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Many would argue that Twitter is – hands down – the best social media platform to use to build a community around your brand. With Twitter’s real-time nature and fast-paced, conversational style, you are able to talk to, laugh with and answer the questions of multiple people nearly simultaneously.

Twitter is the social platform that I feel has the most transparency with regard to following and follower numbers, and specific user account connections. Simply clicking on a Twitter user’s handle from your tweet stream calls up at least a snapshot view of the user’s profile (varies by Twitter client). You are shown the Twitter user’s following and follower numbers, and with a couple clicks more, you can search through the list of Twitter users that follow that account and the users that account follows back.

It is because of this transparency – along with the massive power of Twitter if harnessed properly – that I find myself highly critical of the businesses that are stingy about following back. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that not following back a reasonable number of followers can give a cold, elitist impression and may actually hurt the bottom line.

Why is Following Back So Important?

Twitter is a conversation, and it takes 2 people to have a conversation. If you are on Twitter for your business, you have already realized the power of social media and how it contributes to your success. Don’t dampen your efforts by having an account that looks something like this:

Twitter-followers-following

Sure, you can still talk to people who don’t follow you and vice versa, but there’s a psychology involved with a follower/following ratio like the one above. And that psychology is not one that favors your business nor the value you place on your customers and community. First impressions go a long way. If a potential customer in your local market looks for your business on Twitter, he or she will be faced with your follower/following numbers before choosing whether or not to follow. If you don’t get the “follow” click at that time, your chance of ever receiving it greatly diminishes. Which also means that news and information about your business will not be appear in that potential customer’s tweet stream.

But I Don’t Want to Follow Everyone Back. How Do I Draw the Line?

No one should ever feel obligated to follow back every single Twitter account that follows them. But perhaps establishing some guidelines about what qualifies as an account you will follow back is a good way to approach this. Reasons to follow back might include: user location, the number of times that account has tweeted at you, the number of times that account has retweeted you, and if that account tweets about a good experience with your business. You also might try creating a few Twitter lists to manage your stream, segmented into groups like Customers, People Who Retweet Us and Other Local Businesses.

Along with building a community around your brand plus using Twitter as a channel for spreading company news and announcements, Twitter is one social media channel where sharing an update is incredibly easy. So, embrace the interest your brand’s Twitter followers have shown you, follow back those accounts that have proven to be your brand’s biggest ambassadors’ and reap the full rewards that going social with your business can bring.

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