Twitter: The Art of the Follow

The Art of the Follow:
One of the hardest things on Twitter is to master is the art of the Follow. When I started I was so thrilled when ANYone followed me - I didn't look too closely and would immediately follow them back. Now...I follow selectively because useless chatter & only FourSquare posts does not move the conversation forward. ( Twitter Comic Tutorial At-A-Glance Part Deux that coordinates to this blog is below- thanks!)

Here are a few thoughts on how to decide to follow.
So I go to my special gmail account just for blogging & Twitter and I see an email notification that someone has followed me, or someone I admire lists them on a Follow Friday....or I see them as part of a conversation, a conference hashtag like #ISTE11, or I admire something they've shared - I click on their profile link and here's what I am looking for when I check out their profile:

1 - Their ratio of followers to people they are following. If I see it's about 1:1, that's good, but if I see that they are following 20,000 people and only have 100 or so following them back, that's a real big red flag. I don't play games with my numbers - I don't NOT follow because I don't want to unbalance my ratio but I don't follow willy nilly anymore.

2 - I check their bio. I'm hoping to get some sense of who they are and what they do. If they are in the education field - a librarian - edtech - esp. Middle school that's great! If they have a sense of humour even better! I use Twitter as a professional personal learning network builder - not as just a social outlet...though I'm thrilled to say some of my PLN have become my personal that's a big win/win!

3 -What's In a Name? Everything!  I really think as educators we should be going transparent. Our names are on our school web pages...the Interwebs aren't going away... so start making a positive digital footprint for yourself & grab your own name! I started as Capt_Red for my Second Life character (and my daily horoscope!) ...after NECC DC I took the leap, grabbed my twitter name, started this blog & went for it -see my early posts! It was skeeery but rewarding!

4 - Do they list a webpage? I'd really like to see that the person is a real person! Listing your blog, wiki, or webpage is important. Even if it's your school webpage - verify yourself & get more traffic by listing your page. Ps. I love to find new blogs to learn from!

5 - I check their profile pic or avatar. Yes, a real pic of a real person matters. I understand that some pepole aren't ready to go transparent - so it's ok to use an AVATAR - I do it myself! But then I'm particularly chuffed about my David Lanham original avatar [preen!] But anything but the default Twitter icon is important.

6 - Say What? This is big...I check their most recent Tweets. Specifically, I look for how many replies they have left. This gives me an idea of how they are using Twitter. If I see no replies on their profile, that tells me they are probably just on Twitter to broadcast (promote their own content with no/little desire to interact with other members). I prefer to follow people that are interested in conversing on Twitter. M.E. Steele-Pierce explains, "think of it like a big party or giant faculty lounge.U move in & out of conversations.Whom do u want to engage, learn with." I also look for people who are upbeat, positive, kind, who share tips, links, ideas, & are generous, who don't only Retweet (or retweet without adding salient comments), & no debbie downers! When I see a "how come no one is replying to me?" or whining tweets - who needs that? We all Tweet out to the air at first - just like blogging for comments...if that's why you're blogging, you're doomed to fail! It's the giving. Also, if all the tweeter is always is ASKING for help & information - take take take...but never gives back....that's also a red flag. Oh and talking about your personal life is OK...but I use this for professional I try and keep my personal/social/silly/pop cultural references to a 80/20% Enough to amuse and let people get to know me but not so much that it delves into "I had a latte this morning and it was too hot" to be annoying!

7 - I check their location. I like to have a wide range of ideas and voices. Although I'm thrilled when a fellow Marylander, DC Metro, DelMarVa, or East coaster follows me....I always want to make sure I have a diverse mix - from ALL over the world...just like my awesome school population!
It's also important to remember that people Tweet at different times all around the globe. So, if you find yourself up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, TWEET! It's OK maybe your Tweeps in Perth Australia, Auckland NZ, or Hong Kong are up! 

