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To Follow or Not to Follow – That is the Social Media Question?

Here’s How to Determine “If and When” you should Follow Someone Back in Social Media

By Hector Cisneros

Courtesy of Pixabay
Several years ago, a friend asked me, ‘how do you know who to follow,” after I told him that I was engaged in social media development and marketing. The question he asked was a good one because, at that time, most of what I was doing in the social media arena was new to everyone. In fact, we were in an era of discovery, testing untried techniques and methods. I quickly realized how similar social media development was to word of mouth networking, so it dawned on me to apply word of mouth marketing principles to the new social media phenomena. This application proved to be fruitful, but it did not address the need for rules for who to connect with and who to avoid. If you're engaged in social media development, you have to connect with people. Social media means following and unfollowing people, groups and businesses. This happens on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, and when you blog (whether it’s on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr or another platform). In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore why we need to use social media to connect with others, who we need to be following, (making connections) and who we need to avoid (undesirables). Take out your highlighter and get ready to lay down some yellow lines as we take a deep dive into who to follow and why, along with how to avoid following those pesky undesirables.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
There is no question that social media is a force to be reckoned with today in the marketing world. Billions of subscribers interacting on a daily basis, professing their likes, wants, needs and desires for connecting, knowledge, entertainment, products and services. It’s a marketer’s dream. Whether it's a nightmare, fantasy or the realization of your wildest successes all depends on the audience you build. That’s right followers equal an audience in today’s world. Here are more than a dozen reasons to want to follow people back on social media.

Good Reasons for Following Someone? 
  1. It a huge market with billions of subscribers. Facebook has 1.5 billion alone.
  2. If you’re in business - it helps to create traffic for your websites.
  3. Business owners often find that a large following improves ranking.
  4. Having a large following allows you to communicate your message instantly.
  5. It’s a great way to connect with influencers who can catapult your message.
  6. It's an inexpensive way for businesses looking to connect with potential customers.
  7. In Business - It’s a great way to connect with potential referral partners.
  8. It’s a great way for businesses to find and connect with vendor and other providers.
  9. It’s a great way to connect with others in your industry.
  10. The subscriber is in an industry related but not competing with your industry.
  11. Creating a large following is a business asset.
  12. Personally, it makes it easy to re-connect with your acquaintances from the past.
  13. It makes it easy to stay connected with family and friends.
  14. It can make it easier to find new friends.
  15. Some use social media to find new partners, dates and future mates.

Courtesy of Flickr
I feel compelled to tell you a story after dangling the above benefits of a large audience. Having been a professional social media marketer for seven years and been involved in using social media almost since its beginning, I have seen a few horror stories that need to be shared.  In the early days, especially with Twitter, it was common for automation to be used to follow back anyone who followed you. In fact, Twitter had an auto follow back option early on. Widespread indiscriminate following caused many political candidates to get egg on their social media faces when their opponents would point out that they had a large following of hookers. Similar stories have also surfaced where businesses were embarrassed because they had followed individuals who used vulgar, salacious, racist and hateful language. The fact is, there are just as many negative reasons for not following people as there are reasons to follow them. Like most powerful technologies, social media is a double edge sword. And like any weapon it needs to be wielded with skill and attention. Here are my reasons for not following someone.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Some Reasons for not Follow Someone? 
  1. There are crazy stalker types looking to connect with you.
  2. There are cyber criminals who are looking to hack your digital assets to rip you off.
  3. Competitors are looking to gain access to your friends, family and loyal customers.
  4. There are dubious subscribers like hookers looking for easy marks to blackmail.
  5. There are con-artists looking for easy marks to use their latest con on.
  6. Your business is local only and you can’t or won’t do businesses elsewhere.
  7. Your product or service is prohibited in that state or region of the world.
  8. You don’t understand the particular language of the subscriber.
  9. You don’t like the way a person is speaking (using vulgar, salacious, racist or hate speech).
  10. Some people play a follow/unfollow game without regard for relevance.
  11. People with poor social media etiquette can make you look bad.
  12. Keeping up with the constant changes in social media is a pain.
  13. Social Media is hard to keep up with if your a one person shop.
  14. Being followed by people in illicit occupations can make you look bad (porn, hookers, etc.).
  15. Fake follower don't buy anything! Don't buy followers for any reason!
Courtesy of Flickr
Now that I have gotten the negative reasons out of the way, let’s use some logic to make sense of how to properly decide if you want to follow someone back in the first place. As a social media marketer seeing these negative effects harm political candidates, public officials and business owners, it quickly made me realize that I needed to have rules in place for dealing with these types of situations. Over the past ten years, I have developed my own methods and specific rules to manage mine and my client’s social media assets. Here are my rules for following prospects and following back potential fans.

How to Follow Properly - My Follower Check List 
  1. Have a target audience - determine who it is you want as followers and fans.
  2. Determine what their potential value is to your business or personal life. Are they relevant?
  3. Determine what kind of harm an undesirable follower could cause.
  4. Determine who you don’t want to follow you (specific exclusion list).
  5. Create a set of rules that identifies undesirable’s followers.
  6. Immediately unfollow anyone who breaks any of your undesirable rules.
  7. Have a growth goal for your target audience with specific numbers.
  8. Vet any person requesting a connection to follow you of any kind.
  9. Avoid following anyone who doesn’t have a fairly complete social profile.
  10. Avoid individuals who has no profile picture that you can verify.
  11. Have a realistic inviting program put in place and execute it daily.
  12. Use social media tracking applications to evaluate potential and current followers better.
  13. Use social media applications to determine individuals who are chronically inactive.
  14. Use social media applications to identify fake accounts so that you can remove them.
  15. Make sure you check the follower rules for each social network on a regular basis to stay in compliance with aggressive following rules.
  16. Use social media applications to find people who follow then shortly unfollows you hoping you won’t notice.
Courtesy of Pixabay

If you do a search looking for social media management tools, you will find a slew of them. Products like and are popular apps. The applications can be a god send to help you weed out undesirables.

It is also important to provide high quality, useful, relevant, timely and authoritative content. This attracts the right kind of followers in the first place. This way you will be attracting individuals who are in the same industry or who are interested in your subject matter. These followers are more likely to stay and want more. This in turn will help grow your following, increase your credibility, increase your website traffic and improve your ranking.

There is no doubt that creating a large following is a valuable business asset for use in today’s complex marketing arena.  Having a large, loyal audience can allow a business to quickly launch new products, make service adjustment and make a pivotal announcement to stay ahead of their competition. Political candidates have found them indispensable, and the entertainment industry lives and dies by their positive or negative comments and shares.  It is critical that you take the time to develop a comprehensive followers protocol to maximize your fan base growth and minimize the infiltration of undesirable followers. While loyal, enthusiastic fans are a major plus, any of the undesirables can cause havoc for business, public officials or political candidates. Following a protocol like the one listed above, will minimize undesirable followers and help you reach your growth and success goals. If you don’t know where to start or don’t have the time to create your own after reading this, give us a call, we would be happy to create one for your company for a very reasonable fee. I wish you the best in creating your checklist.
Get your FREE copy today!

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.
In this article, I have discussed, why, who and how to follow, the right social media subscribers. This article covers both how to decide to follow someone back as well as how to create follower rules.  Also, included is a checklist, for those whom to follow or avoid. Any business involved in social media development and marketing will benefit from reading this article. Included are dozens of reasons to follow, not to follow and a checklist of items to include in your follower rules list.
If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091. You can also fill out the form in the sidebar of this blog where we will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. Our claimed to fame is that we are one of a few companies who actually provide real guarantees.
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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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