Investing in the Follower/Following Relationship

This is the eighth post in the Professional Development 2.0 series. If you have not already, I would encourage you to start with the first seven posts:

Many Twitter users feel a sense of obligation to follow those who have followed them. Solicitors and businesses certainly appreciate that model. However, that is not an optimal way to utilize the service. There are many ways that you can choose to cultivate both your followers and those you follow.  Ideally, you will follow those whose posts generally have value to you and others will do likewise. Those who follow you and those you follow do not necessarily need to be the same audience as  I may have an interest in what someone writes even when that person is not interested in what I primarily write about.

I would like to present you with 1 option maintaining a good list of followers. As educators, we need to be careful with anything that is public. It must be warned that spammers, solicitors, and people in the adult film industry may try to follow you at times. When it comes to your followers, you can block or report any of them for spam. I have been using the following system for some time and first saw it articulated on Sylvia Tolisano’s blog: http://langwitches.org/blog/.

First, it is important to know when who is following you. Twitter does not provide an easy way to do this retroactively. As in most situations, it is better to be proactive than reactive. One of the first steps is to go to http://twitter.com and click on Settings, then Notices. Check the box that tells Twitter to send you an email whenever someone new follows you. This way, you can check on those people within a few days before it becomes overwhelming.

If you click on the followers button on the top-right of the main page on Twitter, you will be brought to a list of your followers. There are only 20 listed on each page. Here is a picture of what it should look like. I have not had a chance to check on my followers for about 2 days, so I have a few I need to go through.

When you click on a picture or a username, you will be brought to that person’s profile page. There are some red flags to look out for to make this easier. First, see if there is a picture and a short bio. If there is not, it may be a good idea to block the person. If there is, make sure the picture is appropriate and that the short bio is one that you want to be associated with. Second, if the number of people he or she is following is greatly out of proportion to the number of followers he or she has, it is likely a spam account that will try to get you to buy something. Sometimes, these accounts will follow 2,000 people and not have more than 1 or 2 followers. Personally, I usually report them for spam, but you can just block them if you wish. Third, check if there is a website link. If there is, you can sometimes click to go to the person’s personal blog and find out more information about them. Most of the teachers on Twitter have their own personal blog. Lastly, look at the person’s last 5 or so tweets to so if they are related to something you are interested in.

This person in the picture above is following me. Judging by the amount of followers it has amassed in such a short time, I am pretty sure this is a business (For a frame of reference, I have been on Twitter about 1.5 years with over 11,000 tweets and over 1,600 followers. To have 1,500 followers with only 169 tweets requires indiscriminate following most of the time.), so I am not going to even bother with clicking on the link. Second, look at their last 5 posts. They are all trying to get me to go to their website to take action on what is happening in the Superbowl. This is irrelevant to me and I do not appreciate being solicited.

There are two choices that have to be made now. First, do I want to follow this person in return? Not in the least. That would only encourage more soliciting. Second, do I want to allow this person to remain following me, block this person, or report the person for spam? The person is not being overly obnoxious and does not seem to be trying to get me to do anything immoral, so I’m not going to report them. At the same time, I am not going to be associated with a solicitor, so I cannot allow the person to remain following me. Therefore, I will simply block the person from following me. To do so, click on the box that resembles a gear shaft, and click Block. This is a fairly simple system, but using it can help you to maintain a list of followers that you can be proud of and your discernment actually adds value to the people that you do let follow you.

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