Weeding unworthy Twitter followers: Five do's and don'ts

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During my morning scan of Macworld’s headlines I came across Kristin Burnham’s Getting More Twitter Followers: Five Do’s and Don’ts. And as I made my way through her piece I couldn’t help but think, “Boy, am I doing it wrong.”

And, may I say, happily so.

I fully understand that Ms. Burnham’s advice (and the advice of her source, Dan Zarrella—a “social media and viral marketing scientist”) is aimed at those who use Twitter as a way to market themselves and their profession. For me, however, Twitter is a rumpus room—a place I go to entertain myself and to be entertained by those I follow. As such, I routinely violate each of the article’s suggestions—my bio refers largely to my hair, I incessantly tweet about myself and the world around me, I reply as often as I like, I take pains to not brand myself as an authority, and if I’m cranky, I spread the wealth.

And I do because I honestly don’t care if you follow me or not. I know people earn a certain kind of currency for having followers in the five and six figures, but the day I measure my worth based on this kind of data is the day I delete my Twitter account and have a good long talk with the mirror. Despite the occasional links to something I’ve written or technology that interests me, Twitter isn’t a reflection of my professional life. Macworld is my home for that.

With quantity of followers jettisoned, I focus instead on quality—attracting and keeping those who find some tiny measure of joy in my every-so-often 140 characters of flotsam. And I do that by following these very loose rules:

1. Tweet your passion

Like all of us, I have opinions on such weighty matters as politics and religion as well as on lightweight-by-comparison subjects such as literature, music, and sports. While I’m far too polite to spout those opinions in most social situations (and too professional to do so in my work), I’m more than happy to mount a Twitter soapbox and have at it. This is my little corner of Hyde Park and if you don’t care to listen, click Unfollow (without telling me why you’re doing it, thank you) and move on to the next ranter down the line.

In short: Take a stand and dare to offend if it matters that much to you (and yes, that includes ceaseless pictures of your cat dressed in holiday garb). Those who have an interest in what you have to say will stick around—and perhaps engage you in a compelling exchange. Those who don’t, no harm, no foul.

2. Be playful

Much as those attempting to build businesses on the back of Twitter view the service as a serious enterprise, let’s bear in mind that it’s a social networking service. And in social settings one tries to amuse and entertain. This doesn’t mean that your Twitter stream need be full of Knock-Knock jokes, but a well-timed amusing anecdote is a more-than-appropriate way to give your followers a glimpse into the kind of person you are (as well as weed out those who find such frivolity not worth their attention).

3. Go Inside Baseball

Look, if you can’t telegraph references to the most esoteric subjects on Twitter—which necessarily limits your verbosity—where can you?

4. Block the unworthy

As we’ve emblazoned “It’s about the quality, stupid” on our avatar’s escutcheon, we want to be sure that each of our followers is an honest one. With that in mind, when you receive notice that you’ve inherited a new follower (you’ve enabled notifications, right?), take the time to check out their feed and profile. If you discover that they’re the sort of person who follows the advice offered by viral marketing scientists, it’s quite likely that they’re not worthy of your tweets. Sacrifice your follower count by blocking them.

5. Don’t follow do’s and don’ts

The day hasn’t arrived when there’s a “correct” way to use Twitter. It’s a pliable medium and one that can be molded in any way you like. Ignore the experts and sculpt your stream to suit you and the followers you’d like to attract.

Senior editor Christopher Breen can be unfollowed at BodyofBreen.

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