Twitter for small business marketing: following back

Wow, what a minefield! There’s so much conflicting information and advice out there that it makes using Twitter for small business marketing seem like too much hassle. I actually love…

Nervous wide-eye Caucasian woman in front of a computer  keyboard

Wow, what a minefield! There’s so much conflicting information and advice out there that it makes using Twitter for small business marketing seem like too much hassle.

I actually love Twitter, now, I didn’t once upon a time. It’s a great medium for sharing information, news, and banter with your clients and peers alike. Building trust and awareness for your brand as you go. With such an open community, you can end up in conversation with anyone – which is great – variety is the spice of life after all!

Almost as soon as you join Twitter people start to follow you and this is your first hurdle – do you do follow back automatically.

Laugh if you want, I know the people I work with do, but I go through every notification of a new follower on Twitter and I manually decide whether to follow them back. I don’t automate this process at all.

Meeting people online is the same as meeting people offline – there’s that magical seven seconds when we form the initial impression of the person or business presented to us.

It’s become apparent, much to the merriment of my colleagues, that I have a set of criteria to determine who to follow back – it literally takes me a few seconds to check out each profile.

My quick criteria for following back on twitter

  • have they bothered to upload an image to their profile? If yes they have passed the first hurdle – I don’t follow eggs!
  • If there are certain words in the bio I just won’t follow them – end of story.
  • No Tweets, nothing that captures my attention in their timeline or just a stream of links with no commentary – yeah no follow!
  • Then if I am curious, I follow the link to the website or Evernote it for later review.

If you pass all those subjective and judgemental criteria, then I’ll follow back and add them to one of my lists so that I don’t miss their Tweets in my stream.

Why do I manage my Twitter account this way?

I’m a firm believer in social business. I think it ‘s important to be transparent and as approachable as possible, but you do have to strike a balance.

Our time and resources are limited, so it’s important to me that I find a way of keeping my Twitter stream as relevant as possible to my interests – if I didn’t do this then overwhelm might set in and I wouldn’t be in a position to engage effectively with anyone.

Even the people that are proponents of automatically following back caveat that by saying that if they find that you are not a right fit then they may well unfollow you later.

Why not save yourself a load of hassle and just do the vetting upfront? Saves you from having a stream full of spammers, get rich quick schemes and bots, making your Twitter experience a much happier one!

You of course need to do what makes sense for you and your business, but Twitter as a tool for small business marketing is all about building relationships and connecting with people who could be potential clients or partners.

To my mind you If you don’t know who you are following or who is following you back then how do you know you’re reaching out to the right people or whether or not your strategy has any hope of success.

How do you approach your Twitter account? Do you use automation tools to follow people? How has that worked out for you? I’d love you to share your thoughts and experiences with me.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post, check out similar ones on the blog page. Feel free to get in touch with to chat about your latest project ideas - we love a good excuse for more tea.

Kittie Walker


  1. Adam on 15 August 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Kittie,

    Good post. It’s always interesting to see how different people approach it. It really took me awhile to figure out my follow back policy, and I just wrote about it a few weeks ago. I pretty much follow back the majority at this point, but I use many of your criteria to filter out the non-real — timeline, spammy bio, and certainly no eggs! 🙂

    • Kittie Walker on 15 August 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for stopping by

      I agree I like to see how others approach things as well. There is always something to learn from someone else’s point of view.

      Off to swing by your website now!

  2. Social Media Folk on 15 August 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Good read! Always great to see different but interesting approaches to twitter followership. Cheers

    • Kittie Walker on 15 August 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, glad you found the time well spent!

  3. Gibson Goff on 15 August 2012 at 10:42 pm

    This is a great post. I too vet each new follower. It’s amazing to see a seemingly benign description, and then open the stream and find it’s a broadcaster for some other agenda. FAIL! No Follow.

    Not only can it lead to spam (that we must purge later), but I have also found the hard way that any of the associated links can open the door to you being hacked, or attacked with a virus.

    So I’m with you – vet each one!

    Well written, and thanks for the insight.

    • Kittie Walker on 15 August 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Thanks for dropping by and adding to the conversation, Gibson.

      I’m mightily glad that the post has been taken in the spirit it was intended.

      You’re absolutely right, I didn’t even touch upon the dangers of following some of the links that appear on the more unsavoury Twitter accounts.

  4. Sherry Nouraini on 16 August 2012 at 8:16 am

    You have a good system Kittie, I also check out the profile of someone if I want to follow them. If they don’t have an image, don’t tell me who they are, no link, and very little updates, I will not follow.

    • Kittie Walker on 16 August 2012 at 10:48 am

      Hey Sherry,

      Cool to see you here! Yet another area in which we think alike – come on let’s find a new topic to debate – we haven’t had any controversy for ages 😉

  5. Jocelyn Wilhelm on 16 August 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks Kittie! This reminds me I need to go and looks through my follow streams. 🙂

    • Kittie Walker on 17 August 2012 at 10:44 am

      Hi Jocelyn, glad to be of use!

  6. Retha Groenewald on 19 August 2012 at 10:23 am

    This is a must-read! I have a similar system and then I began thinking maybe this is not the way to do it. Thanks for a very needed affirmation.

  7. Kittie Walker on 20 August 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks for swinging by Retha, it’s great to see you over here.

    I was a little nervous about publishing this one as I was not sure that it would resonate. Glad it did 🙂

  8. Keri on 21 August 2012 at 3:49 pm


    I have to say that while I am not as closely tied in at the time of follow, I do watch who is on my list, and screen out the “no picture,” suspect tweets, and those that just give me a “fishy impression.”

    I do use tools. But nothing we all hear about that makes social professionals g’ffaw. 😉

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Kittie Walker on 21 August 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks for swinging by Keri!

      It is amazing how many clients that I’ve come across that don’t have any strategy in place, which is a nightmare for managing your feed! I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t really matter which part of the process you carry out the tweaking in – just so long as you do!

  9. Kenji Wellman on 29 September 2012 at 3:02 am

    Great post. I’m really curious as to what words you look for in a bio that are a definite no follow back for you.

    • Kittie Walker on 29 September 2012 at 10:22 am

      I think some of the words are probably a personal thing to each person. For me there’s quite a long list of them, but the obvious ones are:

      If someone is claiming to be an expert or a guru.
      If they use get rich quick terminology in their bios.
      If they have inflammatory views on race, religion or sexuality in their bios.

      That’s the kind of thing, hope that helps

  10. Kim on 1 October 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I agree with your process. I also look at every follower before following. I also use ManageFlitter so I can see who is fake and catch accounts playing games and dropping you after you follow them.

    • Kittie Walker on 1 October 2012 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Kim

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad that they came out with a way of checking for fake accounts. Makes life a lot easier. Qwitter is quite a good one as well it gives you a nice weekly round up!

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