The other day, I was chatting with a few entrepreneurs about Twitter, including who they follow and how they use it in their businesses. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to use Twitter, and how many different approaches can actually work. The trick is picking the approach that’s right for your goals.

As I listened to the different points of view during the conversation, I realized one thing — I am a fairly flexible user. I don’t have many hard and fast rules that guide who I follow, what I tweet and how I use my account. You probably know what I mean by “rules.” You may even follow some of them yourself. Things like:

  • Not following people who follow more than 1,000 people.
  • Not following people who have links in their tweets.
  • Not following accounts that have a company logo as the avatar.
  • Not following people who don’t RT.
  • Not following anyone who tweets (or doesn’t tweet) about [fill in the blank].
  • Unfollowing everyone who auto DMs you.
  • Unfollowing everyone who unfollows you.

While some of these things are certainly annoying and can impact the way I interact with people, they aren’t necessarily deal-breakers for me.

Part of the reason I’ve adopted a looser perspective is that I learned early on that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I’ve formed some great relationships on Twitter with people who I initially thought I would have nothing in common with. I also tweet about a variety of topics on my personal Twitter account, so it’s always seemed silly to limit my network to one or two focused topics (the Small Business Bonfire account is mostly for business topics, so I use that one a little bit differently).

But, even with my flexible approach to Twitter, there are some reasons I might not be following you back. Here are a few of them.

You have a questionable profile.

This could mean one of two things. Either you don’t have your bio filled out, or you don’t have an avatar. Without both of these things, I don’t know for sure that you’re not a bot. I also like to see websites, too, but I understand that not everyone has one, so a missing URL isn’t the end of the world for me.

When it comes to your bio, it may seem like a challenge to boil yourself down to 160 characters, but entering something is better than having it completely blank. I want to know something about the people I follow. I often click through to check out websites and blogs, but if you don’t have a bio, I usually don’t even get that far. Don’t make me fish for info about you. If you’re trying to grow your following, a bio and an avatar are must-haves (adding a link to your a website or blog is even better).

Your tweets are annoying.

Of course, this is completely subjective. I will also tell you that I have a very high annoyance tolerance, so it takes a heck of a lot before I unfollow someone. Some things that qualify as annoying tweeting to me include:

  • Tweeting the same thing over and over and over and over with nothing else in between.
  • Being combative and overly argumentative (I’m not talking healthy debate here).
  • Bad-mouthing people.
  • Spamming (you know, sending what looks like individual tweets but turns out to be spam to a bunch of people).

I’m sure you can name one or two behaviors that qualify as annoying tweeting to you, too!

Your numbers are weird.

If you have 6,000 people following you and you are only following 200, that’s a major question mark for me. It tells me that you might only engage with your small circle, but want to play the numbers game. It might also tell me that you will probably unfollow me shortly after I follow you. I won’t unilaterally not follow an account where this is the case, but I will check out your timeline and mentions to see what you’re all about before I follow you.

Another weird numbers thing is if you haven’t tweeted at all yet, but you’re already following 2,000 people. You may even have a lot of people following you back. Makes me wonder how you generated such a big following before you even started tweeting (did you use some kind of software?). That’s just strange, and how am I supposed to know if I want to follow you if I have no way to know what you tweet about?

I inadvertently missed you.

It happens! I check out my new followers and follow back in batches, not as they happen, so I miss people from time to time. The best solution to this is to tweet me or engage with me in some way. When I check out your profile, I will get clued in that I missed you the first time around.

So, along with the obvious reasons such as bots and half-naked avatars, those are my biggest reasons for not following people back on Twitter. What are yours? Do you approach Twitter differently?

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