To Follow or Not to Follow: Seven Reasons Why People May Not Follow You Back on Twitter
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To Follow or Not to Follow: Seven Reasons Why People May Not Follow You Back on Twitter

Here are some tips on building a following on Twitter, organized as the top seven reasons why Twitter people, or Tweeple, may not follow you, even if you follow them.

So you've been using Twitter for a few weeks or months now, reading some thoughts tweeted by those you follow. You are tweeting a lot, have learned some of the Twitter lingo. But now, you just realized, though you are following hundreds of people, very few people actually follow you. Here are some common reasons:

You have no avatar: One of the surest ways to keep people from following you is not even taking a minute to upload a photo, your institution's logo, or whatever you think should represent you visually. When I glance through the list of my latest followers, I don't even click on the ones that lack avatars, since often they are spammers. If you are reading this, probably you are not a spammer. Just realize that your avatar is the first thing that potential followers see. Many people change their avatars frequently to convey a message. On Wednesdays for example, some women display sexy bra photos to promote breast cancer awareness in association with the hashtag term #boobiewednesdays. Some people put flags of their countries in the corner of their photo to support a soccer team. During the protests in Iran in 2009, many people tinted their avatars green.

Your biography is dull, stupid, or you have no biography at all: When a new avatar appears on my follower list, the first thing I read is its biography. Twitter allows you up to 160 characters to summarize who you are, and why you're on Twitter. This is your chance to get the attention of hundreds, or thousands, of people you've never met. If your biography says something like, "I'm a coffee addict, please follow me!", well coffee companies will follow you to get your business, but no one else will. Then, there are the people whose entire biography is "Follow me and I'll follow you back." Strangely, this actually gets them followers. But does it bring followers targetted to their interests? That depends. If your interest is to get any followers at all, you may have something in common with the people who write, "follow me and I'll follow you." Otherwise, it's recommended that you write something about your work, your family, your hobbies, your life. Do this and you'll have a much better Twitter experience. Oh, and one more thing. Spelling does matter. If your biography has blatant mistakes in spelling or grammar, people -I'm talking about people who matter- will not follow.

Your timeline consists entirely of updates of your itinerary and/or menu: As unbelievable as it may sound, it's been calculated that approximately forty percent of tweets on Twitter's public timeline are useless remarks such as "I'm drinking some coffee." Hey, remember the guy at the copy machine on Saturday Night Live? Don't be that guy. Yes, a few celebrities may get away with tweeting mostly about what they ate for lunch and have millions of followers, but you won't. It's OK to do it once in a while, but if you do, don't leave it as the most recent tweet in your timeline. Make sure to follow it with a few interesting tweets before logging out. If I like someone's biography, I look at the last several tweets in their timeline. If they're boring and useless, I won't follow them.

Your timeline consists entirely of inspirational quotes: We all like to read good quotes, often learn from them, and sometimes even retweet them. I even follow some tweeple whose entire twitter activity is to post such vinnettes of wisdom. Don't overdo it though.

You constantly ask people to follow you, or bitch about it when they don't: Keep in mind that the novelty of Twitter, unlike other social media, is the feature of assymetric follow. While you may follow anyone you want (except for those who choose to keep their tweets private), nobody is obligated to follow you. Twitter is a merrit-based medium. You should want people to follow you, because they want to read your updates, not because you are following them. Following someone is a way to introduce yourself to them, and nothing more. Therefore, make your updates worthwhile to read.

Your Twitter page has no link to a website: Although I follow some people who have no link above their biography, this is another thing that people check when seeing your avatar for the first time. If you have a URL on which to click, it's an opportunity to send people someplace where they can learn more about you, your institution, or your products. This in turn will have an impact on who follows you, and who does not.

You are not mentioned by other Tweeple: After appearing on follower and friend lists of others, the next factor that makes you visible is how often you appear in Twitter feeds. When somebody replies to you, or mentions you for another reason, your Twitter name comes out proceeded by an @ symbol. This makes it clickable, so that others, including those who do not follow you, will find out about you. Clicking on it sends them to your Twitter biography and timeline. One common reason why you could be mentioned is that somebody retweets one of your updates. This can be done with the abbreviation RT ("retweet"), MT ("modified tweet"), with "via" (meaning the tweet was send via you, or by way of Twitter's newer retweet feature which puts you into someone else's timeline without the @ symbol. If you find that somebody is retweeting your updates constantly without mentioning you, as if trying to pass of your tweets as their own, that's a violation of Twitter policy, and you should report it.

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