June 27, 2012

Building a Network Means Knowing Who You Talk To

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:33 am by mariawolters

Why do people follow others on Twitter, only to require them to validate with a service like TrueTwit when they wish to follow back?

When I follow somebody, I make that decision based on interacting with them, having a look at their timeline, or finding them in follower lists of people I rate. I will also follow back everybody who follows me who is not a bot and who is not purely a professional social media marketer. (I don’t even care whether I speak their language. I’m a linguist, I love seeing Babel in my timeline.) I’m not online to promote my research or my business, I’m online to build relationships with people. My timeline is a wonderfully diverse crowd, from Tories to Greens, from strict Catholics to adamant atheists.

So if you take a considered decision to follow somebody, then why would you require the new addition to your timeline to confirm that they are not a bot? The only situation I can see is people adding followers automatically through online services. But if you add people automatically, that’s usually a sign that you don’t interact. And broadcasting is not what social media is about. It’s an interaction, as Robert Fondalo, perhaps the only marketer I have ever followed back, expresses this succinctly in this post

Looking at somebody’s timeline is also important because this, to me, is the primary context in which tweets need to be interpreted. Tweets are 140 character messages, so much of the meaning and nuance needs to be implied. It’s usually quite clear how to read a tweet after having seen the person tweet for a couple of weeks. Failing to take such context into account is one of the major sources of fights and hissy fits on Twitter. At its worst, it can even lead to a two and a half year fight with the courts when a tweet that went out to 600+ followers, a tweet whose author regularly jokes and banters with the people on his timeline, and a tweet for which the contextually appropriate reading is “(bad) joke”, is taken completely out of context.

Social media is not broadcasting. It’s talking to people. Know your audience, and get to know people a little before you follow. It’s that simple.

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