9 - Baby Got Back!   I'm prolly the only one who checks people's header design and background - but I'm a visual type (couldyatell!?) and when someone has an AWEsome, cool, neato, personalized Twitter background - I'm intrigued! (I confess, I don't use Tweetdeck just for this very reason!) 
10. Look at their favourites. Twitter allows you to star tweets & save them as favourites. It's very significant to see what people consider worth saving - illustrative, even. Which reminds me, I need to use this feature more!

How to build a followship & Twittiquette

The quickest way for me ("me" as an example - meaning anyone! :-) to follow you is if I see someone that I am following talking to you. If you are engaging my friends in conversation, that's a wonderful way to get my attention, and it's
like an 'endorsement'. Also, if you reply to someone or want to mention them, make sure to do it like this, @gwynethjones that gets their attention because it shows up on their mentions page - but if you write it like Gwyneth Jones I'll never see it...
The Twitter formula for a mention is the @ symbol plus the username. If you retweet me with your 2 cents added in that also gets my attention and it's flattering! It starts the conversation - I am more likely to follow that person.
It's nice to RT or retweet what people share - it's paying it forward - but balance it with your own thoughts. A whole profile with automatic Retweets doesn't do it for me. It's also important to lead and to share resources and information yourself - when you're ready! Lurking and listening when you first join Twitter is expected - but if you would like to start a followship, you gotta jump in and share!
Lastly, It's nice to say thank you for the RT. Good manners always are appreciated. I was so impressed when I first started Tweeting that Larry Ferlazzo (one of my most fav Tweeters who still isn't following me.. hey! I can hope!) sent me a DM thanking me for the RT.
Larry Ferlazzo Larryferlazzo "Thanks for the kind words" See? That's class!
How to Re-Tweet:
When you re-tweet, show it’s a re-tweet (by including "RT" in the text) and credit the original author in reply format (that is, add an @ before their Twitter handle). Do not change the original tweet unless re-tweeting as I suggest pushes the tweet over 140 characters. You can then remove minor words and abbreviate but keep the original sense. If you’re re-tweeting a re-tweet and you need the space, it is acceptable to remove the first re-tweeter’s Twitter handle. Remember if you tweet someone you MUST use the @and their name or they may never "see" it. And always give credit where credit is due! Don't RT something without giving the person who said it first or at the end with a via @smartsharenamehere

"The bottom line is that I want to follow people that are on Twitter to interact with other people. That's how *I* use Twitter, you might have another system for picking the people you follow, and there's nothing wrong with that, in fact it's one of the beauties of social media, that there are so many different ways that we can all use these tools, based on our own needs."

(click for more sizes - take, use, share!)
Like this Comic? Check out Part 1: Twitter Basics!
For my fellow visual learners I've also created a Flickr Gallery of Twitter Tips & Comic Tutorials!

Then I asked my tweeps: gwynethjones gwynethjones How do you evaluate/decide who to follow on Twitter? Pg 2 of my Comic Twitter Guide brewin! Thanks! #TLChat #EdChat #ISTE (note the #hashtags!)

