To follow or not to follow

Not long ago, I received a tweet on Twitter that mentioned my name along with several others from one of my “followers.” I’ll call him “Mr. X.”

It read: “If you’d like to know why your name is included, please read my post.”

I did read the post, which stated he had been following me, shouting out my name on a regular basis, and that if I didn’t reciprocate or follow him back, then he could no longer spend the time “recognizing” me, and would have to unfollow me.

Wow. I had no clue who this man was.

Twitter brings out the oddest behaviour in some people, and normally I would have ignored Mr. X, but he irked the hell out of me. He was an author and obviously felt he had been doing me some big favor by shouting out my name to the Twitterverse. He had close to 10,000 people following him, and I wasn’t one of them. Now he was setting a condition on whether he’d continue to follow me – a systematic elimination of sorts.

Hmm…what to do?

Firstly, I’d like to say, “I love Twitter.” As far as my author platform is concerned, I use it daily to convey snippets of news, see what others are up to, and make connections with people. Twitter and blogging are what connect me to the author community. Facebook is more of a social network, and I primarily echo what I’ve added to my blog on it.

Given how useful Twitter has been to me, I decided to write a note back to Mr. X. I’ve included a portion of it below.

Dear Mr. X,

… I understand your intentions, however, I am of a completely different mindset…it’s not as important to me to amass followers, as it is to know the people I’ve chosen to follow. I see Twitter as a microcosm of real life, and it does not impress me to have people shout out my name in a tweet if they don’t know me. It’s disingenuous, and represents the “blind following” mentality on Twitter that I do not subscribe to. If someone wants to mention me, then I expect they know something about me, have read my blog, or have had correspondence with me, otherwise an auto-generated tweet with my name does not provide me with any connection to the sender, and is a wasted effort as far as I’m concerned…

As in real life, I give my friendship to people unconditionally. My closest relationships are those that are reciprocal, but never tit for tat. That’s the same principal I apply to Twitter. I can only control how I behave on Twitter, so I choose to form bonds with those I follow. If others want to follow me back, that’s great, but “growing my kingdom” does not interest me. I don’t follow people blindly, and I don’t shout out about people I don’t know. If I mention you, you can be certain that it’s because I’ve taken the time to know something about you. If not, then I really don’t see the point… eden

Suffice it to say, I never did follow him. He sent back a note defending his actions and we’ve parted ways.

Will Mr. X continue to shout out the names of the 10,000 people he’s following, and will that equate to more book sales for him? I highly doubt it.

I may only follow 1000 people, but that’s all I can handle for now. Even in the virtual world, I don’t think you can rush “getting to know someone.”

* * * *

What is your relationship with Twitter, and do you think it’s a useful part of your author platform?



62 responses to “To follow or not to follow

  1. Pingback: Blogging at Black Ink, White Paper |

  2. How very odd. I haven’t had anything similar happen to me yet, but I fully support all the points you made in your letter to Mr. X. Twitter is useful for many things, but I too choose to use it to form relationships and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some really, really fabulous people because of it.

    • Lisa,

      Yes, there are some amazing connections to be made on Twitter, for personal and professional purposes. It’s not solely a business networking platform, and I’ve never been much for blind following. It takes time for me to know people, although this is sped up somewhat in the virtual world. Thanks for commenting Lisa,


  3. That was a fantastic blog post. Thank you for putting your experience up to share. I agree with you and also find some of the marketing strategies and techniques of some accounts very confronting. I hope you have a wonderful day.

  4. Great post – 100% I agree with your references to real life, I know people who ‘collect friends’ and others who invest in friendship. A large following seems like an opportunity but 20 friends telling their 20 friends will sell more books, were that the objective. I would exchange the good feeling of a friendly contact every time for a sale.

    • Hi Geoffauthor,

      I agree that each exchange needs to be genuine. I’d rather have 500 followers who are genuine than 10,000 who are not. I would bet my 500 will spread the word for me more easily than the ones who don’t really know or care about me. Thanks for commenting.


  5. The whole follow/unfollow thing has to feel organic. This sounds like it was a blackmail attempt but he had nothing with which to blackmail you. Emotional coercion isn’t the basis of a Twitter relationship. Emotional coercion is the basis for a family reunion.

