Counterpoint: Why I WILL Follow you Back, by Debba Haupert

[Editor's note: Last week I posted about why I don't follow back everyone who follows me on Twitter. Debba, a.k.a. @Girlfriendology is here to share the other side. Debba has built online followings in the tens of thousands on Twitter and Facebook (see how here), so she really knows what she's talking about!]

As founder/manager of an online community for women (Girlfriendology.com with 21k+ Twitter followers – @Girlfriendology), I take a mixed, and somewhat unique, Twitter follower strategy. I also don’t want some people to take this personally, but I intentionally stick to my brand of being ‘female’ and ‘friendly.’ Friendly to me means “I want to be in conversation with you;” so on Twitter, I’ll follow you back.

Going a step further, I am focused on female followers/followees. I typically follow back the females who follow me. I do look through my following list frequently which is somewhat time-consuming – but always interesting and I often find and reach out to women and companies I’d like to learn more about, interview on my BlogTalkRadio show or ask to contribute a guest blog on Girlfriendology.

I intentionally and diligently try to keep my followers female-oriented so I block most men (generally aside from friends, influencers or representatives of companies with whom I’d love to work). I also spend time (which to me is also very limited), but I think it is worthwhile to also block spam accounts. So, when a company asks me how many Twitter followers I have, I know they could look at my followers and see that it is a pretty pure list of primarily women. (Companies come to me to reach female potential consumers and that is what I want them to find when they look at my followers.)

And, because I focus on females and try to avoid spammers, I do not auto-follow.

I proactively follow women especially those who I believe might be interested in Girlfriendology - they are bloggers, moms, PR and Brand experts, women who tweet about friends/friendship (sometimes even ‘shoes’!) and some are personal friends. I would like to grow my Twitter followers and believe it is worth the time I have to invest in keeping the list growing and relatively pure. Admittedly I’m sure some spam accounts are in there and possibly some businesses that might not be viable or strategic partners, but overall, I believe it’s a list I can own up to.

Admittedly, I do this to build exposure to my brand (of Girlfriendology) as well as, again admittedly, impress potential advertisers. I love that 21k+ Twitter followers can DM me if they’d like. (Yes, some DM me to ask me to RT their info or join the Mafia, but those are actually very rare.) I believe it shows my followers that I want to be able to have a conversation with them – I’m not just talking, but I’m listening to them as well.

Yes, it is time consuming to manage a large Twitter following but I’ve made some amazing connections with the women that I followed back on Twitter. One follower just gave me a great idea for a conference I’m speaking at. Others have DM’d me with ideas for guest blogs, interviews and blog post content. Many of my Twitter followers have RT’d me, followed Girlfriendology over to Facebook and, to be honest, have made my day just by saying something that inspired me.

So, to each his own Twitter strategy, right? I’m just glad we have options on how we manage access to this amazing community. Keep up the good work Phil! Thanks for letting me voice my opinion.

Debba Haupert, Girlfriendology.com

Why I’m not going to follow you back (It’s not personal)

[A little off topic, but this is something that's been on my mind lately.]

I’m an avid Twitter user. As such, I know that many people follow folk on Twitter in the hope – sometimes the expectation – that the followee will follow back; it’s a fast and easy way to boost your follower count (for whatever reasons that makes these people happy).

Sometimes, said people will then unfollow in a huff a little later, as if the recipient of their follow has been somehow unspeakably rude by not returning their compliment by following back.

I don’t get it.

Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps I am unspeakably rude (I’m sure I am, on occasion. Probably accidentally. Probably :-) ).

But I won’t follow you back just because you are now following me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled, thrilled, that you seem to want to listen to some of the things I write about. You’re more than welcome; I hope I continue to keep things interesting enough for you to stick around. I have an ego and I am flattered, believe me.

But following me is not a social contract. As far as I’m concerned, there is no moral imperative to follow back (again, perhaps that’s my innate rudeness; you tell me). Twitter is not LinkedIn or Facebook, where relationships are reciprocal. Twitter is much more like a blog: the followed write; the followers read. We have conversations. Your subscribing to my blog doesn’t create an obligation for me to subscribe to yours; that would be silly. I don’t see why some people think Twitter should be different.

