Some Dirty Tricks to Avoid on #Twitter #socialmedia


If you’ve read my twitter follow-back policy, you already know how serious I am about reciprocating when someone follows me. That’s why every morning over coffee, I log into to make sure I’m following back anyone who has followed me in the previous day. (Well, almost every day. Sometimes I’m rushing off somewhere and I miss it. But in a year, I have to guess I do this at least 350 mornings.)

Now, I’ve been advised they make medicine for this type of obsessive-compulsive affliction. Oh, well. This works for me, because I’m really sensitive about not giving new friends the cold shoulder. Call me funny looking if you like, call me dumb if must, but please, don’t ever call me arrogant. I’ve got a thing about that.

So what an attentive reader might be inclined to ask is, “Ted, hold on: more people follow you than you follow, by several thousand. You don’t really follow everyone back as you’ve been preaching for years, do you?”

I do… but. A couple of buts, actually. Here they are:

1. If your avatar is an egg, I pass you by. When you commit to Twitter just that little bit, I’ll follow you back.

2. If you’re on Twitter just to listen, and you literally never tweet, I totally respect that. I have a bunch of followers in that category. Seriously, this is a legitimate way to experience Twitter. No worries. But I don’t follow these folks back, either. Start tweeting and I’ll follow you the next morning, I promise.

See? I said “a couple,” and there you have it: two. Two reasons I won’t follow you. But here’s the third thing that people do, and it drives me nuts. It’s shallow, shady – skanky, even. This practice makes me want to take a shower, and I notice it’s much more common than I would care to believe.

The people who choose to follow you on twitter aren’t your “followers,” like you’re some kind of mucky-muck! They’re people, many of them fascinating, and all of them important – just like you.

Here it is. Remember, don’t do this. Just be aware of it so you can counter it when someone does it to you:

3. Someone follows you, prompting you to follow them back as a way of saying “Thanks!” and even “Let’s get to know each other!!” Then, at some point, they unfollow you – not because they dislike what you’re tweeting about, although that’s gonna happen, too, from time to time. No, this is an actual “strategy” that some people use to puff up their follower/following ratio and to look “important” and “like a celebrity” to the uninitiated.

Here’s how that last part works. If you’re some famous person or a news outlet, a lot of people are going to follow you to find out what you’re tweeting about. For instance, if you’re The New York Times, you have over 10 million followers and you follow just 832 people (I wonder who those obviously-fascinating people are? But I don’t wonder enough to check). If you’re Lady Gaga (I think she sings or something), you have north of 40 million followers and you follow just 135,000 people back.

Yes, we live in a world where someone named Lady Gaga has thirty million followers more than “The Paper of Record.” In Twitter-parlance, let me just say, #oiy. Anyway, NYT and this Lady-person are famous for different reasons: they are real “celebrities” or news outlets. So their follower-following ratio is way, waaaaaay off.

Therefore, if you want to look like a “celebrity” yourself, you need to game the system and skew the numbers to look important, too! The way we mortals do that is, follow people, they follow back, and then dump them. Don’t forget to yell “Sucka!” at your monitor as you do this.

Maybe they aren’t “friends” yet, but they’re certainly friendly acquaintances, and they’re potential friends. Get to know a few. But respect them all.

There are at least two “Twilebrities” I know who built their following same as me, over years, following everyone back same as me, and being vocal about how that was good karma so of course that’s what they did as a rule, same as me. I noticed one then decided he was plenty big for his britches a couple of years ago, and he dumped almost everyone. I just spotted another who seems to have done that in the last few months.

I’ll never do that, even at the risk of looking less “important” than these guys, and here’s why: I’m not a hypocrite. There’s an old saying, which you may have heard as well: Dance with the date that brought you. If you build your following by following everyone back and standing for that good karma practice quite publicly, then what on earth would possess you to change that practice and shout, “Sucka!” to all the followers you’ve gathered over the years?

I may be a lot of things, but two things I know: one, that I’m deeply imperfect – just like everyone else. The other, that I’m not a hypocrite.

The people who choose to follow you on twitter aren’t your “followers,” like you’re some kind of mucky-muck! They’re people, many of them fascinating, and all of them important – just like you. Maybe they aren’t “friends” yet (man the terms our favorite social sites foist upon us…!), but they’re certainly friendly acquaintances, and they’re potential friends. Get to know a few. But respect them all.

Anyway, that one – #3, above – is something to look out for. Another thing to look out for is drinking your own Kool-Aid. It didn’t work for Jim Jones, and it won’t work for you, either.

Stay humble, people. Especially when the chorus starts singing your praises. Tell them thanks, and then tell them that’s enough of that.

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Image credit- djem / 123RF Stock Photo

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.”

  • Absolutely love this policy–thanks for sharing. Eloquently and entertainingly written (had me chuckling and nodding as I read it–which is always a sign to a bystander that it’s a good article). Cyber-life should not be treated any different from real-life…with dignity and respect. Thank you for the reminder and for setting the example! #YouRock!

  • articpost

    Love and Respect your policy Ted :-)

  • Mmm

    I normally enjoy your posts that have actual content. But when you go off on these tangents it seems like you need to take a step back and get some perspective. Who cares whether someone else is gaming the system to skew the numbers? In what respect do those sorts of things actually matter in life? I clicked onto this post because I thought you were going to talk about truly “dirty tricks” like tweeting out someone else’s blog post without giving proper credit, or worse, stealing someone else’s content and claiming it as your own. Now those are dirty!

  • Kathy Davis

    I love this post Ted! Thank your for sharing your philosophy and encouraging me on my twitter journey. It is people like you who keep me tweeting/blogging. I work, have a busy family, volunteer, and try to keep my blog current – which is no easy task. You know how many hours it can take to write a good blog post. If I get a RT, or a comment, that’s cool. But I’m not doing it just for “me”. I hope my twitter/social media presence is an encouragement to someone. I RT, FB, search for good articles, and am a real time person who doesn’t automate anything. The “rockstars” of twitter who get my follow and unfollow – do they really think I don’t see it? It’s poor style, insulting. I don’t even bother following those with out of proportion numbers. I don’t want to be just a number. Agree…#yourock

  • Davide

    Absolutely agree. I already follow everyone this with both my personal and company account, except for shady/spammy accounts. Then regularly check justunfollow to trash impolite people.

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