Before following any news feeds or celebrities, ask yourself if you will actually read everything they have to say… every day. This is the easiest way to lose interest in Twitter and to clog up your home feed. The ‘drowning bird’ syndrome follows.
Never follow anyone whose profile picture features them not wearing a shirt or deliberately showing off their cleavage.
As a general rule, avoid following people or organisations that have any variant of ‘marketing’ in their bio. While these people are sometimes legitimate, more often than not the ‘marketing’ they offer is not the kind you want. Think of them as the Twitter version of junk-mail.
When someone’s bio says “follow me and I’ll follow you back”, don’t. (This is like opening a line to the underworld – you never know what’s going to come crawling up to latch onto you.)
Have a quick look at how many people someone follows compared to their followers. If the ratio is more than 4:1 (following vs. followed), there is generally a reason. 1200 following: 200 followers, for example, is a bad sign.
Check to see what a person tweets about. There should generally be some kind of theme. if it is a just series of unconnected tweets with web-links, it is likely that they are trying to sucker you into following a link to somewhere unsavoury. Red flag!
Continuing the previous point, there should be a few random ‘personal’ tweets somewhere in a person’s feed. Too many mundane ‘my life play by play’ tweets are a problem, but none at all is worse.
Many people have a daily or weekly on-line newspaper (myself included), but if this is the only thing in a person’s tweet stream, why bother? (‘The XYZ Daily is Out’ over and over and over again, is just pointless.)
Avoid people who use more than two hashtags in their bio write-up. Two is fine. More is not.
I retweet a lot, but I also try to contribute. People who only retweet really are not worth following. Follow the people they retweet instead.
It is always a good idea to be nice on Twitter. If someone sends you a message saying ‘Have you heard the nasty things people are saying about you’, they have had their account hacked. Be nice and tell them about it in a direct message. If they haven’t done anything about it in a few days, you can unfollow them with a clear conscience.. (Oh, and don’t be tempted to click the link to find out what they’re saying…)
Choose your handle wisely. People who put numbers at the end of their names either show a lack of imagination or are spammers. Follow with caution.
We all choose a bio photo that is flattering. Too good a pic might hint at a problem. (With massive apologies to all of my really gorgeous followers.) Regular people look like regular people, the only place where people look like supermodels is on TV… or in Venezuela… or on ‘those’ sites.
Except for new eggs, avoid following people who choose not to write anything about themselves or do not have a bio pic – and especially those who have not tweeted at all. If you are unsure, check out the web address in the bio – this is usually a clear indicator of a person’s intentions.
Unless you have a preference for that kind of thing, avoid following people who are overtly religious or conservative.
Before you follow someone, have a quick look at who is following them. If it includes any of the previously mentioned, don’t follow them. I may be wrong, but I suspect that this one of the ways you can be targeted by spammers. Think about how a virus spreads…
Do not feel like you have to follow someone if they follow you.
Don’t be afraid to unfollow someone if you find you really don’t like what they have to say. You don’t have to tell them why – your actions will speak for you.
Be wary of following people whose every tweet is followed by or includes four or more hashtags.
I would consider it a personal favour if you would not follow anyone who cannot spell. In particular, someone who writes ‘your’ when they mean ‘you’re’, as in: “Your going to love this tweet”. Some surprisingly influential people on Twitter do not know that they make this mistake. I unfollow them. You should too. Sooner or later they’ll realise the error of their ways.
Finally, a personal appeal to you to do your bit by reporting obvious and annoying spammers, and not just block them! Things have been so much cleaner on Twitter for the last few months – please help to keep it that way!
Postscript: I recently unfollowed someone simply because they didn’t have a sense of irony: Mrs X had a fantastically uplifting message in her bio… but her tweets were nothing but whines. If you’re going to be negative, at least be up-front about it.)
Don’t forget to look me up on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SeanHCole