I enjoy the follow Friday tradition on Twitter, and am always tickled pink when I get a shout out. But as follow Friday usually features two-way connections (where tweeters will recommend members of their following) today I thought I'd turn #FF on its head a bit by highlighting people I follow but who don't follow me back.
Before I get to those recommendations, a few thoughts on tweeters that don't appear on my timeline altogether.
Why I Won't Follow You On Twitter
Yeah, I know, you don't care if I follow you or not. But what I'm really talking about is reasons other Twitter users in general might not follow you. So if you care about participating in Twitter and becoming better connected with people that share your interests read on. If not, I've gotta say I'm a little surprised you're reading this: @ reply me with something funny and maybe I'll follow you.
- Your timeline is nothing but a feed
Sometimes I'll follow an industry news or blog feed (like @sengineland) where I really want to see new posts in my timeline, but if all your personal Twitter account has to offer is a feed of URLs I will never follow you. If I like your blog I'll subscribe to it and check out the posts in my reader, but I can't have conversations with your posting bot.
- You timeline is empty, or nearly empty
Kiss of death. If you have nothing to say, why are on a social network to begin with?
- You lack a personalized avatar
Well, I'm less likely to follow you. Take two minutes and upload something, egghead.
- Your location is "the web"
Or "worldwide" or "everywhere." I still may follow you, but under duress, and with the solid conviction that you probably only sleep in one place most of the time.
- You lack a Web address
Sure, not everyone has a blog or website, but as my Twitter relationships tend to be professional I like to know a little bit more about my followers than they can provide in 160 characters.
- Your Web address is your Twitter profile URL
There's a possibility I may still follow you, but you're an idiot.
- Your timeline is littered with Sarah Palin retweets
As I said, I use Twitter professionally, so I really, really try to prevent politics and religion from influencing who I interact with on Twitter. But there are limits.
In case you think I'm an elitist ass with ridiculously strict criteria for following people, know that I'm a very liberal follower. If your tweets are interesting I'll follow you. If you (not your bot) retweet my stuff, I'll follow you. If you @ reply me – even if it's just to disagree with me – I'll follow you. Hell, I'll even follow people just because their bio gives me a laugh. And I am decidedly not one of those people who won't follow you because you're not "important" enough. I don't care if you're a marketing intern in Wichita with two followers: if you're in some way engaging I want to get to know you better.
Why I Quit Following You on Twitter
In general it's because you don't follow me back. As I'll discuss below, this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule for me, but there are two situations where this is likely to be the case.
I'm most severe with corporate entities. That is, I'll follow a company that has something to do with search marketing, ecommerce, the semantic web or another field clearly related to what I do – often in conjunction with an @ attributed blog post from that company, or a retweet of something from the account – and they fail to follow me back.
I'm not so much chagrined in these situations as baffled. Aren't you after engaged followers? Wouldn't you really want to forge connections with someone that might serve as an ambassador for your products or services? Just why are you maintaining a Twitter account in the first place? Good luck and goodbye.
For individuals, it revolves around interactions. Certainly if you hardly ever tweet (so I'm privy to anything on your mind) and you don't follow me (so you're not privy to anything on my mind), we have to reevaluate this relationship. As in end it.
Where I do get chagrined is where I am engaged in your universe, sometimes a lot. I retweet your tweets. I tweet your blog posts, and sometimes even comment on them. We actually have had several @ reply conversations. I don't do these things because I want you to like me: I'm genuinely interested in what you have to say, and want to share your thoughts with others. But at a certain point I feel snubbed. Hasta la vista baby. (In fairness, I know this sometimes happens because people assume they're following me but they're not. But pay attention, will you?)
But there are exceptions, which finally brings me to the meat of this post (thanks for hanging in there).
Why I'll Follow You, No Matter What
Again, I retweet your tweets. I tweet your blog posts, and sometimes even comment on them. We actually have had several @ reply conversations. And you still don't follow me back.
