Suppose You Stopped Asking People To Follow You On Twitter?

by Sue Bailey, who blogs at Blog Mum and tamebay. Follow her @biddy.

No, I’m not completely crazy. I just don’t like the word “follow”. Follow says “listen to my message, be passive, I’m broadcasting”; Follow is all about me. Suppose instead you sent out a message that said, “Engage with me, talk to me, let’s have a conversation.” If you’re a business trying to build a presence on Twitter, or even an individual trying to get beyond “what I had for lunch”, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

And it turns out it’s a surprisingly easy thing to do as well. Instead of creating a link to your Twitter profile, make a link like this:

http://twitter.com/home?status=@xxxxxxx

replacing xxxxxxx with your Twitter ID.

what-are-you-doing

This links to Twitter’s home page and its “What are you doing?” box, but automatically puts your ID into the box to send you an @ message. It’s the Twitter equivalent of a mailto: link for email, and just as straightforward to use. They click, add message, send. Just make sure that your Twitter client shows you @ messages from people you’re not already following (Twhirl does), or that you check them regularly via the web.

follow-the-herderOf course, there’s risk in this strategy: What if your potential follower sends you the message but doesn’t go on to follow you as well? Isn’t that an opportunity lost?

It all comes down to the quality of your own response. Anyone who sees that you really meant what you said, that they can use Twitter as a medium to communicate with you, is going to be much more invested in following you than if you’d simply given them a “follow me” button to click in the first place. Instead of building a list of dozens or hundreds of sheep-like followers who aren’t so interested in what you’re saying, you’re building a network of real contacts: And isn’t that a better vision of what Twitter could be?

Comments

  • April 16, 2009

    Wow lightbulb moment. It might sound like semantics but that is quite a fundamental shift in the way we introduce a connection through twitter.

    This is definitely something that I’ll be looking at implementing at Beyond Beeton – I’m not looking for twitter followers, I’m looking for a mutual dialogue.

  • April 16, 2009

    This is an interesting idea. The only difficulty is that a lot of people would not understand what Twitter is. Surprisingly, Twitter is still very small, and I am afraid that the majority of most blog’s readers would not be Twitter users.

    Just my thoughts….

    Thanks,
    Nate

  • April 16, 2009

    Very interesting thought! I’ll have to look into that!

  • April 16, 2009

    It’s easy to get seduced by watching that “Followers” number go up and up, but the truth is, I have no idea what the majority of the people who follow me are tweeting themselves. Before it became a competition to see who could have the most followers, it was a great way to have quick instant message-like chats with blog friends. Now it’s out of control!

  • April 16, 2009

    Yes. I like it. I’ll use it. Will have to check out what you say on DM’s from the non-followers in Hootsuite. Like the thinking though…

  • April 16, 2009

    I really like this idea. Because I’d much prefer people who only want a reciprocal link didn’t bother at all. Conversation on twitter is almost impossible unless you have a limited audience who all have a common link.

  • April 16, 2009

    Exactly! I have integrated “Join the Conversation. Explore with me” ind my Twitter background image and “interested in your part of our story” in my bio. I find this much better than “follow ME, ME, ME!”.

  • April 16, 2009

    I LOVE this idea and will have to find more ways to utilize it. Engaging opportunities are more valuable to me than just seeing what you are doing – I want to share in the experience. Thanks for the heads up.

  • April 16, 2009

    For some reason this article made me think of this quotation – “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend.” – Albert Camus

  • April 16, 2009

    How mind-provoking. Then to follow or not depending on the blog author’s response to the question / conversation involved? Sure will spice up the ‘@’ to each other even more, and by that time auto DM will not get too much attention since people will be too focusing on responding to the Q pop up to them. Could be another trendy phenomenon in Twitter if people are willing.

    @wchingya
    Social Media/Blogging

  • April 16, 2009

    Sure there’s risk in that method, but nearly every great idea comes alongside a little risk. At least it’s something different and you’re actually evaluating the validity of the word “follow.” Good for you.

  • April 16, 2009

    How intriguing. Ideas that are pro-active make so much more sense than the passive. I like how this idea directly engages the reader to jump right in on a conversation, and it gives the person a chance to get to know you before he/she follows you. It seems a lot more personal and a lot less selfish.

    @Nate: Thats a good point and good drawback to bringing someone straight to the homepage. I agree the average reader might not understand what Twitter is or how Twitter works, but I think that as Twitter gains in popularity ideas like the one in this blog post will become more accessible to random readers.

  • April 16, 2009

    Good idea. I think I would use this in my ‘contact’ page. In general, I’d rather link to my profile for people who are not yet on twitter and need to sign up.

  • April 16, 2009

    I love the word follow. : )

  • April 16, 2009

    I agree with Nate we cant assume every person coming to our blog is a twitter user, or even know what twitter is. in such case we might loose a potential client or long term follower.

  • April 16, 2009

    Have you tried this method yourself? How big of a different has it made doing this?

  • April 16, 2009

    Thanks for this post!

    I don’t think I’ve ever thought of asking – on my blog or elsewhere – for Twitter followers.

