Thursday, February 20, 2014

YA Guy Rants about... Fishing for Followers!

A few days ago on Twitter, YA Guy was followed by someone who (so the profile said) writes “fictional novels.” Yesterday, when I didn’t follow back, the selfsame fictional novelist unfollowed me.

Which I didn’t mind so much, because I write real novels, and I didn’t want any followers who might try to steal them.

But this tiny bit of ridiculousness raises a larger issue, one I’ve tweeted about from time to time: the phenomenon of fishing for followers. Given the built-in limitations of Twitter, I haven’t been able to say as much about this phenomenon as I’ve liked. And so, though it’s not the kind of thing I normally post about, I thought I’d take it up here.

There are people out there, apparently--or perhaps there are programs employed by people--that blindly blanket-follow everyone in the freaking Twittersphere in hopes of follow-backs. When they don’t get what they’re after, these people/programs unfollow within a day or two.

It’s one of the more inane and annoying practices on Twitter, which for the most part I find a lovely little social media platform. (Equally inane and annoying are those who spam you with “buy my stuff!” tweets. Some of these people are, no doubt, the same as the follower-fishers.) The theory behind such bizarre behavior, I assume, is that having a ton of followers builds your platform, enhances your stature, and makes you just about the hottest piece of beef jerky on the web.

But I’ve got news for those of you who are fishing for followers. I hope you’re taking notes.

It’s stupid. If you have 10,000 followers, none of whom has the slightest interest in you or whatever crap-bag piece of garbage you’re selling, how is that advantageous to you? What, it makes you feel good just because it’s a big number? Would you feel just as good if you had 10,000 zits? Because 10,000 followers who don’t care about you are essentially as useful as that.

It’s childish. What are we, five years old? “I’ll be your friend if you’ll be mine.” Twitter is a platform to connect, communicate, and confab with people you find interesting or likable. As adults (or near-adults), we should be using it that way, not as a way of scoring points with Ritchie Bob against Billie Sue.

It’s rude. Yeah, okay, I know my notion of “rude” is outdated. Social media--for that matter, the anonymity and lack of accountability of the internet as a whole--provide the perfect breeding-ground for rudeness. But by any reasonable definition, isn’t it rude to expect people you don’t know to give you something just because you gave them something they didn’t want or ask for in the first place?

Look, no one’s ever called YA Guy perfect. When I was starting out on Twitter, before I understood what it was really all about, I automatically followed anyone who followed me because, well, people had told me you had to have followers (why I didn’t know), and I was too new to the Twitterverse to attract people who actually had a reason to follow me. Over time, I’ve weeded out those early matches that made no sense. So yes, I’ve unfollowed people. I’m not saying it’s a sin.

Nor am I saying it's a problem to follow interesting-sounding people and then, if/when they follow you back, feeling a little bit excited. Because you just made a new contact whose conversation you might enjoy, right? And isn't that what Twitter is all about?

But these two scenarios are totally different from making it a daily practice to follow scores of perfect strangers then unfollow them in a fit of digital pique when they do the only sensible thing they can do under the circumstances, which is to ignore you.

I doubt this post will change the ways of the hardcore fishers, but I’m hoping it might cause some people to rethink what they’re on Twitter for in the first place.

But if not, I hope you enjoy your fictional novels.


  1. I totally agree! Well said. What gets me is when you follow someone and they immediately try to sell you their book. Then I automatically unfollow them. Twitter should be about meeting people and sharing conversations. If I wanted someone to sell me something, I'd actually pick up the phone for telemarketers.

    1. Thanks, Steph! I've even had situations where, through some sort of digital wizardry, someone tries to sell me stuff BEFORE I've followed them. I don't know how that works, but it ticks me off--and I don't even have the satisfaction of unfollowing!

    2. Great post - I completely agree. I'm not a big presence on Twitter and have only just begun to focus on changing that, but I've noticed the "I followed you, now follow me" thing already. Gah. Because I use Twitter for professional reasons, I am eager to reach out to a much wider network than I am on my personal Facebook page. That said, I still pay attention before I "follow" - is this person talking about things that interest me? Is this person part of my professional world in some way? I love the dialogue of Twitter, but I avoid the sales pitched like the plague.

    3. Thanks, Heather! As you say, Twitter is all about following and being followed by people who have some connection to you (or at least a possible connection), not mass-following people just 'cause it looks cool to have a zillion followers.

  2. Interesting post! I find I'm in that same pot of yucky Twitter soup. How much to post, how often to self-promote, how to engage and find people I want to chat with. Sometimes I'll respond to people's tweets and then receive nothing in response. Weird. I know "everyone" loves Twitter more than FB, but I find FB people much more engaging and friendly. Maybe it's just the people I follow on Twitter that are making me crazy. BUY MY STUFF all the time gets so annoying. Maybe I am too, but I try to make it funny or worthwhile, not just blather. (Like now. Blathering over) ;)

    1. You're right, Kym--though I really like Twitter, it lends itself to selling in ways that FB doesn't. I know I sell on Twitter too, but I also enjoy it for its purely social qualities--which is why I especially like chats, where everyone talks about a subject of common interest. That's one of the best ways to find new people to follow!