I could plate my food so it looks more beautiful.

  • amy

    I love this post so much I’m including it in my additional info on my branding course follow up page!

  • footer-logo

    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Connect

    email: connect@switch&
    1133 Ferreto Parkway
    Dayton, NV 89403

    Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy

    Newsletter Subscription

    Do you like our posts? If so, you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
  • Contact Us

    Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.