    I’d like to grow my followers so I can let a bigger network know my books are coming out. However, I sees your point that 10,000 followers who don’t give a damn are a pointless ego delusion.

    Good letter, good post, Eden. Thanks.

    • “Emotional coercion is the basis for a family reunion.” LOL – I’m still laughing!

      You’re right that it’s a good idea to have followers to increase my network for news I’d like to share, however since I have no control over who follows me, I don’t pay too much attention to it. Once a week or so, I go over my followers and follow back the ones whom I want to, and it takes me some time to learn about them before I ever shout their names.

      After all, who does PR for a product unless they know something about it?

      still laughing 😉


  6. Twitter is such a fantastic tool for networking with other writers and such, however I dislike it when mass messages like that go out.

    My relationship with twitter has been beneficial. If not for twitter I would have never met my crit partner and some really awesome authors like yourself. All it takes is for a few ppl to ruin it for others.

    Thanks for sharing Eden!

    • Hi Layna, thanks for your comment. For the most part, I have had a great experience with Twitter. I don’t like mass messages either, just clogs up my feed with nonsense that is not helpful.


  7. This is one of the many, MANY reasons I dig Eden Baylee. She’s honest, forthright, personable, genuine and patient. Thanks for sharing this story, E.

  8. Eden, your post could not have come at a better time. I’ve recently had NUMEROUS issues with twitter lately and have found the actions of many to be highly unprofessional (and some to be downright creepy). I have been so unhappy with some of the response I’ve gotten from a lot of followers, I have actually found myself taking more and more time away from twitter. Which is sad. There is a core group of supporters that I have, that I love (yourself included) and I try to support them and interact with them as much as possible. But my recent experiences have definitely made me wonder – just how beneficial is twitter?

    As always, fantastic post and thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts!


    • Hi Lisa *waves* 🙂 So nice to see you here.
      I have missed you on Twitter, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve had so much trouble with it of late. Certainly, some days, I do wonder if it’s all helping. I think it has to some degree, but what that magic formula is – I don’t know.

      For friends like you, I know I will see you even if you’re not on Twitter. Those are the genuine relationships I cherish.


  9. I only do one follow Friday for the same reason. If I put a follow Friday for someone it is because I mean it for a good reason. There are people who spend Friday churning out lists and lists of @s and I just stop looking. Friday is the worst day on Twitter for that reason – I am very slowly chugging up to 2000 followers and keeping my followed down to around 1,300. I try and keep track of most people but it is tricky with that many. But I don’t do anything automated on twitter and so keeping numbers sensible is important.

    • I do #WW and #FF, and I may have to rethink it only because of the time factor. There are excellent people I want to recognize , and I think others should recognize them as well. I use these 2 techniques to shout out about them, their book, or an event they’re having. It’s really the only platform I use to do it, unless I’m interacting personally with them on their blogs.

      None of it is automated as I figure if I’m putting effort into doing it, I might as well make it worthwhile to the person I’m shouting out about.

      As a full-time author, I have more time than others to do the PR piece for myself and others, but it still can be overwhelming.

      Thanks Michele for your comment.


  10. Great post. It scares me a little to hear your story. There are certainly strange behaviors out there in twitterville. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Hi Tess, sorry to scare you. I wasn’t scared at all, and I’ve heard much worse.

      In my case, it was a difference of opinion – we parted ways as amicably as Twitter would allow.


  11. If someone’s following me, I might follow them back, if they meet the following conditions:

    1) They must be human.
    2) They must not be blatantly selling something.
    3) They must appear mildly interesting from my point of view.

    That said, I have to admit I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to tweets. If I like you, I’ll pay attention to your tweets. I’ve met a lot of nice people on Twitter, and it’s grown on me, even though I didn’t like it at first and I have little time for it, since my relationship with Facebook is so demanding. I don’t think it’s quite what people talk it up to be. If others are paying as much attention to my tweets as I am to theirs, then it’s not going to help me amass an army of fans. It’s a question of quality over quantity, and I know which one I prefer.