I do use Twitter as a conversational medium – it’s fabulous for that. It’s what I use it for most. But we don’t have to be follower and followee for that.

The thing is, my attention is limited. I need to focus it on clients, prospects, industry news and the non-work stuff that floats my boat. So I am very, very discriminatory (in that, I make informed choices) about whom I follow, just as I choose carefully which blogs to subscribe to. There’s more than enough noise in my Twitter stream as it is with the few people I do give my attention to; I am therefore very careful about whom I add. I also don’t unfollow very much, precisely because I take care about the people I add in the first place. I’m not saying I’m a guru or super special and that if I follow your Twitter stream then somehow you are extra blessed; I’m just saying that when I do follow it’s interesting enough for me to keep up with. That’s it. Nothing more.

Now, this may come across as arrogant, conceited or pompous (I’ve been called worse!). But it really reflects on there being only 24 hours in the day and if I’m following you I want to give you my attention – else why bother?

So it isn’t personal. It’s pragmatic. But if you’re following me in the hope I’ll follow back, please don’t. Go follow Lady Gaga or a politician or your favorite nationally-ranked sports club, they seem to follow back more than most. Grow your follower count that way, not that I understand why that’s important or necessary.

But that’s my 2c. Comment below if you auto-follow back; I’d welcome your perspective. Heck, I’ll even give a guest post slot to someone with the opposite point of view.

What do you think? Chime in!

Update: Read the counterpoint in this guest post by successful online community-builder, Debba Haupert.

Three Tips for Stellar Real-Time Customer Service via Twitter

At FeedBlitz we try to excel at customer service – see my favorites feed. We use these techniques daily (just like we do the Six Twitter Sales Tips) to make sure our clients get the help they need when they need it. Field tested, customer approved!

1. Monitor Your Brand with Twitter Search

What you get: Real-time intelligence on customer, product and brand issues.

How to get it:

  1. Tune a search query using Twitter’s real-time search at http://search.twitter.com/
  2. Plug the search query into your favorite Twitter client.
  3. Watch for the conversations and mentions.

2. Engage with readers, customers and clients

What you get: The ability to make unhappy clients happy and to stop small problems becoming larger crises.

How to get it:

  1. Directly @reply the author of the tweet
  2. Be polite e.g. “sorry to hear that, here’s what you need to do”
  3. Solve the problem as quickly as possible (d’oh, right?)
  4. Don’t be afraid to take the conversation off-Twitter

The last point is important for several reasons.

Firstly, some problems aren’t easily solved in a couple of 140 characters or less; email can be a much better venue for problems that aren’t readily solved over Twitter. It’s OK to ask someone to contact support at yourdomain dot com, or to ask for a follow to use DMs instead (follow them first!).

Secondly, if someone’s reached for Twitter first instead of emailing you directly, it might already be too late. Don’t start a spat in public if you can avoid it; if you can get someone who’s unhappy offline where you can address their issues that can really work out well. BUT … do follow up in public where possible, even if it’s to gracefully say “I’m sorry we couldn’t solve your problem in the end.” More often than not your potentially hostile client will say “thanks for trying” and the crisis is averted.

3. Follow up!

What you get: Closure and chance to create a fan.

How to get it: Wrap up the interactions with a “Glad we could help” or “Thank You” tweet. Ask if you can help more. Basic stuff, but still incredibly effective.

Key Resource: Knowledge Base / FAQs

For common questions it’s so much faster, easier and effective to tweet a link to the relevant article online. For traditional bloggers, this might be a link to your most popular posts, or your recipe database, or your blogroll.

Case Study – From “Hate” to “Fan” in Four Hours Flat!

Let’s take a look at how this played out in real life; this was a set of interactions from October 6th, 2010.

Here’s where we started. Yikes!

Hello feedblitz: I hate you right now.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

I engaged with the user, got them going, and, four hours later, was rewarded with this:

@phollows ok. figured it all out! i thank you for your personal care and attention to detail! feeblitz, i’m now a fan :) less than a minute ago via web

And now Mani’s “fan” tweet is in my real-time testimonials feed, helping our sales efforts.

