I didn’t go to many high school dances, but from what I remember, they were rather uncomfortable experiences. I know they are very different today, but back then the scenario was always the same. Boys on one side of the gym, girls on the other. All of us waiting for someone – someone *else* – to make the first move. We all wanted to dance and wished someone would walk over and utter those magic words, “Would you like to dance?” As we waited, some of the kids wondered aloud what was taking those on the other side of the room so long to take action. Didn’t they know, after all, that if they asked, the answer would be “yes?” Really, how hard could it be?
My mind wandered back to those days after some recent social networking encounters on Twitter, although this could have taken place on any other networking platform or with people I’ve met face-to-face. On Twitter, one chooses to “follow” another person, meaning that if I choose to follow you? I will be able to view your posted messages and information.? (Following someone on Twitter is much like subscribing to someone’s posted messages.) I may like to follow you because it allows me to learn more about you and to respond if one of? your messages interests me. Your messages are not intended specifically for me, but rather are broadcast to all who’ve chosen to follow you. Similarly, if you choose to follow me, you will see the messages that I post and have the chance to reply to me. Many times, this engagement with others has resulted in fascinating discussions about topics of mutual interest, often leading to new friendships and business opportunities.
How in the world does this relate to the high school dance? When I’ve come across people using social networking sites who state that they yearn for interaction, yet they do not follow others’ messages, I have to ask if they are sending mixed messages?? In fact, many preach that those using social media must interact with others in order to be true to the intent of the platform.
Indeed, there are many social media personas, such as Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble, with tens of thousands of followers who do a wonderful job of balancing broadcasting content while also managing to frequently interact many of their followers. Unfortunately, the reason they stand out is that they are unique in their level of connectedness to their network.
One well-known person on Twitter, for example, trains businesses to better communicate with their customers, has 400% more followers than people she is following and stated that the “best way to connect (on Twitter) is through conversation.”? What I hear is, should I choose to walk across the dance floor to you and ask you to dance, you will indulge me; but you will never walk across the gym to engage me. If you are not following me, you will never see my messages, therefore you don’t know that I exist. I don’t take this personally; how could I, since they don’t know me? I’m simply puzzled at the apparent contradiction. From those claiming to be social media gurus, yet don’t follow others back and rarely reply when contacted directly, it sometimes feels like a generous helping of “Do as I say, not as I do.”
I recently encountered another interesting situation. I was following James (not his real Twitter username), but he was not following me. I noticed that he posted a message questioning why more people were not using Twitter to engage him in conversations. After noticing that the number of people following his messages far outweighed the number of people he followed, I replied and asked him about the apparent (to me) contradiction. While we still don’t agree,? I’m pleased to say that we had an open discussion about our different approaches toward networking in a world where universally-accepted rules of etiquette do not exist. Each of us defines our own networking goals and tailors our style to suit our needs. Had I not taken the initiative to walk across the gym to ask James to dance, we would never have had the chance to get to know each other.
Ordinarily, I would never have called someone out simply for having a significant imbalance of connections, as it is certainly their right to network as they choose. It is only when they have such an imbalance, profess to place a premium on interaction and wonder? aloud why so few people are interacting with them that I’m left confused.
What has been your experience? Have you attended a networking event, made new contacts and indicated interest in connecting on LinkedIn or Facebook? Did you follow-up or did you wait for the other person to take the initiative?
Do you ask people to dance or wait for someone else to make the first move, all the while wondering why they’re not rushing over to talk with you?
<Side note: For those of you who respond that it isn’t possible to manage a Twitter stream once your followers reach a large number, I suggest that applications such as Tweetdeck are easy solutions, allowing you to manage a large volume of messages, while also filtering messages from your favorite people giving them higher priority.>
Image courtesy of Wasaby
I have linked with several positive, energetic people on twitter. Most of us also have a facebook page and have managed to find each other through networking. A finds B and I see A’s profile, then I find B and B finds me (and on and on).
I seem to be the one taking the initiative. I butt in and ask all kinds of questions, laugh/cry with and generally try to be of help when I can.