A Choice few responses:
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones 2 things: by profile & by reading recent tweets
janelofton jane_librarian @gwynethjones I follow people when I see they tweet links with good prof development ideas
Kathie maier_k Same here - @jane_librarian: @gwynethjones I follow people when I see they tweet links with good prof dev ideas. #TLChat #EdChat #ISTE"
Tamara Cox coxtl @gwynethjones I follow based on blogs, people suggested by those I admire, people that RT me or things I like. I usually follow my followers
Justin Tarte justintarte @gwynethjones tweeps who will communicate with you...tweeps who are constantly sharing...tweeps who make us better...tweeps who inspire
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones Admire: Ppl who reach out to help, engage, connect. Tweets that share info, resources. Authenticity, good humor.
Library Girl jenniferlagarde @gwynethjones I follow focused, articulate tweeters w/passion and smarts. Ppl I can learn from. I also look @ who my heroes r following.
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones Dislike: sales, repeated self-promotion. Disrespect of others. Too many lunchie tweets.
Lisa Fields PracticalWisdom @gwynethjones: Who to follow 1. Check website 2. Bring value 3. Polite/kind on Twitter 4. No Robo 5. Low % talking about self High % others
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones Profile: has pic, location. Shows interests or expertise. Bonus = shows personality and/or other interests.
Nicole Pagowsky pumpedlibrarian @gwynethjones RTs, bios, & occasionally a #ff
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones Block anybody/anything that makes you uncomfortable. Report spam.
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones I think of it like a big party or giant faculty lounge.U move in & out of conversations.Whom do u want to engage, learn with.
M.E. Steele-Pierce steelepierce @gwynethjones Pop culture (Glee!) fits, food, & shopping etc etc are part of the whole person. Three-dimensional. Just not constant.
Donna Baumbach AuntyTech @gwynethjones I look at recent tweets, bio, website and who they follow.
Tiffany Whitehead librarian_tiff @gwynethjones I keep my following 2 a min. Quality over quantity is def my motto - I know who shares gr8 stuff and unfollow those who don't.
Tiffany Whitehead librarian_tiff @gwynethjones It might sound harsh, but time is valuable and I'm after quality resources and relationships.
Gary wnylibrarian @gwynethjones Originally I searched terms. Lately I review retweets of my followers as we have common interests.
Shelley Krause butwait @gwynethjones I like to follow folks who seem both curious and kind. Bonus points for funny and/or wicked smart. Shared interests a plus.
Laura Pearle VennLibrarian @gwynethjones always follow family! Other than that, try to follow those moving convo forward, not just those who tweet/RT same old same old
Barbara A. Jansen bjansen @gwynethjones I follow those who share my professional interests, & some favs such as Rainn Wilson, Bill Maher, Obama.
CraftyLibrarian @gwynethjones I follow ppl whose blog I read, etc and then see who they're following and their lists and go from there... #tlchat #edchat
technolibrary @gwynethjones people who are innovators or who share their personalities
technolibrary @gwynethjones I follow my interests and quirky curiosity
(if I've posted your response here and you would like it removed from this blog or possibly the comic tutorial, just contact me!)

No matter who you follow...join in: experience, listen, learn, share and when you're ready.. lead!

What do you look for when deciding who you follow on Twitter?
Related Reads:
Who should I follow on Twitter? Apple fans
58 Twitter Innovations
150 Geeky Media People You Should Follow on Twitter

7 Factors To Consider Before You Follow Someone On Twitter
8 Sure-Fire Ways To Tick Off the Twitterverse

Photos are are from Flickr Creative Commons and are linked back to their original source, if not linked they are by Gwyneth Jones. This blog was inspired by my PLN, a great conversation with a few of my tweeps the other day, and a posting by Mack Collier of the Search Engine Blog - Thanks Mark!


  1. A Great post especially for all new tweeters.

  2. Great post, Gwyneth! Now I'm thinking that my Twitter background does not do justice to my branding efforts! **runs off to create new Twitter background**

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post!

    I find that I use almost all of your techniques that you listed (except #10 - the Twitter background - I prefer Tweetdeck).

  4. Glad I made the cut :) Your steps are exactly how I decide who to follow as well. Sometimes I give someone a chance and unfollow later and (too often I am afraid) I don't follow someone that I should have.

  5. Hey guys! Thanks for the comments! LOVE THEM!
    Verona, your school blog is AWEsome!
    Tiffany - I love everything you do! Can't wait to see the Mighty Little Twitter Background!
    Christal...thank you! And if Tweetdeck let me customize the bakground, i'd use it!
    Will - you are an awesome educator and I'm so excited to learn from you!

  6. I look at the bio, follow/follower ratio and recent tweets. Excellent post. Thank you for sharing this!


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