Good luck with your efforts! By the way, if you liked this post, click here to read my related post on using Twitter for sales and revenue generation.

Five Steps to a Killer Viral Tweet: TAR, Tag and Test!

Earlier this week I wrote a post on Google Instant that went viral on Twitter via a retweet from “A-list” blogger Robert Scoble, aka @scobleizer, to his 138k+ followers. Instead of being retweeted 5-10 times (my typical average), that post has currently reached over 100 retweets and hundreds of thousand of potential readers, blowing away my previous best of 23 retweets (so far) for my six Twitter sales tips post (posted last week).

So, here are the lessons I learned in getting that coverage; lessons that you can put into practice yourself.

1) Write great content with broad potential appeal

Obvious, but nobody’s going to retweet diddly if your post isn’t any good to them or their followers. I thought that the Google Insight post was a good one, but don’t expect every post you write to be a home run. It won’t be. But without the basic of a good article with broad appeal, nothing is going to happen. Keep it short and to the point.

2) TAR your post

Your post should be TARred:

T – Timely
A – Actionable
R – Relevant

You need all three to have the best chance of going viral, which “SEO: Three Things …” was.

  1. Google Insight had been launched that day, so it was timely.
  2. It was actionable, containing three four easy steps any blogger could take right then.
  3. All of which made it relevant – stuff that almost any blogger could do, so it had broad appeal.

Any one of these will be good enough for your core audience. Two will get you out of the box somewhat (that was my “6 twitter sales tips” post – it was actionable and relevant, but not timely as such). Get all three, and your odds of viral break-out are much improved.

3) Write a catchy headline

140 characters isn’t much (although it’s more than is effective in an email subject line). Try and keep your headline short and punchy – 65 characters is a good target.

  • If it is a “how-to” (which any actionable post can be), put the number of steps in the title.
  • I added a sense of urgency by capitalizing “NOW” (but don’t over do caps, else you only come across as spammy or shouting) – that worked, and added to the timeliness.
  • Finally, I made sure “Google Instant” was in the subject, emphasizing its relevance.  So both the post and its headline were covered in TAR. Try and do that for your next killer tweet or blog post!

4) Tag and Test

Once you’re good to go, add a tag or two. Why? Because power users – the folks you need to get the viral ball rolling – are looking for search terms. Tags will get into their search results, where (with any luck) your TARred headline will get them to click through.

For the Google Insight tweet the tag pair that worked was #seo and #googleinsight – I saw a couple of tweets from folks I follow with many followers use #googlenisight, and I added #seo because that was what the post was about. I think it was the combination of these two that got Scoble’s attention, and the rest is history.

But here’s the thing. You may have the world’s greatest tweet and STILL get nowhere. I first tweeted “SEO” without tags, got nothing. I tweeted it again with a tag for a community I’m engaged with; nothing again.  It was the third time when I decided to go for the broad TAR tags that worked.  So test a little if you don’t get picked up – but don’t go overboard. Overly tweeting the same old stuff will surely aggravate your core Twitter audience – your followers – as you vainly trawl for that secret viral moment.

Give yourself three strikes, then you’re out. And save this for your best posts; don’t try it every time.

5) @Reply with Relevance

If you’re following folks and they’re writing about the topic (and they are, right, because you’re being timely), reply to them with a comment and a link to your post. My post was included in a Google Insight wrap up because I replied to a tweet from @leeodden with a link to my piece a day later. So keep plugging away as long as your post is still covered in TAR.

One Last Thing … Bonus Advice!

Be ready for when you go viral

Make sure you have your sharing and subscribing links / icons up!

Don’t be too disappointed once it’s over

At the end of the day, I gained maybe 30 extra Twitter followers from the experience – up by about 25 from a typical day, so 5x better than usual, but despite the thousands of extra views it wasn’t that many. So don’t be too upset if you don’t get a tidal wave of new subscribers or followers…

Rinse and Repeat

… because what you do have now is greater awareness about you and your site within a broader audience.  If you plug away, and keep writing timely, actionable content, they’ll be back. More will stay.

Which is what I’m doing now!  Putting it into practice. Good luck … and if these tips help you go viral, please give us a little link love when you do!

