following

Follow Me….Or Else!

on February 13, 2013

Anyone with a computer and passing knowledge of the internet knows social media is sweeping the world, changing our lives, and giving a voice to many who have been muzzled for far too long. This is a positive thing. We’re already living in the world of tomorrow and more connected than ever.

But…. There’s always a but.

There’s this new thing I’m seeing lately on Twitter. For the uninitiated, Twitter is a social media site that allows anyone with an account to air their thoughts, stories, news, and anything else in 140 characters or less. The glitch is that only the people who choose to “follow” you will see what you have to say. Since we all want to be heard, we need followers to hear us or what’s the point of tweeting at all? (The whole tree falls in the forest thing.)

I didn’t like Twitter for a long time, but eventually grew to enjoy it. You really have to figure out how to make it work for you. I cannot stay on the site all day and that means I rarely take part in active discussions. However, if there is breaking national or international news, I will log in as the details almost always show up there first.

I check in a few times during the day, if I think of it. Promote blogs and try to mention now and then about my newsletter contest and book up for preorder, but for me Twitter is not a promotional tool. It’s a place I go to find something interesting about the world or the publishing industry or just to laugh at someone’s funny observations. The tweets that flew during the blackout at the Super Bowl were the best part of the evening.

So here’s my but. The new trick seems to be to follow people only to get them to follow you back. And if they don’t follow you back within a few days, you unfollow them, as if that’s some punishment. You just cannot be expected to keep that ungrateful tweeter on your list if he/she isn’t going to return the favor.

Here’s why this bothers me. I follow people I think will say or share something I find interesting. If they don’t follow me back, that’s fine. If your stream is nothing but “Buy my book!” then I’m not following. I get enough ads on every other site, I’m not purposely going to follow someone to have more ads thrown my way. And that’s what those are—ADS.

To be fair, I do not want anyone to follow me unless they’re genuinely interested in what I have to say. Admittedly, I don’t say much, but I try. I retweet things I find pertinent. An open call for submissions, an article about the ever sweeping changes in publishing, or sharing word that a really good book is out now or on sale. Yes, that could be construed as an ad, but I gain no benefit from sharing the link. It’s not for me, it’s for the readers who might like the book. That, to me, is fair.

I’ve signed up for a service that alerts me every day to who followed me and unfollowed me in the last 24 hours. Many use this, I think, so they can go unfollow people who unfollow them. For me, I just wanted to see who was unfollowing me because my numbers were fluctuating so much. What it’s revealed has been enlightening.

If you’re following random people with the sole purpose of getting them to follow you and boost your numbers, that’s your right. But I don’t believe that’s how the site was intended, and I will not be taking part in that game. Have something interesting/funny/informative to say? Count me in. If you expect me to click FOLLOW out of obligation, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Are you on Twitter? Do you like social media? Has it gotten to be too much? What sites are your favorites and have you found any new ones lately? (I know MySpace is back, but I just cannot handle one more site.) As a reader, do you use social media to find new authors and books?