Today I have 60,200 followers on twitter; I follow 59,917 people or companies. I have 5 children whose ages range between late teens to late twenties and they all tell me:” that’s not the way you do it dad, you are supposed to only follow a few hundred people and have thousands of people follow you. “ I will usually respond to them that I’m not Madonna or Justin Bieber or something, maybe celebrities can do that but not me.
I am just a regular guy who runs a small local charity. I use my social media for personal use, but for the most part I use it to gain support for the charity I work for. Besides it has always seemed a little rude to me –if someone is interested in what you are doing shouldn’t you try to take a little interest in what they are doing? If you follow me I on twitter I am probably pretty likely to follow you back. If you are selling porn or adult rated products- I probably won’t follow you back-but otherwise there is a pretty good probability I will follow you back. Now with over 60,000 followers I do have a hard time keeping up with them; however I have set up a number of lists where I can follow a few hundred individuals and groups that I am interested in keeping track of.
Over the last two years I have not really found anyone else who shares this view or perspective about following back as many people as who follow you. Our own MarComm team does not share this view; they are interested in what we refer to as organic growth. We follow quite a few people back but mostly people who are quite engaged with our organization. Our team is interested in followers who are interested in what we are doing but not necessarily following with the intention of mutual follow back. For the most part I agree with this tactic, but for my own personal sites I don’t follow the practice. Just like I am not Justin Bieber I am also not Ronald McDonald House. I may act locally as a spokesperson for the charity-but….
As I said I have not found anyone who agrees with this approach until now. In her book Social Media for Social Good, Heather Mansfield recommends a number of twitter best practices for nonprofits. When I read the passage I am going to quote below –I just about fell off my chair- obviously not because I disagreed- I just have not come across someone who had the same perspective as I did, and clearly did not know there was research to support it. Anyway, as one of her best practices Mansfield (2012, p.98-99) recommends;” This is a hard concept for some nonprofits. Many people find following hundreds or even thousands of Twitterers to be overwhelming, but from a strategic communications point of view, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain following on a 1:1 ratio- meaning if you have 1000 followers ,then you should follow 1000 Twitterers in return. Since Twitters beginning, studies of Twitter by HubSpot and others have revealed that this is the magic formula for growing your follower base consistently and steadily over time.” Mansfield provides 5 reasons why this 1:1 ratio seems to work best. If you want the detailed description of the reasons you will have to buy her book- but here is the summary:
- You’re likely to get more followers if people see that you follow in return
- People cannot message you directly if you are not following them
- People are less likely to mention or retweet them if they think you’ll never retweet or mention them
- People will get an email saying that your nonprofit is now following them (if your account is configured this way)
- Some people will think you are an egotist (as I said what makes you think you are Madonna)
Finally Mansfield suggests: “Following on a 1:1 ratio will require more time and effort from your nonprofit but you get out of Twitter what you put into Twitter. Paying more attention to who is following you and following the same number of people is an advanced strategy on Twitter.”
Anyway if you want to follow me on twitter I am @larrymathieson –I’ll probably follow you back.
Mansfield, H (2012) Social Media for Social Good: A how to guide for Nonprofits: New York: McGraw