6 Sales Tips for Growing Revenues With Twitter

Making more money – who doesn’t want that? If you’re a professional, service company, or small business, Twitter may be the most under-used tool in your sales armory.

Here are 6 field-tested tips for how you can shorten the sales cycle and grow revenues faster using Twitter creatively. We use them all here at FeedBlitz – they work!

1. Lead Identification and Prospecting

Tweets are people shouting from the rooftops, in public, about what they’re doing. The trick is to find the signal in the noise. So if you tune your Twitter searches properly (and you’ll need a good Twitter client (I use TweetDeck) for this), you can quickly identify people talking about your industry, you, or your competition.titors.

Twitter search is real-time, and so what you end up with is a live stream of people talking about problems you can solve with your business. It’s free lead generation and as timely as you can get it – right when the prospect is articulating a need you can address. It’s the perfect time for you to introduce yourself.

2. Engagement (and When to Stop)

So since you’re unlikely to be part of the initial conversation, be sensitive here. If it looks like there may be an opportunity, qualify the prospect by looking at their profile, follower count etc. If they seem to fit with your core criteria send exactly one tweet, something like: “FYI, saw your tweet, this might be of interest” and in that tweet link to a page / URL that describes how your solution is relevant. Your helpful message goes directly to the right person at exactly the right time.

And then?

Well … and then: do nothing. SHUT UP. Anything more than a single tweet with a relevant resource is too much. It’s a very short step from relevant interruption to spam. Don’t do it.

If your prospect has an interest they may thank you and you can follow up with a tweet offering further help etc. But if they don’t, move on (unless they re-identify themselves later, in which case you can remind them that you exist and send an appropriate resource).

There is a downside here. Very, very occasionally your prospect will get all angry about your talking to them. If you do tweet back, apologize for interrupting with something that you thought was relevant and then SHUT UP. Usually I just say nothing. Experience has shown that engaging with someone like this, even though the content is relevant and they’re speaking in public, is usually an express ride to troll-town (as in, don’t feed them). Self-righteousness is immune to logic, and you’re better off leaving well alone.

So if things work out you can now chat with the prospect (again, only if they tweet back positively) and you’re on the road to converting them.

3. Build Your Community

Meanwhile, you need to build your online community and Twitter stream so that when your prospect looks to see who you are there’s plenty of history to see. Keep business accounts focused on business (even if you’re using personal branding, like I do, to be more approachable). Stay professional (I’ve lost my cool occasionally on Twitter – always regretted it). Engage your customers and partners there too, so that each tweet isn’t just a business announcement.

Also, let your customers know you’re on Twitter. Service them there. Retweet compliments, and don’t forget to thank them for their kinds words too. Even if your community is small, if they’re positive and vocal it counts for an awful lot.

4. Working with Customer Communities

From individual prospecting to groups: If you see a hashtag in a tweet (e.g. #savvyblogging) research that tag. You may well find a community that has related interests, needs, and fustrations. If you can convert one or two of these, you have a great chance to convert many more. You can engage via the single lead approach here to be sure, but you can also get involved as a “trusted advisor” in more general discussions and become a part of that community too. Go to tweetups, attend events. Consider sponsorships. Become an insider and reduce the perceived risk of doing business with you. Twitter is great for finding these crowds (or Seth Godin’s “tribes”) that you can work with.

Plus .. it’s also fun to meet new people from new backgrounds! Truly, I know I’m a better person thanks to the people and communities I’ve found and worked with this way.

5. Building Partnerships, Allies and Testimonials

Assuming your business delivers you will get great feedback, build up your Twitter testimonials (or is that “twestimonials”?) Anyway, favorite the tweets from your fans (as long as they’re relevant) and bookmark your favorites RSS feed. To find you favorites feed, go to twitter.com. Once there, go to your favorites, and from the RSS options your browser gives you choose your favorites feed. Bookmark the feed’s URL.

Why? Because, using it this way, your favorites feed is, in effect, 20 testimonials from real people, unedited, updated in real time, all in 140 characters or less! Does it work? You bet. Here’s mine:

http://twitter.com/favorites/795606.rss

It’s a great resource for when people ask about what it’s like to work with you. Tweet back “Don’t take my word for it, see this…” and let your fans do the convincing for you. Awesome!

