IMG_7783If your mama always told you to be a leader, not a follower, she may have given you the wrong idea about social media. It’s not necessarily bad to follow accounts–or even to follow back accounts. Social media is designed for engagement, communication, fun, and an exchange of ideas. You can’t do that if you only hear your own ideas.

You may choose to set different standards for your personal accounts than you have for your professional accounts, but if you’re your own brand, you likely have social media accounts that are both.

You may notice that many social media pros follow a lot of accounts, while some superstar celebrities follow just a few accounts or even no one. No matter how famous they are, those kinds of accounts can come off as smug. I mean, everyone probably has a dozen people they should be following out of just obligation–siblings, parents, and the neighbors whose mailbox you backed into with your car.    

The rest of us also follow clients, in-laws, coworkers, and cousins because we care about them or at least to be polite and keep the peace.

But forget about the wild world of celebrity Twitter and Instagram accounts with their picture-perfect posts. Most of us are regular people trying to connect with other regular people. It doesn’t mean we’re not fabulous. It’s up to each of us to establish our own boundaries and guidelines. Here are some of mine about following back.

If I follow you, I don’t expect you to necessarily follow me back. If you do, great. I probably followed because I’m interested in what you have to say. But if you follow me to get me to follow back, and then you unfollow me, I will unfollow you. I have an app I use to find who has played this trick. I use it mostly for Twitter but have also connected it to Instagram and Facebook. I also check in on my accounts to see if there are trends in regard to what I post and whether there’s a correlation between gaining or losing followers.

I follow a lot of accounts back. When I don’t, it’s usually for one of the following reasons: 

  • I can’t tell if you’re real.
  • I can’t read your posts. (Maybe I don’t speak your language to understand what kinds of things you’re posting or you have a private account which requires me to request to follow.)
  • You have no “about” you.
  • You have a low following to follower ratio–indicating a high probability you unfollow accounts once they follow you back.
  • You tweet or share (or maybe even like) what I consider tasteless or offensive content.
  • Your content is not relevant to my interests. You may be a very nice person but like everyone, I have limited time and it takes time to scroll past tweets or posts about topics that I will never understand or make use of.

I may make exceptions, but if that’s my general thought process. It may change, but so will social media. How do you decide who to follow back?