I’ve been a little caught off-guard lately with some of the presumptions people seem to be making now on Twitter. Where did all these expectations, such as an expectation for a response to a retweet or a “follow back,” come from? Why are people coming to Twitter with the belief that others should act and react just the way they expect? That isn’t how the real world works. Why should it be any different on Twitter?
Why Don’t You Respond to Me on Twitter?
The other day I received a message from someone I like (but hardly know) asking me why I’m not responding to their messages to me on Twitter. In a momentary panic, I clicked around to look at all of my recent @ messages and my DMs (direct messages) and couldn’t find any addressed to me from this person.
When I asked them about their message to me that I failed to address, I was pointed to a retweet of one of my tweets they had put out to their followers. It appeared that this person retweeted me with an expectation that I would respond to that retweet as if it were a personal message to me warranting a response. Maybe they were expecting me to thank them for the retweet, and because I didn’t do it within 24 hours I’ve broken some new unwritten rule. Why didn’t I get the memo?
My theory on conversing on Twitter is that you:
- Do the best you can.
- Try to use the Golden Rule (as with all social media).
- Respond and thank people when you can, but you shouldn’t be held accountable for thanking every person every single time they mention you.
- Regularly tweet a general “thanks to everyone who retweeted me this week” or “thank you to everyone who mentioned me for #followfriday today” rather than naming each person by Twittername (and that should be okay).
- Try to retweet or give kudos to others when you can, and as appropriate, just because it is a nice thing to do.
Yes, I believe in being courteous, but I’m getting a sinking feeling that many people are now doing “nice and generous” things on Twitter for the kudos, public thanks and @ mentions they expect to get. Some people’s thinking now seems to be “that person has 5000 followers, so if I retweet them, they will thank me — their followers will see my Twittername and maybe even link over to my Twitter page.” They are co-opting nice gestures and turning them into strategic ploys. My skin is crawling at the thought. No wonder that, increasingly, the kudos I get from popular Twitterers is by DM instead of publicly.
Why Don’t You Follow Me Back on Twitter?
When it comes to expectations on Twitter, I think an unrealistic one is expecting people to follow you back if you follow them. Sure, it would be nice, but my advice is to follow people because you are truly interested in what they have to say, or are truly interested in connecting with them in some way and cultivating a relationship, or both. What could you possibly gain by following random people purely in the hope that they will follow you back? Here’s what you gain: Noise! The dilution of your Twitterstream with worthless noise. Why use Twitter that way?
If you really want to know why somebody might not follow you back, I’ve come up with a little guide to different types of Twitterers who probably won’t follow you and the reasons why. Hopefully, this list will save you some disappointment and heartache.
- The Celeb — If they’re famous and actually using Twitter, chances are they just won’t follow you back. Unless they are @britneyspears.
- The Frugal Follower — If they are really good at time management and controlling their impulses, chances are they are only following people they know or who they truly admire, and you’re just not one of them.
- The Snob — They might not know who you are and therefore you are not worthy of a follow back. Or maybe they don’t like you.
The Chooser — They only follow their friends.
- The Novice — They may not know how to follow you back.
- The Overwhelmed — They haven’t noticed that you’ve followed them, and just haven’t gotten around to seeing who is following them to determine who they want to follow back.
If someone doesn’t follow you back, that’s okay. Yes, there may be moments where your emotions get the best of you. I’ve personally seen people who I do know — who I’ve known for years — who have not followed me back. I admit that for a moment now and then I do think “Oh no, they don’t like me.” But then I let it go, because I realize that I’m probably guilty of doing the exact same thing to others. And I don’t mean any offense; I’m just #6.
So the next time you’re interacting on Twitter with some expectations, realize that not everyone is on Twitter for the same reasons as you, and not everyone uses Twitter in the same way you do. There are actually no written rules on Twitter, and that’s okay. There won’t be anarchy on the streets because of that. There may be some hurt feelings along the way, but as long as we each do the best we can, what else can anyone ask for?
What are your expectations when using Twitter?