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Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Follow, or Not to Follow?

Is it really even a question? (Insert bad Shakespearean follow-up joke of your choosing here)

I'm going to break from my routine to talk about something that may ruffle a few feathers in Twitter-land.  This is Twitter-specific, but the principles that I talk about here apply pretty much everywhere.  What I'm talking about is a trend that I've noticed most amongst my fellow actors, and it's one that I find a wee bit troublesome.

It's the "I have tons of followers and I don't follow anyone back" syndrome (Gotta find a shorter name for that).

I'm not talking about celebrities, here. That's a completely different topic, and one that I doubt I'll ever address in my blog.  I'm talking about working actors or trying-to-work actors or just-starting-out actors.  Us.  The family of artists engaged in performance for theatre, film and television.

I get it.  We don't want to follow 'bots.  We don't want to muddy up our stream. We maybe don't even understand exactly how Twitter really works (and that's okay, by the way... we just want to figure it out at some point, right?).

But here's how it looks, guys.  It looks like we just don't care about our followers.

Actors already have a bad rap as being at best self-focused, at worst painfully narcissistic.  Do we really want to perpetuate that?  Really?

I would guess that very few of us consciously set out to do this.  But on some subconscious level, we see the famous actors who have hundreds of thousands (or even a million plus) followers and follow 12, and we want it.  We're actors for a reason.  We seek the limelight.

Doesn't mean we have to be jerks.

I'll let you in on something.  I auto-follow.  It's my not-so-dirty little secret.  I also have an automated series of direct messages for those that start following me.

I know, there are some pretty strong feelings about that out in the Twitter-verse.  Automation=robot.  But, as you can pretty clearly see, I'm not (nor have I ever been, as far as I know) mechanical in anything other than my prose. ;)

Now, I'm not telling everyone that they should be doing this, too, but let me explain my reasons.  I want anyone that follows me to immediately feel welcomed.  I want them to feel included. And I want them to know that I'm here to interact with them.  Am I perfect about it?  No way!  Do I try to be kind?  Yes.  And I hope that it shows.

I'm here to build a community of like-minded artists.  I'm here to create ties and establish mutually beneficial friendships and acquaintances.  And maybe to help, if I can.  To encourage actors to stay the course.  To not give up.  To not fall prey to discouragement.

That can't really happen if people don't feel like this is a warm and safe place.

As for the 'bots, we can always unfollow them if they get annoying.  It's not hard.  When you do, they usually go away.  If someone gets really aggressive, block 'em!  Feel like your stream's getting too muddied?  That's what the lists are for.  Put your faves in a list so that you can check in on just them.  It's not complicated.  Even for the most technophobic amongst us.

You also may notice that if you don't follow me back when I follow you, I'll give you a chance for a while, but will ultimately let you go.  We just aren't a fit.  We want different things.  It's not you, it's me.  Okay, really it's you, but I'm not judging. ;)

One final point.  Look at other people's profiles.  What immediately comes to mind when you see that they have 512 followers and they're following 41?  Be honest with yourself.  What does it say?

I'm not asking you to buy into my philosophy completely.  I do hope that this will make you think about what you're really doing here.  Are you here for fun?  Then do what you like (even there, my thought is, "The more the merrier," but hey...).  Is it for ego?  Again, do what you like (although if you follow back, you'll find that you grow much faster).  Is it to vent?  (Ahem. Misery loves company. Enough said.)

But if you're here to network, to find other actors, to find inspiration...

Then maybe, just maybe, you'll join me on the follow-back bandwagon!


  1. Very much appreciate this post, and really like the discussion of actors-as-narcissists.

    At the same time, one of the beauties of twitter is that you don't HAVE to follow people back. It can be a one-way stream. What disturbs me are the people who are offended if you don't follow them back. You followed me, not the other way around. If you like my tweets, great. But that shouldn't be dependent on whether or not I follow you back.

    The bigger picture, I think, is that the point is about community and engaging with others. I look at the profile of every single person who follows me, and if they appear to be a real person I follow them back and send a personalized DM thanking for the follow. Any of these social media tools are only as powerful as the interactions they create...

  2. BRILLIANT, hope u engage with others, superb post :)

  3. I love this post! I joined twitter with the idea that there would be some reciprocity when it came to following. I'm a little disappointed, but have learned to choose who I follow more carefully.

    I also have to agree with Ben. Sometimes you just do not have anything in common with someone who chooses to follow you and that's OK. He/she has the option to "unfollow" me. However, I do hope that I learn to twitter follow worthy tweets! :)

    Thanks for your informative post!

  4. This is a very good post.

    Guy Kawasaki follows just about everyone who follows him. In my case, I follow peeps who have made an effort to engage with me or people who I respect, whether it is inside the entertainment industry or not. I don't follow everyone. I follow some folks who don't follow me because I have found them interesting. And, I have followed peeps and unfollowed them later.

    While I don't get bent out of shape if someone doesn't follow me back, I think that when I engage with someone and they don't respond, that does irk me somewhat. Those are usually the ones who don't get what Twitter is about. Twitter is about building relationships and you build relationships through helping people and engaging with them. Too many peeps want instant gratification and unfortunately, if that is the goal, they will lose almost every time.

  5. There is a celebrity mindset that's permeated the entire world. It's created people who love to feel admired.

    That's a whole other topic unto itself, and perhaps one I'd best not un-cork, here. To your point.

    Sure, agree with Twitter etiquette. It seems like good manners to follow someone back if they've followed you.

    But what if that individual is just not your type of tweep? What if you find their tweets offensive, undesirable or incompatible with who you are? Still obligated to follow back based on good manners? I don't think so.

    The beauty of Twitter is that we *do* get to choose who we follow. And unfollowing is as simple as a quiet, anonymous *click*.

    At the same time (you'd think I was Gemini...) I actually have a habit of shouting out to new followers several times a week. I tweet something to the effect of: "Wow, I'm honored! Please @reply me and say hello so we can get to know one another." Then I generally welcome them to the party. Yes, my twitter stream is rather like a party. I will not interject a shameless plug. Although the author in me wants to. Badly. Moving on.

    Let us not forget one final insight: sometimes people follow us because they really dig our vibe and want to read what we have to tweet. Those folks may *hope* we follow back but it's okay with them if we don't because really, they're just into us.

    What have I said? Has this made sense? I think I"m agreeing with you, Ben - to an extent. I like the idea of inviting followers to interact, and following back when it's a comfortable fit. But I do not think it's essential to follow back, always.

    The celebrity mind-set tweeter who doesn't follow *anyone* back, well... they're just twitter snobs. And that was the Author and Scorpio in me talking! :)

    ℐℴ ℒℽℎℎℯ☽♥

  6. Some good thoughts in this post--I like what you said about combining training and raw talent. Very true. There is the idea that to be brilliant you have to be unbalanced and I like the way you've counterpointed that conception.

    As far as Twitter goes, different people have different styles. I don't want to follow more than a certain number of people because then I will miss a ton of what they are saying. If someone follows me I would love for them to engage and send me an @ --generally I'll follow them back if they do that! Or at least I'll follow until I see we're not a good match for whatever reason.

    Twitter is something you learn more about the longer you use it. I've met some great people on there and am able to keep in touch with others I've met in real life.