6. The power of the DM and 360 Degree Availability

Don’t auto-follow everyone how mentions you, your company or industry. It’s a waste of your time, IMHO. There’s no qualification there and you’ll be swamped.

But do follow people you’re working with (and the people they use to help them). Invite them to DM (direct message) you. Exchange emails, phone #s for longer, more in-depth conversations. The more available you are the better you will be perceived and the more likely you are to seal the deal.

Twitter is a great Revenue Building Tool

Sales is a full contact sport. Twitter can help you find prospects, convert them to leads, close the deal and build your marketing resources for the next cycle.

Happy hunting!

Twitter reblogging re-enabled

When FeedBlitz improved our Twitter integration last year the subscription form was simplified to only include the direct message version of the integration. The publisher version was promised back “shortly” and now that commitment has been fulfilled, but I will confess that 11 months is a longer “shortly” than we had in mind at the time.

Anyway, it seems to be Twitter week here at FeedBlitz, and so I’m happy to say that the wait
is over and newsletter publishers can enable (and disable) automatic reblogging of their updates to their Twitter timelines at Newsletters / Mailings / Twitter. Look for the little bird icon!

Add Customization to Your Twitter RSS Feeds

Twitter’s RSS feeds aren’t very exciting. And for real-time messaging, not so useful. As a result, Twitter’s RSS feeds have been somewhat neglected by the community at large, and that represents an opportunity that’s going begging.

Twitter’s RSS feeds can be much more useful when you make them a little smarter and work them harder as an adjunct to your blog and social media marketing strategy. And it doesn’t take much effort to set up, and next to none once you’re up and running.

Firstly, let’s take your basic Twitter feed for your tweets (here’s my twitter page http://twitter.com/phollows and here’s the RSS feed for it: http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/795606.rss). In the RSS the posts and the titles are the same – plain text, no links, no branding, just the unadorned Tweet. Dull, dull, dull.

Running your Twitter feed through FeedBlitz’s RSS services, however, makes your Twitter feed more sociable. Go to FeedBlitz.com, RSS / New and enter the URL for your Twitter tweets home page (it’s http://twitter.com/ and then your Twitter ID (without the @), so mine is http://twitter.com/phollows ). The page and feed are public, no need to add authentication here.

FeedBlitz will find your feeds – pick the one for your Tweets. FeedBlitz will suggest a feed path, I changed mine to be “twitter/phollows” – so my newly blitzed Twitter status feed is now http://feeds.feedblitz.com/twitter/phollows

If you visit my “blitzed” Twitter feed, you’ll see that the improvements are:

  1. Links in the posts are, well, actually links.
  2. Each post has an email, rss and “tweet this” icon.
  3. The landing page is browser friendly and also good for SEO.
  4. There’s a mobile friendly version too at http://m.feedblitz.com/twitter/phollows

Well, ok, that’s heaps better, even if used as is, but what can you do with it? Bear in mind that the same approach can be applied to your other feeds at Twitter, and also to the RSS results of Twitter’s real-time search. Being creative, there’s an awful lot you can do with this as it turns out.

For example, you can:

  1. Add your Twitter feed to your blog or site’s RSS autodiscovery links to others can subscribe without having to track down your Twitter page.

  2. Send your Tweets to yourself via email – and you get a searchable backup straight to your inbox.
  3. Integrate your tweets into your main RSS feed using a FeedBlitz “splice” (RSS / Splices) or a service like Yahoo Pipes, exposing your tweets to a wider audience that might not “get” Twitter. And remember, since the links in the Blitzed feed are live, the search engines can find your tweets.
  4. Offer email subscriptions to your feeds in digest form (you can brand the browser friendly and mobile pages as well).
  5. Set up real-time ego or competitor or industry searches on Twitter, run the RSS through FeedBlitz, convert to email, and send your colleagues a daily digest (or faster depending on the schedule you choose) of industry news.
  6. Convert your private timeline to be a public, branded, tracked RSS feed. The feed URL is always http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.rss no matter what your Twitter ID, but it’s private, so you need to authenticate by providing your Twitter username and password. Once done, your new Blitzed version is public, and (if you want), anyone can see the conversations you’re engaged in and whom you’re following. Offer a branded version, get the widget (RSS Promote), convert to email – you get the idea.
  7. Let’s not forget reporting and feed metrics! Once you have your branded Twitter RSS and email up and running you can use FeedBlitz’s RSS and email for metrics on who’s using your content, how they’re accessing it and what they’re reading.

