Five Reasons to Follow Back

I've noticed a trend in the educational community toward paring down Twitter followers to a tidy, manageable number. I get it. It makes sense. Twitter streams can feel crowded. They can move at a break-neck speed. Might as well follow just the people you feel like you truly know.

I don't think there is anything wrong with un-following people and this post isn't meant to be a shot at people who do. However, here are a few reasons that I tend to follow back people (not companies) who follow me:
  1. You never know when a follow-back becomes a chance at a new relationship. That new person with 42 followers might just be lurking at first, but it's a chance to welcome someone knew into a personal learning network. I want to avoid unintentionally creating my own comfortable community filled with old friends at the expense of welcoming new people. 
  2. You never know when someone who is shy wants to have a direct message conversation. The beauty of following back is that it creates opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with people who might be more reserved about going public with their thoughts.
  3. Following back helps people who are new. It's easy to say that numbers don't matter. But the truth is that numbers mattered to me in the beginning. I'm not saying that it was a healthy thing, either. But I wanted to know that my voice mattered and I mistakenly believed that those numbers were some kind of a metric on influence. I remember feeling excited about reaching one hundred followers on Twitter. 
  4. Un-following can feel personal. Although it isn't meant to be personal, it can leave people wondering what they have done something wrong. I know this sounds silly, but each time someone pares down their Twitter list, it feels a bit like basketball tryouts, where I'm wondering if I made the cut.  
  5. I can still keep private lists if I want to keep things smaller. I have private lists based upon geography (just so I can remember where people live) and that's worked well for me.