Is engagement more important on Twitter?

by Chris Brogan

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Posted: 17 Feb 2010 01:30 AM PST

Warning: Twitter-specific post I told my gang over on Twitter that they should follow the legendary Tom Peters, author of several books that impacted my life. Some of them wrote back, “why should I? He doesn’t follow many people back.” The logic is this: if you want my attention, you have to make it a two way street. Only, there’s a flaw.

Following doesn’t equal engagement.

If you follow someone on Twitter, it simply means that the person has the permission/right to direct message you. It doesn’t mean necessarily that you’ll see every tweet the person sends.

I’ve been on both sides of the auto-follow fence. Do I follow everyone back because it’s polite? Do I not follow everyone back because then I get lots of DM spam? Currently (Feb 2010), I’m auto-following people back, because I got a wave of people saying, “I’m so glad you followed me. I appreciate the two-way street.”

But there’s the rub, isn’t it?

How I View Following Back

When I choose to follow, it’s because I grant you the permission to send me a direct message. I will not likely see your standard every day tweets. At over 110,000 followed, it’s a technical and mathematical impossibility.

So, when I follow you back, it means that I’ve given you one step up on the hurdle. But that’s not the whole game.


Engagement is what Many Seem to Value

When people said they wanted Tom Peters to follow them back, they were saying (most likely) that they wanted to know that Tom would engage with them. Know what the measure of engagement is?

@

That’s it. If your stream is full of @replies, then you’re more of the engaging type. Check out my twitter stream. It’s about 80% @replies on any given day. (Mind you, Robert Scoble says I’m doing Twitter wrong.).


However, Is ENGAGEMENT the Big Value?

Engagement, talking back and forth to you, is maybe what YOU value, because you want social media to be a place where you feel seen. And that’s the absolute beauty of social media tools, especially Twitter: they let us jump gates and connect to people who matter.

But what if Tom Peters’ Twitter stream is full of useful nuggets and links to really useful stuff. Is it any less valuable?

I visited CNN headquarters a few months ago and saw what they followed in their news streams. Believe me, they don’t care who follows them back on their news-only accounts. They valued the information they could use. The story’s a bit different if you ask Rick Sanchez, who is using Twitter amazingly.

But my point is: the information is more important in many cases.

So Ask Yourself the Goal

Ask yourself what you’re seeking in the people you follow. If it’s conversations, ask whether it’s the follow, or just the realization that if you’ve got something worth talking about that the person will reply back to you. It’s not like everyone can reply back all the time, but if we do it more than we don’t, that’s probably good, right?

Ask yourself what you value in your use of the tools, but then realize that you’re working from what YOU value, and it might not be the same for everyone. ( Guy Kawasaki reminds me of this every time he talks about Twitter.)

What say you?

Chris Brogan



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