Twitter is unique in the sense that there is no automatic reciprocity.  So, for example, with Facebook you send a friend request that is then accepted.  You are now friends with that person and each of you will see the others’ updates in your news feed.  On Linkedin, a connection request is sent which, once accepted, leads for you to have a reciprocal connection.

On Twitter, you can select to follow someone but they don’t have to confirm anything (unless their tweets are protected).  And you don’t have to follow back those who follow you.  You can decide whether or not you want to see that person’s tweets in your timeline.

So, how do you decide who to, and who not to, follow back?

1. Are you interested?

You certainly don’t have to follow everyone back.  The more people you follow, the more noise on your timeline (which is definitely why you should be using lists!).  So you don’t want to pollute your timeline with the tweets of anyone that you are not actually interested in.  Have a read through their bio and look at their previous tweets.  Is the content of interest to you?  Is there variety in their tweets?  Would you be likely to respond to some of what they are saying?  Would you gain knowledge from reading their tweets?

2. Are they a target?

When your strategy for being on Twitter is to use it to win business, then it is definitely important that you are following your target market.  So, when you take a look at who’s following you, a good basis for decision on reciprocating the follow is whether they are a potential customer.  It doesn’t stop there though!  Add them to a list and make sure you engage with your potential customer.  Just following them is not enough of a reason for them to do business with you!  Build relationships!

3.  Are they a great person to be in contact with?

There are some people who you just know are going to be influential to be connected with.  For example, they may open opportunities for you, such as radio interviews or press articles.  Or they may have the same target market as you with a completely different offering, allowing you to partner with them.  Or they could be a supplier that could offer you great rates.  Or they could be very well connected in your local area and introduce you to the people you need to speak to.  Way up whether that person may just well bring great opportunity for you.

4.  Have you met them?

If you’ve met someone face-to-face, I would definitely recommend following them back and building the relationship further online.  Face-to-face definitely isn’t dead, just make sure you mix it up with online interaction.

The above are a few things I base my decisions on.  But the really important thing to stress here is that the interaction shouldn’t stop at you following them back!  You need to engage and respond to their tweets!

What do you base your decisions on when deciding who to follow back?