“What’s our following strategy? What are you talking about? We’re the thought-leaders in our industry, and our executives are well known. We don’t follow; we provide leadership so that our audience can listen to us.”
That doesn’t exactly sound like a customer-focused or engagement-ready organization or individual does it? And yet, that’s basically the perception you get from many major social media profiles. Simply stated, they don’t fully consider how their actions, related to the questions below, impact the perception of their brand or the customer experience:
1. Do we follow-back everyone that follows us?
2. Do we only follow-back relevant and targeted profiles that follow us?
3. Do we proactively follow relevant and targeted profiles?
4. Do we proactively follow everyone that mentions or RT’s us?
5. Do we not follow-back anyone?
6. Do we unfollow profiles that appear to be abandoned or dormant?
It’s easy to ask those questions; however, the answers and execution are not simple because your response depends on your social media strategy and available resources. We get it; you’ve been consumed with “creating content” because that helps you showcase your unique point-of-view. But your marketing content isn’t going to do you much good if your follow strategy alienates your audience.
If you don’t care about quality, or whether a new follower is remotely close to your target market then that indiscriminate strategy can be an effective way to gain followers quickly. Your following to followers ratio will appear balanced; but that also gives the perception that you’ll connect to anything, including fake profiles and bots, just to make your numbers look big. It also suggests you’re using applications that automatically follow back everyone, and are probably sending those pesky automated direct messages that thank people for following while begging them to “Like” your Facebook page. In short, you’re really not trying to make a connection. You are collecting followers and hoping that something, anything, broadcasted will stick. I’d give this strategy a D minus. It defeats the true spirit of social media and feels more like a form of marketing automation run amok.
Do not follow-back anyone
This is the complete opposite of the first strategy. And if you are a celebrity or major brand, interested only in bellowing your messages, then this elitist strategy is for you. Yes, I called it “elitist” and as you might guess I’d also give this strategy a D minus. Now, there are some who will say “I’m not an elitist; I just don’t have time (or it’s not practical) to manage my profile by vetting everyone who follows me.” I’m sorry, did someone tell you that social media was free and easy? That all you needed to do was outsource everything to an intern and all will be good? Is it obvious that I really don’t like this strategy? Not only does it go against the true spirit of social media, but it also sets you up to miss opportunities to connect with your target market as well as have private, one-to-one conversations with your brand advocates.
Proactively follow relevant and targeted profiles
If you have done your homework you know exactly what type of profiles you would like to connect with, even down to geographic location. So yes, what are you waiting for! Reach out to your targeted audience by following them.
Now admit it, you feel good, in fact you feel special when a high profile account follows you. For example, just imagine how NFL fans would feel if their favorite NFL team followed them. Sadly, as it stands today, most NFL teams do not follow their 12 man.
Also, this is the perfect strategy for the correct leverage of social media automation. Applications like TweetAdder and Refollow are just a couple of examples of software designed to help both brands and individuals effectively and efficiently develop and manage their connections. In fact, one of the features that both of those applications offer is the ability to review profiles you’re currently following to see if they have followed you back (within a given number of days) or are no longer active. Pruning accounts that have been abandoned, don’t want to engage by connecting, or no longer fit your target market is a natural part of the marketing process. So using applications for those purposes is a best-practice. Just keep in mind, if you stop tweeting for several months, or do not take time to follow back your prized high-profile account, you might get unfollowed based on their practice.