Since I’m multi-faceted in my interests, I am drawn to a widely diverse population. That’s true in real life and online.
On last thought. I’m not so much into numbers. I follow people based on their “attitude”. I tend to prefer positive people but I don’t limit myself to them. What if we all put ourselves in a protective shell and never came out?
Feel free to “butt in” to my online conversations anytime and offer an opinion or ask a question. Isn’t that how we all get to know one another and offer help and support?
You make some excellent points. How can someone start a relationship with someone that are not willing to follow. I have not tried tweetdeck, but I am now interested in giving it a try. Thank you for the ideas in this blog.
Have fun with Tweetdeck, LeaRae. Let me know if you have any questions about how to use it. It’ll make managing your Twitter stream so much easier!
I wouldn’t think of imposing my follow “policy” / social media work flow on anyone else any more than I would impose my religion… so I don’t really “get” the whole “If you don’t follow me I won’t follow you thing”.
People who follow me will read messages about puppies, Seattle, IT process, recipes, and sports… for the most part.
People who follow me that tweet about only one of those topics… a small % of the time… but tweet about breastfeeding, crochet patterns, politics, or any number of topics that I do not have an interest or skill in conversing about I do not follow back.
I use tweetdeck, but still find that I enjoy the experience more when I have the time to read the messages from the majority of my real people tweeps than grazing through a cast of thousands.
I don’t even think about the balance (or lack) I just know my limits :-).
I don’t have a strict follow me back policy either. I follow some people who provide content which I find interesting and valuable which is enough for me. That said, I do follow-back most people because I never know where the next interaction will lead.
After following a certain number of people, it becomes very difficult to carry on, let alone start, many different conversations at the same time. But it is possible.
That’s when the communication methods must change from a slow dance of two to a giant conga line. Chris Brogan is very good at doing this and he’s following over 30,000.
A conga line – I like that! Everyone dancing together.
I follow almost everyone that follows me, but not all. One reason is that I am deaf. If someone is constantly tweeting about music or video, it’s lost on me. I also don’t follow spammers. Other than that I follow most like minded people in any area of interest.
I appreciate your input. For different reasons, I also don’t like the music tweets. I tend to opt for people with more of a business focus who engage in conversation.
I’m always surprised when twitter sends me a message saying that someone new is following me. Why would they want to follow me, I wonder. After checking that the new person isn’t some spammer/scammer, I’ll usually follow back. But then again, I’m usually the one making the first move at this dance.
I find interesting people to follow from the retweets that come into my stream. If Irene (who I am following) retweets something really cool from James (who I don’t follow), I’ll check his profile and tweet stream. If I think I’ll get something of value by following him, then I’ll follow him. He may follow back after a few @replies from me. But if he doesn’t, that’s okay too. I’ve learned to not take it personally if someone doesn’t follow back or unfollows me.
Sometimes I check out my peeps’ profiles to see who they are following. I can always find more cool people to follow this way (tweets by association).
Right now, my goals for networking in twitter are mostly to gather info – look at my faves to see what interests me. Twitter conversations sometimes pop up and I am always glad to do my best to help other tweeple. Tweeters that I have traded many @replies with get into my “persons of interest” group in TweetDeck.
Yep, I use TweetDeck: I’ve got 6 columns: stream, @, DM, plus two groups: (persons of interest and news tweets) plus another search column for my interests. Sometimes a search on something as mundane as “chamber of commerce” yields a great person to follow or a great article to digg or add to my delicious account.
Why would people want to follow you? Because you share topical and valuable information, that’s why! Great comments about how you find new people to follow and how you use Tweetdeck. My only question is which column am I in? 🙂
Irene: you are in my ‘persons of interest’ group, of course!
Maybe the key is the type of dance.
For me, I think of it as a karmic dance – looking for something you have in common. Sometimes you make a connection and other times not. Life works the same way. There are so many opportunities right in front of our eyes, but we only see the ones we’re ready for.