  12. I’ve been on Twitter for almost three years. I never looked at it as “only” a marketing tool — it was more networking and meeting other like-minded people because let’s face it, the writing life can be rather solitary. As a long-time Twit, it really irritates me when people forget the whole point of Twitter is SOCIAL INTERACTION. It’s not supposed to be a 24/7 Billy Mays infomercial. That being said, Twitter can be a total time suck and I’ve had to scale back. 😦

    Twitter has been invaluable to me in meeting new, fabulous people, making connections both business and personal and keeping me abreast of important developments in politics, business and the state of Kim Kardashian’s ass. But I have no compunction whatsoever in dropping or blocking your ass if you Tweet bogus links, nothing but re-tweets or other spam-like material. If you’re not interacting with other people, I’m not following you, either.I don’t see the point.

    All that aside, you were much nicer to this fucktard than I would have been, Eden.

    Love ya, baby. You did the right thing. And I believe you might have sparked another rant!


    • LOL netta! Yes, I’m much too nice for my own good sometimes, and I spent a good 1/2 hour composing my email to him. 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back…oh well.

      It’s worth it if it sparks another fabulous rant from you!


  13. Thanks Eden:

    Useful article. I am new to Twitter and somewhat new to social media. Following instructions I am bursting with pride that I went from 12 people I am following to 475 in one month. 250 are following me. I smile as I write this because at heart I don’t have a clue what that means. I love the little messages. Somehow I am thinking up five to ten things a day to say to people I don’t know. And I am beginning to look forward to my “twitter time” each day. If Mr. X had written me I would still be laughing. I would wonder why the heck he cared if I followed him or not. Don’t misunderstand. I can see the value of Twitter . Damn if the president of the United States does it — personally I am sure — the least I can do is think of something interesting to say each day and reach out to like minded people. My goal is to build a relationships with people whose books I like and will buy and I hope when mine are published be interested enough to consider buying mine. A lofty goal no doubt. My daughter asked me the other day “What to you say to people you don’t know?” My response. Darned if I know. But I am working on it.

  14. My finger is tired from all the scrolling to get to the end of the replies! If I get carpal finger or whatever it’s called, I’m blaming you. Great post. I find twitter unsettling in general for various reasons. Your post mentions one of them. But, then I don’t even like telephones, so there you have it.

    • LOL 🙂 You are too funny Larry! I don’t have a cell phone …and I don’t like phones either. I’d be happy to tie a string between 2 tin cans and talk to you!


  15. I’d agree that Twitter brings out some strange behavior in people (from what I’ve seen so far). I think some people misunderstand the most important part of Twitter—using it to build and maintain good relationships. It’s a delicate balance, but there’s no use in severing those relationships simply because you don’t interact enough with one specific person. I don’t use Twitter as a primary marketing tool, but it’s been very helpful in connecting me with people I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to meet.

    Nice post!

    • Hi Howard, agree with your point.

      I don’t sever if people don’t tweet or I don’t have much interaction with them. Like real life, there’s friends I don’t talk to for months, but we’re still friends. It’s the ones who piss me off consistently who are crossed off the list. Thankfully that seldom happens.

      Appreciate your comment. 😉


  16. At first it sounded like this guy was stalking you, then it sounded like he was trying to bully you, all of which tells you to get as far away from him as possible. Good on you for cutting him off.

    I still haven’t figured twitter out, does it take to much time, do I have the time to do it right, what is right? These are all questions I still haven’t found answers, too. Ah well, some day… maybe I will tweet.

  17. eden, I’m still learning how to use Twitter – and probably NOT at the very best time. My days are so long with many extra hours at the day job, I have a huge writing deadline, and then there’s life. Partner, home, friends. But I think you have the perfect understanding of it – it’s a connection. And it has to be more than just marketing and bullying – as Wally so correctly puts it.


    • Hi Kate,

      I immediately block bullies and stalkers. I may be nice, but I’m no fool. I have no time for people who are only on Twitter as a secondary dating service, or some other off-the-wall reason.

      It’s great to connect for the right reasons, and in my case – it’s about growing awareness for the indie community of writers, artists and filmmakers. That in itself is already a very wide net. Along the way, I enjoy talking shop and promoting myself and others in a way that is respectful to my followers.

      It’s all a learning experience for me, and for the most part, it’s been good.


  18. Wow, Eden, amazing–like you I only follow those I find interesting or who engage with me–Twitter is a giant cocktail party and I don’t feel like I’m under any obligation to hang out with someone who is annoying me… or trying to get my attention by making a spectacle. How rude. Good for you for being authentic.