    I keep my blog separate from Twitter, but I don’t separate Twitter from my blog. If someone’s reading the blog, in a sense we’re already conversing, and if they want to chat more they need only ask. I don’t comment on my own threads much but I do try to thank everyone for saying something.

    Twitter’s a different story; like all social media, you have to give what’s valuable in terms of the site in order to get (w/ blogging – you’re already giving a lot if your content is good). So I just follow people already on Twitter and talk, and see which ones respond.

    I guess I’m saying your idea could be even more radical and still be worthwhile.

  • April 16, 2009
    tyrajim
    @tyrajim

    yes, I agree with you ..in the beginning I don’t like this word”follower” then,i used to hear it and then use it..but now you make me think again….we need real friends than 10000″followers

    thanks..

  • April 16, 2009

    This seems like BS, simply because you guys always say that it is all about relationships and dialogue when you are also after numbers and you know it! Stop being afraid to express that you are after more followers, some of you jump around it and dodge it while you follow more hoping they will follow you back in return and if not unfollow, which is fine, because who wants to follow someone that does not care to follow you back? Now I have said it so you don’t have to come out of your shell. P.S I wrote this at 4:AM in the morning with little sleep, so take that into consideration as it’s a night rant and eat more celery so that you will grow 2B a mighty strong twitterer person tweeper.

  • April 16, 2009

    Oooh, snarky, Celery, you just induced me to click on your twitter bio, good job. I like a bit of bitchiness in the morning.

    To be honest, I get way more value from following than followers. Why? I get great, up to the minute info from the interesting people that I follow. If someone wants to listen to my blather, that’s great but I’m not going to stop blathering if they don’t. Hell, ask my husband, I talk in my sleep, I don’t need anyone to listen to me!

    I have great mutual conversations with some people on twitter and that is special and really what I’m trying to achieve. If this strategy helps me achieve that, then that is awesome and I’m giving it a go.

    If someone I follow doesn’t follow me (and yep, that happens, the ABC for example don’t give a stuff about what I’m cooking or whether I think a new restaurant is good or not) then that doesn’t take away from the value of their tweets at all.

  • April 16, 2009

    I quite agree with Celery on this one. Saying you don’t want followers and turning around to call them something else is a load of semantic crap. It is also just a bunch of cyber jerking off to make you feel better about yourself.

    Rarely does anyone say what they mean out of fear of hurting someone’s feeling and sounding like an ass or worse sounding pretentious. The greatest hope of the web was it gave people a place they could safely say what they mean. By squandering that opportunity with euphemistic cry me a river of politically correct psycho babble you disrespect anyone who has ever stood up for the rights of people to speak their minds. There is nothing wrong with saying I want followers, say it proudly.

    Furthermore if you want to disagree with me say it proudly. If you think I’m an ass and want to tell me to got F myself, say it. If you want me to follow you on twitter, say it. If you want more followers than Shoemoney just because it sounds like a good goal, say it proudly. If you stand agast at the notion of offending someone or sounding prideful, then keep your trap closed because no one really wants to hear what you say at all except people stroking themselves for the same self absorbed reasons.

  • April 17, 2009

    Interesting idea, but it requires that the person who clicks the link is currently logged into the Twitter website. For those who use Twitter clients (and rarely log into the website), the only way I see anything like this working is if Twitter clients and/or browser extensions (e.g. Greasemonkey) implement something like a twttr protocol handler so that twttr://christefano links are treated like http://twitter.com/home?status=@christefano links.

  • April 18, 2009

    great but i have to try it out too see. Than you for the pots.

  • April 18, 2009

    I like that. I never ask people to follow me. Hell, I don’t know where I am going half the time. LOL

  • April 20, 2009

    This seems like a great idea. But I do wondering if people would forget to follow you like you mentioned. I usually just say “check out my twitter page” or something, since I don’t like the word follow either…

  • April 24, 2009

    I have to say, I think this is brilliant. I do agree with @christefano, what if people aren’t logged in? That would defeat the whole purpose.

    Also, I have two twitter accounts. One is personal and the other is for my business, and I think about them very differently. With my personal account, I could care less about how many followers I have. I use that account to learn about things all day. My business account is very different though, I want as many followers as possible because I want to spread the word. I am trying something out that I would love to get your opinions on. I want my business account to be very conversational, so I am reaching out to a lot of people using Twitter Search, but I am only following the people who respond to me because I don’t want to be spammy. What do you think of this approach?

  • July 6, 2009

    This has been one of the most useful concepts I have added to my twittery. Luckily my first twitter account was under my nickname because I ended up with just too many followers, no dialogue, loads of noise and a rapidly growing spam-filled followship from some viral ‘get more followers’ tool.

    Luckily I Reserved my real name for building some real relationships and started using that account far more often.
    No auto-DMs, no auto-follows, no noise, just real conversations with people that I want to talk with.

    Thanks a lot

  • November 13, 2009

    I don’t mind followers. I have a lot to say and want to know someone is listening!

  • January 17, 2010

    Cool article, great idea!

    One thing though, the people who aren’t on twitter will just be linked to the twitter main window right and not your profile page? Does that matter seeing as though they don’t have twitter accounts?

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