I originally wrote this as a guide to getting more people to follow/friend/circle you back. While this isn’t completely foolproof, just what I’ve picked up from interacting with others on social networking sites, doing these things will make it less likely you’re going to be dismissed as a spammer or someone who follows (circles/friends/etc.) everyone you see in the hopes of a small percentage following back. This guide can also be handy in obtaining followers in general.
Fill out your biography
Most social networking sites have a place for you to write about yourselves. Please fill this out. Be clear what your interests are, which should dictate who you follow and who is more likely to follow back. Google+ has a little tagline beneath your name you can use to list what you do. For example, my tagline is just “Writer, blogger, student”. That’s it. Yet it describes my interests.
Also, use the biography area allowed to describe yourself further, making your interests clear. Google+ also has a section allowing you to link to other profiles/websites of yours. Use it. Here’s my Google+ profile:
I clearly describe my interests in greater detail and give a little information about me. I also have included links to other profiles to help people find me in other places. I have a list of recommended links, but you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. You can add more personal information if you want to, as long as it’s still clear why people should want to interact with you.
Here’s my Twitter profile information, which you have to write in 160 characters or less. Doable? Yes.
Blogger and aspiring writer, loves YA fantasy and paranormal romance, just finished high school. Chocolate addict.
This still covers my main interest, writing, and I also put a link to this website beneath it. The point of the profile is to prove you’re a real person and can offer something of interest to the people looking to follow you.
I don’t have a profile on Facebook open to people I don’t know personally, but you can fill out your “about me” section in a similar manner to Google+ if you want to network using the site.
Use a real photo of you
While people might follow you back if you have your pet as your profile picture, it can be slightly disconcerting. It’s best if you have a close-up so people can see your face well and make sure the image isn’t of poor quality. If you’re looking to network online, you’re better off showing your real face. Some people do make it work with a cartoon image or the like, but I’m definitely more wary of following them.
Also, don’t leave the default image given to you by the website. The Twitter “egg” image is an immediate red flag in particular, as the website is riddled with spammers.
Share publicly and regularly
If you want to network online, people need to be able to see what you’re sharing before they decide you’re worth following back. If your profile and timeline or stream are hidden, your chances of getting people following you back are low, unless you have already met your potential followers. You don’t have to share everything publicly, but you have to give some indication of what you’re all about.
Also, you want to share something on a regular basis so it doesn’t look like you’ve abandoned your account. If you’re busy, even a weekly check-in is better than nothing at all. I’ve been guilty of abandoning my accounts for sometimes months at a time, and it has not done me any favours, I assure you.
If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re not, don’t try to be. Use what you’re good at. Sharing interesting links or observations about something you find interesting will get you followers. I try to link to relevant blog posts every so often and retweet often. I also create my own content, either directly on the website or through this blog.
It’s okay to be opinionated (I certainly am) but if you slam another person’s beliefs, you are going to lose a lot of potential followers. I touched on this in my previous post in the section about anti-traditional publishing rants. Social networking can be a great place for intelligent debate, as I’ve found on Google+ in particular. Sometimes you might need to tone down your views a little bit so you don’t alienate people you might otherwise get along well with.
For example, while I’m strongly for the continuation of traditional publishing and read primarily traditionally published authors, I’m willing to give self-published authors a chance and follow a lot of them on Google+ and Twitter. They might not share all my beliefs, but they can be a valuable source of information about writing. Most of them are also very friendly, save for the handful of kooks proclaiming the death of traditional publishing. Then again, you get some kooks on the traditionally published side as well.
I’ve also had a few problems with, shall we say, rude people. I tend to rant a lot about the portrayal of Young Adult fiction in the eyes of those who neither write nor read it. Someone tweeted me that YA was just a “marketing excuse” to sell mature themes to “children”. As both a reader of YA and a teenager who just got called a child (for the love of God, do not call teenagers children if you want to get out alive), I found this quite insulting. If you know someone holds a particular view, you’re better off not attempting to make them see “the error of their ways”. While I’m happy to engage in debate with another open-minded individual, I do not take kindly to people slamming my beliefs, and nor does anyone else.
I suppose the message to take away from this section is “play nice with others”.
Interact with other users
Whether it’s through the @ tweeting or through comments on Facebook or Google+, don’t be afraid to jump into conversations you feel you can contribute to. If you uphold the previous point, you may win yourself some new followers or, at least, the respect of those around you. However, you shouldn’t do this just to get followers. It should be something you do willingly. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can observe conversations between the people you follow at first until you get the hang of things. I used to be extremely shy on the internet, but not so much anymore. I observed and dipped my toe in before plunging headfirst into conversation. It’s amazing the people you can meet online if you take the time to say hello.
When it comes to social networking, it’s important to be kind, courteous and open-minded but still retain your sense of self. You need to give fellow users a reason to follow back, something unique and interesting. Give them you.