    • Hehehe, thanks Patti. I’ve never been much for cocktail parties 😉 Much prefer one on one, so yes, Twitter can be a bit overwhelming at times.

      What a great way of putting it! Thx for your comment.


  19. Oh how I love your response, Eden. I detest the ‘like for like’ attitude. My time on Twitter is limited just lately and I will not spend it on idiots. I have noted people on Google+ adding me, I haven’t got a clue who they are. I do hope they do not expect me to follow them.

    Bloggers, Twitterers and Googlers (is that the correct term?), all have to win my trust before I follow them.

  20. For years I was at the technological cutting edge, but as writing began to consume more of my time, I left the computing work by the wayside. Now, however, Black Ink White Paper, Facebook and my website are returning me to that arena and Twitter is likely the next social network I’ll look into.

    I’ve always wondered if these phenomena would engender stalking and cult behavior. “Mr. X” seems to reflect the latter. I admire the way you put him in his place, not descending to his level. You could have gotten angry, but as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. once said, “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.” I much prefer your elegant approach.

    • Ha! Raymond, I love being called “elegant.” Perhaps I should add that to my tagline, though I’ve got too many “e” words already.

      I never thought I would like Twitter, but I do, and as with most things, I take the good from it.

      Great quote from Vonnegut too!


  21. Good article, and an eloquent burn upon the head of Mr. X. I haven’t had that type of experience, mostly the people who “follow” me – I check them out first and the moment I see some form of “I don’t follow you if you don’t follow me” nonsense in their profile, I ignore them. I refrain as much as I can from mentioning anyone who constantly tweets their own thing and uses Twitter as a low level, used-car salesman type of marketing. Everything I do on there is manual and I refuse to spend hours on that place “networking”. Quality not quantity. Although I do #FF and #WW with ppl I don’t connect with on an even basis – I do check their profile or blogs first – making sure they’re interactive and supportive of the Independent & entrepreneurial spirit.

  22. Pingback: Rants of a Random Nature « Word Webbing – Literary Home of Annetta Ribken

  23. Great post! I love that you are demonstrating your own advice by commenting on everyone’s comments directly. You clearly practice what you preach. Personally, I’m still trying to balance my time well enough to build meaningful relationships on Twitter (in spite of the day job, etc.). But I firmly believe the principle to making Twitter work is simple enough… It’s about other people. Not just about you. Mr. X may not realize it, but he’s making it all about him. Not much reason to stick around his account.

    • Hi Chippermuse, thanks for your thoughtful response, and I agree with you.

      Twitter is good for self promo, but it also needs to be used to recognize others. I believe at the core of it, Mr. X may think he’s doing this. We just differ on the “how.”


  24. Hi Eden, excellent article. I have only been using Twitter for four month but agree whole heartedly with what you say. I follow people l respect or am inspired by generally, l don’t follow back all of the people that follow me, l read about them first and read their latest tweets. l FF those l have a connection with, maybe 8 out of 280! Some of the tweets seem to be constant plugging, though of course l do the same! It’s a strange phenomenon, sometimes it works well and sometimes it’s worrying. I find myself looking for tweets from those l respect and scanning quickly through any others.

    • Hi Gemma,

      It was a slow start for me too, but I WW and FF, and on slow days, I recognize the works of people I admire. It’s a real learning process.
      Thanks for commenting,


  25. Although I have a fairly scary following, in the sense that it would be impossible to communicate directly with everyone each day, I’ll always take the time to communicate with people who @mention me… though it is a little difficult to find the time to initiate conversations now, apart from with people I’ve developed a closer relationship with.

    Follow Friday has become a bit of a nightmare, because I’m automatically added to so many lists of people, and I’m sure there are a few that get pissed off I don’t shout back – but if anyone mentions me singularly, I’ll always get back to them.

    I’m at the point where, if people get pissed off at me, that’s their problem. You can do the best you can and not please anyone, so just keep doing the best you can. 🙂

    • My dear Les, the way you conduct yourself on Twitter is a lesson everyone should learn. Yours is also a unique situation because you have MANY followers and broad appeal. I can understand the numerous mentions you would receive, and how impossible it’d be to return them all.

      I’ve been WW and FF for months for some people because I like their work, but it’s not always reciprocated. There could be a multitude of reasons, but does it stop me from mentioning them again? No.