And the real kicker? You can do this with ANY RSS feed, not just Twitter’s.

Make the most of your social media investments. Beef up your feeds with FeedBlitz!

Twitter Improvements

For those of you using FeedBlitz and Twitter, we’ve made a few key changes to the way we handle Twitter – and it’s become simpler to sign up and easier to manage once you do. As one of the first services to integrate Twitter into our capabilities, we now have a lot of experience to apply to this particular mashup.

For starters, where there used to be two different versions of Twitter on the subscription form, there’s now just one, called simply “Twitter.” This option sends tweets to you using the “direct message” functionality of Twitter, and does not update any followers you may have. So there’s no risk of updating all your followers with all your subscriptions, which has been an issue for some subscribers in the past.

The option to update your followers has been temporarily hidden – it was (is) a tool to allow bloggers to automatically micro blog (or re-blog) their content to Twitter without having to fret about formatting etc. This option was confusing to subscribers, but since it’s useful it will shortly be making an appearance (or perhaps a reappearance) in publishers’ Newsletter Centers. The functionality will still work great for those currently using it; it’s simply no longer on the subscription form.

Finally, unsubscribing from our Twitter options could be a challenge, especially for those who elected not to associate their Twitter IDs with an email address that they could later use to log in to FeedBlitz with. Problem solved! The support page now has links to FeedBlitz login forms that let you log in to FeedBlitz using your Twitter credentials instead of an email address, and from there gives you an automatically generated subscription center for all your updates that generate tweets. Once in, a couple of clicks lets you suspend or re-enable a Twitter subscription, making unsubscribing from your FeedBlitz generated Twitter updates a snap.

Tweet on!

Feature Update: More Twitter!

We have just introduced an additional Twitter option and made some key wording changes to the existing FeedBlitz Twitter service. Basically, there are now two versions of the Twitter service, which appear at subscription time for premium FeedBlitz publishers:

  1. Twitter (your timeline)the original service, so your Twitter followers see the updates as if you had posted them yourself;
  2. Twitter (direct to you) – you alone get the update.

What does this mean? Basically, if you want to “microblog” with Twitter, i.e. get your posts onto your subscribers’ mobile phones, subscribe to your blog with your Twitter account using option (1). Updates are posted to your public account timeline, all your followers on Twitter will get them too.

If you simply want your subscriptions (and you can of course have as many as you like) on your Twitter-supported device, choose option (2). FeedBlitz will send you a Twitter Direct message, and none of your followers need know about your personal obsessions and persuasions.

Both forms work the same way. FeedBlitz uses your Twitter ID and password to validate your account information. You can also pause, delete or preview your subscription from feedblitz.com web site as well, provided that you have linked your Twitter identity to your email address.

Feature update: how to stop Twitter updates

Lots of people have been trying out our Twitter integration, but some have been struggling to unsubscribe from Twitter updates from FeedBlitz. Twitter updates are so small there’s no room for unsubscribe links in the message. So instead, to change what is sent or unsubscribe, you have three choices:

  1. Stop following the relevant friend completely, or
  2. Update the FeedBlitz subscription to use tags to only send certain articles to Twitter, or
  3. Tell FeedBlitz to cut it out, already, and stop the subscription.

For (2) and (3) you need to use the FeedBlitz web site to manage your Twitter updates:

  1. Log in to FeedBlitz with your email address (if you only have a Twitter subscription with us you’ll have to register).
  2. Go to your user profile and fill in your Twitter details there to link your email and Twitter accounts.
  3. Go to your subscriptions at www.feedbliitz.com/feeds, scroll down to the Twitter section and pause / delete the whole thing, or modify the tag filters.

Easy really. Just not particularly inutuive … if anyone has any better ideas given the limitations of the medium let us know.