5 reasons why I wouldn't touch Autofollow with a bargepole
To autofollow or not to autofollow? That is the question. Autofollow is the much adored and equally loathed trend for your Twitter account that many people are currently using. But the question I’m asking is, are you using it for your business, and what are you getting from it? From the title, I’m guessing you’ve realised my opinions on it already. That doesn’t mean to say I’m not open to suggestions. If you can stump me with a reason good enough to warrant using it in a business to business environment, then I’ll jump on hootsuite and set it up right now. However there are a few more reasons as to why I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. Five, in fact.
1.) We can all tell
Are you chuffed to bits with your 10,000 strong army of followers? To be fair, I would be too. In fact, when I get there I may even invest in a commemorative badge. But unfortunately – if you’re not a national brand or franchise, charity cause or celebrity/entrepreneur, your following immediately looks a little suspect. Especially in the world of B2B. If you stumble across ‘Thatcham plugs & Shower Curtains’, with 200 tweets and 8000 followers – chances are you are going to question the validity of all those ‘fans’. In fact, there is a moment where my brain sighs and says ‘yup, it’s a bad case of autofollow.’ This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is certainly not giving off the perception of popularity you’d like either. I’d much rather do business with someone who has a small amount of followers, who avidly listens and communicates with their fans.
2.) These aren’t my friends…
There are numerous autofollow packages you can acquire, from standard ones which only follow back people who have followed you, to automated packages that seek out other accounts with certain traits and defining features that have you have specified. However, these often produce completely random and irrelevant new contacts… by the thousand. Not only this, but every twitterbot, spam site and machine that follows you will get a follow back too! So any news from those few relevant contacts that you have on Twitter will quickly get lost in the swamp of irrelevant tweets and spam – making your twitter feed a lot less productive than you’d hoped.
3.) Even Twitter doesn’t like autofollow
Twitter does not welcome Autofollow into its policies any more than myself. In fact, it’s proving to be a great way of getting your account suspended. Twitter has defined that it is okay to use Autofollow only in the ‘follow me, follow back’ sense – but in any scenario where your autofollow guarantees you thousands of followers, or cherrypicks their accounts based on specific traits, then Twitter reserves the right to shut down your account. Twitter does not support the majority of Autofollow platforms and buy-in followers – and 10,000 followers are wasted if you have no account to contact them on.
4.) It’s just not productive
When I go through my list of followers each week, I like to humbly pat myself on the back for each new one I get, check who it is and see if I’d like to follow back and whether I think they will be a useful business contact or potential lead in the future. I like to know who I am following and who is following me so I can be proactive and write targeted and relevant tweets to my chosen audience. You will gain far more success from a qualitative list of followers in which relationships have the chance to flourish – than a quantitative list that produces a stream of irrelevant links and information. Of course, the ‘follow everyone approach and somebody will bite’ approach can work – but only rarely and randomly – unless you are a B2C business. It is very much like dropping a needle in a haystack and expecting strangers 1.) to yell about finding it, and 2.) to care enough about looking in the first place.
5.) Do you really need them?
Ask yourself. Are you any better off? Do you go to sleep at night with the wishes of 10,000 people all wanting to do business with you in the morning? What are you getting out of it? If the answer is purely ‘I look good’, then maybe you should resort back to your quality community again. Of course, for different markets, different things are acceptable, and in the B2C world you are far more likely to flog a bottle of coca cola to a random victim of autofollow than you are a brand new accountancy and payroll scheme for a new business. I’m not saying it’s useless, but it’s not a good look in the world of business to business either. Social media is a realm based around smoke and mirrors already: but the only way to be truly successful with it is to build connections and network with your contacts. It’s called social networking for a reason – not social advertising (read here) and you need to get to know ‘em before you can expect uptake. If you're looking for help or advice regarding your Social Media, don't forget to subscribe to the blog for regular updates and tips on Social Media, branding and design, and the world wide web. We're also on Facebook and Twitter too!