      We should do things because we want to, not because we expect something in return. I don’t think you would disagree with me on this. 😉


  26. Eden, great post. I have under 400 followers and folks I follow on Twitter. Sometimes that seems like too many people. If I give a shout out or retweet, there is good reason for it. I don’t just do things by rote and I don’t follow someone just because they follow me. I too try to have relationships on Twitter. If it isn’t a relationship it is a news agency that I am following. They don’t tend to be real comfy, cozy to chat with. LOL!

    I dropped someone I didn’t know when I did a purge six or so months ago and he kept writing me wanting me to add him back to my “tweeps.” I told him no because I didn’t know him the first time after that I just deleted his messages. Like someone should really be concerned if I drop them. I am almost a “nobody.” (BTW, this is okay…I am not “out there” in the publishing world, I am still piddling with my manuscript and writing personal essays for my blog and a local story telling venue.

    Anyway, there is no need to have a huge posse. That is just ridiculous. Maybe it works for some but not for me. I will quit babbling now.

    Good job,


    • Ardee-ann! So great to see you here. You are definitely NOT a nobody. I think it’s good to build relationships even before you have a book out there to sell. Getting to know people first is important. The tough sell does not work in real life, and it won’t work on social networks either, especially Twitter, if anything, it alienates people.

      By being genuine about who you are now, you’re much more likely to have people interested in your work when you do have a book out. I know I will be looking forward to supporting you when that happens.


  27. Sweet Eden, Like Larry, this is like reading a book to get to the end so I can comment. The good thing is it’s because of you that so many are commenting. It’s also because of people like you that I do enjoy Twitter. I have another friend being harassed by someone because they didn’t reciprocate to a demand and it so stupid.

    I had two hundred followers before I even had a real clue to what Twitter was all about and now have around 1400 and I’m enjoying talking to anyone who wants to talk to me. I do have some favorites that I enjoy and try to give a boost to whether they do it for me or not. If someone follows me and I have even a slight interest in them then I usually follow back. Some go away but others turn out to be very interesting people. I see my true friends now that I’m back in Thailand and I can’t tweet on the same schedule as much of the world.

    Friend like you and others are always there to lend a hand or laugh at the dumb things I say and give me a lift when I’m “in a mood”. And I’m selling book because of these genuine friendships.

    Anybody messes with you tell them you have a bodyguard. He might be old but he’s mean, lol.

    You truly are one of my favorite people just because you are who you are!

    • Dannie, I’m not sure I can adore you any more than I do – you’re too lovely for words sometimes. First you’re my cheerleader, now you’re my bodyguard! Thank you for your sweet and kind words, and I agree that Twitter is such a nicer place because you’re in it. 😉


  28. You can only handle following 1000 people? Geezus, you’re doing a lot better than I am. I only follow around 10% of that.

    My advice is to follow out of interest, not because you expect people to follow you back.

  29. Great post Eden!

    I have a hard enough time keeping up with Twitter (for some reason the few people I follow are very active on there 😀 while I am … mostly not) so some kind of weird hostage taking like this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I’d definitely do what you did.

    Mostly I follow people I know from elsewhere and a few (very few) people I find genuinely interesting. Otherwise I’m still hanging out at FB and more these days at Google+ since I find that I have an easier time following the formats over at those two media sites.


    • Hi K.B.
      Some I follow are very active as well. You can create lists so you follow only a subset (though I don’t do this).

      I like the 140-character limit. I find that even though there is more to scroll through, the brief message is all I need form some people.

      Thanks for commenting.

  30. Interesting. I’ve not come across that before though I can understand why someone might think that way. Its a shame though, because that’s not what Twitter is for.
    Then again, I tend to use Facebook far more for geographically distant friends and family and Twitter more for finding people who share my interest in writing. Its a networking tool for me, though I hope my use will coax more of my friends onto the scene so I can talk to them there too. :p

    Cheeky though; certainly cheeky. If I shout out about something or ‘mention’ someone, its because I feel what they have to say should be shared (or its funny!). Not because I want someone do the same in return.

    • Ilendra, my sentiments exactly regarding the use of Twitter – if you want to mention someone, it should be done with no strings attached and with no expectations to have it reciprocated.

      Thanks for commenting.


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  32. Pingback: Your No Apologies Tour: What’s your Twitter ratio? | Chazz Writes

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