But I don't care, because the value I get from having your tweets in my timeline outweighs any childish feelings I may have about your refusal to follow me.
So here, categorized according to my interests, are some people I will always follow. My degree of interaction with each individual varies, though in all cases I at least frequently tweet links to their blog posts. Ultimately, they only share one thing in common: they don't follow me, but I follow them. And you should follow them too.
Search Marketing and Social Media
There's a lot of heavyweights in the SEO world that have a zillion followers, and it's understandable that they limit who they follow so their timelines don't update every millisecond. Others on this list, not so much – but, as per the post title, no hard feelings.
Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick)
While Schwartz mostly tweets links to his Search Engine Roundtable – to which I of course subscribe – these are important enough that I like to be alerted to them as they appear. For those of you not familiar with his work, Schwartz trolls Webmaster World, Google forums and other places SEOs are making actual observations about actual websites. Invaluable.
Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan)
If you don't know who Danny Sullivan is I'm rather surprised you've found my blog. Among many other things, Sullivan is the editor of Search Engine Land, and probably the most prominent and reliable source of news and analysis in the SEO community. His Twitter account even merits a "Verified Account" badge!
Aaron Wall (@aaronwall)
The owner of SEO Book, and a true iconoclast. Incisive, analytical, infuriating: Wall has a lot to say and, if you follow him, you'll find that most of it is worth listening to.
Michael Marintez (@seo_theory)
Much of the SEO world seems like a vast echo chamber, where the same people say the same things to people who think the same way they do. And then you have Michael Martinez. He and his SEO Theory blog offer observationally-based analysis of search engines algorithms and the world of search marketing. Oh, and he's also a Tolkien scholar.
Rae Hoffman-Dolan (@sugarrae)
I've been enamored of Hoffman-Dolan (then just Hoffman) ever since I read the tagline to her site sugarrae.com: "Never Mess With a Woman that Can Pull Rank." Amusing. Insightful. Profane. My timeline would not be the same without her.
Lisa Barone (@lisabarone)
Am I getting too predictable in my list here? Because if you haven't at least encountered someone retweeting a Barone tweet or link to an Outspoken Media blog post, your exposure to the social world of Internet marketing must be pretty limited. Passionately, irrepressibly, unapologetically opinionated. And who would have it any other way? Especially as, agree with them or not, they're informed opinions.
Michael Gray (@graywolf)
At the end of the day I just can't bring myself to quit following a fellow search marketer that posts pictures of the ingredients for his next meal, all neatly aligned in a row of bowls. And his current avatar boasts a McDonald's golden arch in the background. There's too much to like about Gray, even if his running commentary on the evils of Google gets a bit thick (cf. Aaron Wall).
There's a number of other non-following Internet marketing types I won't do without, including Marty Weintraub, Eric Ward, Andy Beal, Andrew Goodman, Susan Esparza, Joost de Valk, Wiep Knol, and Matt McGee, but I wanted to highlight a few of my SEO non-followers who I enjoy the most.
And yes, I do follow Matt Cutts, but I think its almost as much from force of habit as from need: every time he burps five thousand people tweet about it, so I don't think I'm in any danger of missing an impotant Cutts' Twitter missive.
There's a conventional wisdom in the Twitter world that if you want to build a respectable profile that you should have a good ratio of followers to those you follow. That is, you always want to have substantially more followers than people that you follow, because it demonstrates how much of an influencer you are.
Whatever. My interest in the semantic web blows that ratio all to hell, as not all that many web 3.0 people I follow follow me back. To a greater or lesser degree they tend to keep to semantic web topics, and I'm sure that seeing all my marketing-related tweets turns them off (though I'm sure I've lost more than one marketing type after a stream of tweets referencing posts on DBpdedia, RDFa, ontologies and other obscure-to-them Web 3.0 topics).
