May 28, 2012

What is the Unfollow Protocol When It Comes to Business and Social Media?

Please welcome back guest blogger Amanda DiSilvestro! Amanda is a writer on topics ranging from social media to phone systems and has previously blogged for Likeable on the topic of why social media goes wrong for businesses. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including business credit cards to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading business directory,
Many people think of social media marketing and they think about growing their followers and friends to help create a huge community of people. The more people following your social media accounts the better for your business—more people are seeing your content, more people have the opportunity to share your content, and you can feel free to mention this number to potential customers or investors interested in your company. As with most aspects of business, growth seems to be the ultimate goal when it comes to social media.

While I am certainly a proponent of growing a social media community, it was recently that I began to wonder about the opposite side of the spectrum. I got an email in my inbox letting me know that someone had followed me on Twitter. I went to check out the company’s Twitter page only to find that they were no longer following me. In fact, I probably would not have even noticed that this company proceeded to unfollow me except I wanted to send a Direct Message, and Twitter wouldn’t allow it. This led me to wonder: What is the protocol when it comes to unfollowing or unfriending those in your social media community?

How to Tell When Your Follow is Not Reciprocated

If you are like me and you just now noticed that you have a couple of quick follow/unfollow-happy people coming into contact with your account, you may wonder when else this occurred. As a company, you want to be connecting with followers who are interested in your company and who could potentially benefit from a mutual friendship or follow.

One of my favorite social media tools is SocialBro, now Audiense, and this tool has an option to see where your follows are reciprocated or not reciprocated on Twitter and Facebook. The tool is completely free and it has many features that you can read about in an article I wrote for Social Media Today. Below is the feature that allows a user to see who is not a reciprocated friend on Twitter:

As you can see, all you have to do is select “friends who don’t reciprocate” on the left-hand side to get your list. You then have the option of checking the box and unfollowing anyone you wish.

Once you have an idea of who doesn’t seem to care about your tweets or your Facebook shares any longer, it’s time to consider when an unfollow is warranted and when it is not.

When an Unfollow is Not Warranted

It first makes sense to look at why someone may want to follow and then unfollow you within a matter of hours. This experience begins the list of instances when an unfollow is not warranted:

  • When you just want a follower – This is likely what happened to me earlier last week. By following an account, a notification will pop up in that person’s or company’s email inbox. This allows the company or the person doing the following to gain some visibility and a potential follower, but they have absolutely zero accountability if they do an immediate unfollow. If you’re a company and you think that a quick follow and then unfollow is a good way to get followers, think again. This is never an appropriate way to leverage social media for your business. You want to build a community of honest followers and honest friends. Spend time linking to your Twitter account through guest posting opportunities and utilizing Facebook sharing icons on all of your pages. This will help your niche find your accounts without the unfollow-follow dance.
  • The follower has nothing to do with your company – Many times a company will notice that they are following someone that appears to have no use for the goods or services the company offers. Although this may seem like a good time to unfollow, you want to keep these people in your community. They could very well refer your company or have a need for you in the future.
  • Those that offer information that is of interest to your company – There is absolutely no reason to unfollow or unfriend another company in your industry if they are providing you with valuable information. For example, Mashable is a company that is not reciprocating my follow, but they provide me with useful information. After all, gaining knowledge should still be a huge part of social media even if you’re a company.

When an Unfollow is Warranted

When companies think about leveraging social marketing, it is common to get nervous about deliberately making the choice to lose a connection. However, there are certain instances where this can actually make a company look good:

  • Inactive accounts – Following inactive accounts will not help anyone, so an unfollow or an unfriend is perfectly OK in this situation. You can visit Think Digital First to learn about the many tools that will help you determine which accounts are inactive, or you can stick to using SocialBro.
  • Inappropriate accounts – No business wants to be connected to a company or a person displaying inappropriate messages. It is certainly OK for these types of people to follow you, but there is no reason to follow back.

How to Go about an Unfollow

Neal Wiser explained in an article that you should tell everyone you are going to unfollow why you are unfollowing them. While I think this is a great idea, I don’t think it is always practical. I think the best thing that you can do is try and establish a following policy right away and then make sure you are only following those that fit your policy. Make this policy clear on your company website. This will help ensure that you do not make anyone mad in the future.

Once you have a follow and friend policy set in place, you should not have to worry much about unfollowing and unfriending in the future. As long as you follow some of the tips discussed above, you should be able to always unfollow and unfriend only when it is warranted and beneficial to your business.

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Tags: Best Practices, Twitter

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