Don’t waste your social currency on Twitter

Twitter Social Currency

Stop wasting your social currency on Twitter.

One of the biggest peeves that I have are the people who you follow on Twitter who either don’t reciprocate or don’t respond to tweets. Now, I’m not talking about celebrities here – its rare to never you find one who will follow back. Instead, I’m referring to people who are in the digital marketing / SEO / social media space who take to Twitter to send out links to their content.

This past Friday I attended a search and social marketing conference here in Portland. Among the tracks were Social Media, Digital Evangelism, Search Engine Optimization (both advanced and basic) as well as Analytics. The speakers were good – very knowledgable and well practiced at presenting. I learned quite a bit and that was awesome. However, I was reminded that simply “knowing what to do” and “doing” are two totally different things when it comes to digital marketing.

Each speaker at the conference offered their Twitter handle on their deck, as well as throughout their presentation. Each asked for feedback and to “connect up.”

I thought to myself, “awesome!” Maybe I can network a bit and make some connections with these obviously smart people who happen to be interested in exactly the same things that I’m interested in!

So I followed and sent tweets to them – each of them, to congratulate them on their presentation, just how helpful it was, what I learned or, how great it was. Know how many responded?

Zero.

Not a single presenter at this conference responded. I thought, “ok well maybe tomorrow” I mean, after all, they just finished presenting (even though several started tweeting immediately, even during their fellow presenter’s presentations. Two days after? No. Three? Nada.

I’m going to offer this up right now, and you can choose to believe me or not - I am not an attention whore.

I am not throwing a tantrum that a presenter at a search conference didn’t acknowledge me. But, I do think its silly to present somewhere, where you are actively trying to promote your own thought leadership, not to mention your agency, and then when someone reaches out to you directly and specifically, ignore them. These were compliments I sent, not critique. A “job well done” if you will.

It got me to thinking about Twitter follows and the social currency that they provide. One of the few measures of authority that exist in social media are followers and likes (for Facebook). Someone with millions of followers is presumably more influential than someone with say, a thousand. And someone like me, with only 138 followers? I’m not even worth the time, right?

Are we being too lose with follows?

Everyone knows that the people who have a ton of followers aren’t necessarily smarter than the ones with few. A lot depends on when you got on Twitter. In the early days people were more liberal about following others. Twitter was more about a community back then. Now, Twitter is just about spamming links for the most part.

One of the reasons that my follower numbers are low is that I am selective about who I follow back. Rapidly gaining followers is a snap in the world of Tweet Adder where you can completely automate the process of growing your follower base into the thousands with no effort. However, when someone does follow me and they interact with me, I always respond to them back (unless, it is an obvious spam bot).

Isn’t social currency infinite?

Time and attention are things that are in finite supply for all of us. You can use tools to help you sort through the noise, but let’s face it, it is difficult to really find worthy content in a crowded Twitter feed. When you follow hundreds or thousands of people, you are bound to miss some really profound “just in time” morsel of information that can really help you solve a problem, be inspired, or whatever it is you use Twitter to find.

Depending on how you use Twitter, you might decide it isn’t worth it to trade the tweets for someone who doesn’t have the time of day to interact with you for someone who does. Not everyone who uses Twitter and is popular purposely ignores tweets, but those folks tend to have a follower list that is so large that it is unmanageable.

This is where I believe Twitter Lists come into play. They are a way to keep track of people who provide some information that is valuable, without the trade off of a follow. Follows should be, in my opinion, a way to establish a two-way relationship with another person on Twitter.

So, the next time you hear someone speak that you think may have something valuable to offer, consider adding them to a list first. Try to interact with them and see if they are open to dialogue. If so, by all means follow them. Reserve the real estate on your Twitter feed for people who actually want to be social!