Authentic or Not? Part 2: Automatically Following Back

ducklings following duckAs the social networking scene becomes more crowded, busy, and chaotic, more people are experimenting with automating or outsourcing social media tasks.  But does this violate the spirit of authenticity which is so highly valued within social media?

Last week we kicked off this series called Authentic or Not? by discussing Part 1: Ghost Tweeting, Facebooking, & Blogging

Today we look at…

2) Automatically following back

There are several Twitter tools that with the click of a button will automatically follow back every person who is following you.  There are also scripts available that will automatically accept all Facebook friend requests as well.

I’ve come across three common motives for automatically following back everyone who follows/friends a person:

  1. The person doesn’t want to upset anyone by not reciprocating. The fear of offending someone by not accepting their friend request or not following back causes some people a lot of angst. They’re rather avoid that by just following/friending everyone.
  2. The person wants a lot of friends/fans so they feel or appear more popular. Some people feel better about themselves or think they’ll look more important to others if they have more fans/friends, so they follow/friend everyone including spammers and people they have no interest in.
  3. It saves time. Some people get dozens or even hundreds of new followers/friend requests every day and simply don’t want to take the time to sort through all of those people and decide who to follow/friend.  It’s faster just to follow/accept everyone.

Some critics say automatically following/friending everyone who follows/friends you is disingenuous because following/friending someone implies that you’re interested in that person and want to listen to them.  Automatically following/friending everyone amounts to faking interest in someone because 1) you don’t want to offend them, 2) you want to appear popular, 3) you don’t have time for them.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with it.  If you can save the time of manually reviewing and following/friending people and in the process avoid offending people and have a higher follower/friend count, why not?

What do you think about a person automatically following/friending everyone who follows/friends them?

Authentic or not?

[image by alasam]

–> Authentic or Not? Part 3: Ignoring Tweets & Status Updates

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

14 Responses to “Authentic or Not? Part 2: Automatically Following Back”

  1. Regardless of whether or not it's authentic, in the case of twitter I will not auto-follow someone simply because it will clutter up what I ACTUALLY want to read and follow and twitter. I'd love to follow everyone, but for my own personal sanity i won't unless that person has something genuine to offer to me.

  2. "Personally, I don’t have a problem with it. If you can save the time of manually reviewing and following/friending people and in the process avoid offending people and have a higher follower/friend count, why not?"

    +1

  3. A couple thoughts–the prevailing wisdom about twitter now is quality, not quantity of followers. Also, with the ability to create lists you can follow and not follow, you can "follow people" but never have to read any of their tweets.

    I have several lists–I try to follow as many people as I can, but I do drop people from time to time if they tweet too much. I also manage a couple twitter accounts and don't follow "all friends" on either one (I use Tweet Deck), but just selected lists.

    There is one caution here–I wouldn't recommend automatic following, only because of the amount of porn out there on twitter. If you are in the place where you have thousands of people following you and don't have time to look at every follower's profile before you follow them, you have different issues.

  4. hmmm, I don't do it – preferring to make sure the follower is not a spammer/porn thing/trying to sell something. I don't have a problem with people who auto follow, they may have a problem if they seem to be following a lot of half naked women – could that harm credibility.
    What I do have a serious problem with is people who follow and then unfollow for ulterior motives.

    • Phillip – you and I share the same pet peeve: the follow and unfollow folks. I think they do it to increase their numbers and show they have more followers than they are following. Many people do not even notice this because of automation. I am a geek and have been collecting data since March about who follows me, whether I follow back and why. It is really interesting to see how many folks do the follow/unfollow thing.

      My thought is the quality/quantity idea, as well. I blew up an account last fall and didn't get back into Twitter until spring because I did auto follow and ended up with a timeline selling pens to porn. I had more bots than butts in my timeline.
      @JudeCaserta
      AthleticBudgetCoach.com/blog

  5. While it might be nice to build large lists of followers, the question remains, Why? Do you read them? Do they write directly to YOU? Do they mean anything to you except numbers? Are they saying anything meaningful for you?

    In my case, I only want to follow (read) those who mean something to me. They are writing somethng I want to read about (not just how many times they went out to dinner or what they fed the dog.) I want to actually correspond, not just have a lot of names on my site. And certainly not those who simply tweet/retweet everything they come across on the 'net.

    I'm an author and I want to presuade people to buy my books. (JimMagwood.com) Simply having a lot of names (following or followers) won't even begin to correlate to sales.

    So, the question remains: Why are you wanting the names? Social networking is supposed to be that, networking. Having large lists of names and not corresponding with them is NOT networking.

  6. While it might be nice to build large lists of followers, the question remains, Why? Do you read them? Do they write directly to YOU? Do they mean anything to you except numbers? Are they saying anything meaningful for you?

    In my case, I only want to follow (read) those who mean something to me. They are writing something I want to read about (not just how many times they went out to dinner or what they fed the dog.) I want to actually correspond, not just have a lot of names on my site. And certainly not those who simply tweet/retweet everything they come across on the 'net.

    I'm an author and I want to persuade people to buy my books. (JimMagwood.com) Simply having a lot of names (following or followers) won't even begin to correlate to sales.

    So, the question remains: Why are you wanting the names? Social networking is supposed to be that, networking. Having large lists of names and not corresponding with them is NOT networking.

    • Jim, one benefit of following back those who follow you is it allows them to send direct messages to you. I follow back more than 10,000 people who follow me, and while I can't read all of their tweets, they can DM me comments or questions and I reply to those DMs.

  7. Similar to knowing your 'friends' on Facebook – you follow because of a connection. The next question to ask is 'Do you unfollow anyone?' I'll preview a user's timeline before deciding if I want to follow them, only to find them later enamored with FourSquare and tweeting at every street corner. Nope – no auto-follow for me.

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  1. Tweets that mention Authentic or Not? Part 2: Automatically Following Back « Christian Web Trends Blog -- Topsy.com - Jun 28, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by OurChurch.Com and Adela (Dinna) Lara, Paul Steinbrueck. Paul Steinbrueck said: RT @OurChurchDotCom: Authentic or Not? Part 2: Automatically Following Backhttp://bit.ly/bi9r7o [...]

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    [...] –> Authentic or Not? Part 2: Automatically Following Back Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck blogging, social networking authenticity, Facebook, social media, twitter 40+ Ways Blogging Leads to Success 3 Tips to Keep Your Church From Dropping the Communications Ball During the Summer [...]

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