But I'm fascinated by the semantic web, and – technically inept though I may be – really like to keep on top of developments in this rapidly changing area. I do studiously maintain a semantic web twitter list that I park a lot of accounts I don't follow in my main timeline, but there's a large number of semantic web technologists that don't follow me back that I won't delegate there, however much I may troll that list's timeline. Here are a few of them.
Kingsley Uyi Idehen (kidehen)
Founder of Open Link Software and, as his bio proclaims, an "open linked data enthusiast." And how. If there's an article about open linked data, he'll tweet it. If there's a conversation to be had about linked data, he's in the thick of it. And while Idehen doesn't follow me, he'll cheerfully engage in @ conversations with me, which I appreciate. Like so many semantic web types, he tends to suffer from a severe case of hash tag-itus – it doesn't bug me, I just find it amusing. So by all means keep talking about #rdf, #sparql, #owl and other aspects of #linkeddata as they pertain to the #semanticweb – I think it's #great.
Ivan Herman (@ivan_herman)
Semantic Web activity lead at W3C. Need I say more? Herman is not a particularly prolific tweeter, but when he posts a link its always worth a click. And I've discovered a lot of interesting people by peeking in on his conversations.
Richard Cyganiak (@cygri)
Linked data researcher at DERI. I love the variety of topics in his timeline, and more often as not I actually understand what he's talking about (again, reflecting my own shortcomings as a non-mathematician). Something of a proxy on this list for all those I follow at DERI including, you know, DERI (a shame that account is not a bit more active – it could be a great hub).
News Media 2.0
Or should that be news media 3.0? What I'm referring to are people in the world of journalism that "get" the web, and are actively involved in exploring the spaces where news intersects technology, and curious about the future of news and media as the century evolves.
I have both a professional and personal interest in this arena: the former because I really enjoy news and "content" (gag) SEO; the latter because I come from something of a newspaper family, so I've been steeped in journalism culture for as long as can remember. These are exciting, perilous, turbulent times for media: here are a few of my non-followers that bring that energy to Twitter.
Martin Belam (currybet)
Among other things, the chief information architect for guardian.co.uk (probably the most technologically and socially forward-thinking of any traditional newspaper today – kind of the precise opposite of the Murdoch empire). I'd feel just as comfortable putting Belam in the semantic web section as well, as his work in user experience, IA and digital media often leverages structured and linked data. Belam gets the importance and promise of data in the digital media space, which is still rare (though another great traditional British media institution, the BBC, has made that leap with the Guardian as well). If you don't follow him at least subscribe to his blog currybetdotnet: I can't tell you how many interesting and useful resources I've found as a result of his link roundups. My favorite non-follower: gush, gush, gush.
Jeff Jarvis (jeffjarvis)
Director of the Interactive Journalism Program at CUNY and author of What Would Google Do? An active and always interesting timeline, peppered with pithy observations about journalism and its struggles in the digital age. I particularly love that his blog, BuzzMachine, is an ancient, crappy-looking out-of-the-box WordPress install, but that material is usually crossposted to HuffPo. Proof, for all you SEOs still reading, that content is indeed king.
Scott Rosenberg (scottros)
Co-founder and one-time managing editor of Salon, so it's unsurprising that the guy knows one or two things about digital media. Now working on MediaBugs and spending time with his blog WordYard. An active tweeter with great insights on digital news.
John Battelle (johnbattelle)
Battelle kind of wraps up my non-follower list nicely, because he also addresses search topics. Indeed, the tagline to his Searchblog is "thoughts on the intersection of search, media, technology, and more," as evidenced by what he discusses in his tweets. A nice mix of links and observations in his timeline: check it out.
A BIG Disclaimer
In each the categories above there is a large number of people I follow that do follow me back, and I wouldn't do without their wit, wisdom and camaraderie for the world. I value all my followers, and while I've highlighted here tweeters I admire it is in spite of the fact that the don't follow me, rather than because of it. A big shout-out to tweeters big and small that have made that leap of faith by clicking the "follow" button next to my name, and I hope you enjoy my tweets as much as I enjoy yours.