That’s the great value in Twitter. It’s non-selective in that anyone can follow you. It’s up to you to find the connection. You can’t do that if you don’t follow them back. And if you have the attitude that you will find a connection, then you are much more likely to do so.
Hi Irene —
I don’t mind it so much when someone doesn’t follow me back — but when someone stops following that stings. “Was it something I said…”
Enjoy your tweets —
Tom ( @wolf10 )
I know I couldnt have wrote a better post. Your points are all so true. I was very reluctant to get into using Twitter. I will be honest I am an affiliate marketer and Twitter has been great for me. However you wont find me spamming the site with links every 30 seconds.
As for following and followers I actually dont pay much attention except when people leave because at that point I feel I am doing something wrong and dont want that.
Anyways excellent post and sorry I didnt get to replying yesterday
I love the analogy and remember those high school dances. Keep dancing and dance with everyone you like. They will certainly appreciate it.
I love this post & your analogy.
Some people I follow are authorities – I don’t expect them to follow back – I’m a student of their advice. But, there are a lot of tweeple who I follow because I think we have common interests and maybe we can share ideas, conversate, network etc. If they don’t follow back I figure they aren’t interested in that and I unfollow.
When someone follows me I look at their bio and 1st page of tweets – if we have something in common I follow back. If they only broadcast or sell I don’t.
Hi! Enjoyed the post. In looking for folks to follow, I frequently use search engines to locate other animal and sports lovers. Sometimes you can find good folks to follow through other’s Twitter sites. I’m always happy when someone follows back, or initiates the follow. I always block the spammers. Just getting the hang of adding pictures to my site-should progress hopefully. Met alot of social media folks through Twitter, and it has enlightened me to a whole new spectrum of business. I’ve learned alot from these folks. I’m still relatively new to Twitter, and continue to hone my application of the network. I originally joined Twitter for CNN writings. Never expected it to grow as it has. I’m enjoying the ride.
Thanks for your blog post! 🙂
I don’t believe one is obligated to follow everyone who follows him/her–it should be a matter of choice.
Whenever someone follows me, I look at their bio/website. If I sense that I can possibly learn something from them–about PR, social media, consulting or coaching, or even about life–and perhaps can offer something to them, I definitely follow them.
But when I check out their bio/website, if there’s nothing there, I don’t follow them. If it seems like all they want to do is market something to me, I don’t follow them. If their key areas are of no interest to me–say astrophysics–I make the choice not to follow them.
I realize there’s some risk that I’ll miss out on some insights from some wise people. I have to trust that the benefit I’ll get by managing the time I spend on Twitter outweighs that risk. (And fortunately, I’m learning much from those I choose to follow.)
When I first joined Twitter, I was told by my social media mentor not to worry about how many followers I get, but instead to focus on following those from whom I’ll learn, RTing smart tweets, giving regularly to the community with helpful information/insights, and being transparent. I’m working on all of the above.
Brilliant analogy! I’ve asked you to dance, but I don’t believe we have yet stepped out on the dance floor together.
inspired…i loved reading this…im so inadequate with the rules therefore I my approach is to stomp across the dance floor, saying something wholly inappropriate and slinking back into my lonely corner with the disapproving eyes bearing holes into the back of my skull….
I find that forums like this and fb enable the less social flutterbys to show their true inner selves, to flourish and grow using the energy of others…this in turn can only benefit the greater good..and before long…a garden of good blooms sits before us!
I don’t understand those who choose just to preach at the yet to be converted…they surely don’t get turned on by the music and stand by the bar all night just looking on.
I followed Irene because I was just searching for Twitter folk with the last name Koehler one day. As someone named Ingrid Koehler an Irene Koehler on Twitter was irresistible. I guess that’s a fairly random reason to ask someone to dance… given that most of my work is around local government in the UK.
But she has added tremendous value to my Twitter stream, always lots of useful Tweets and tips – and she’s certainly inspired me to boost my LinkedIn profile. So, I guess sometimes the random pairing off on the dance floor is a risk well worth taking.