I’m currently working on the ‘other social media channels’ chapter of our book. There will be a sizable section on Twitter. One small question I’m struggling with is “should organizations follow everybody who follows them?” The safe answer, of course, is ‘yes’. That seems to be the prevailing etiquette (Twittequette?). But it’s not one to which I subscribe.
I’ve mused on this subject before, and I’d rather not muse on it again. It’s the kind of echo-chambery silliness that gets much too much play online. But, in the interests of writing a useful book, here I go again.
Is Mutual Following the Predominant Behaviour?
First off, is mutual or reciprocal following the predominant behaviour? I think so, though I haven’t seen any empirical data or surveys on the subject. I receive an occasional coolly-worded tweet from somebody on Twitter that implies that I should be following them presumably because they’re following me. Lee recently mentioned how that he doesn’t adhere to this policy. His approach seems similar to my own views on the subject:
I take a decidedly lightweight approach to social media. If I haven’t met you or don’t know you personally, I’m not likely to add you as a friend or follow you. I currently follow about 200 people on Twitter and it’s still too much. When I follow someone with the @leelefever account, I try keep up with most of their updates. This is how I’ve always used Twitter.
Giving into this perceived social pressure would force an unwelcome change in how I want to use Twitter, and make it a less useful tool.
The New Blogroll?
Julie pointed out that reciprocal following feels a bit like the new blogroll. A blogroll was a handy way of linking to all of the websites you read. It was also a polite way to recognize that another blog or site had linked to you. They ‘voted’ for your site, and in return you ‘vote’ for theirs using your blogroll.
I’m not sure why (though I expect RSS played a role), but blogrolls seem to be going out of fashion. And the difference between a blogroll and reciprocal following on Twitter is that the former is a passive list on a static page or sidebar, while the latter changes how you use the tool.
In both cases, the behaviour feels kind of punctilious–that I’m doing it primarily for the sake of appearances. The two perspectives feel like, I don’t know, like the socialist versus capitalist view of Twitter. What do you think?