Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Twitter Guide For Authors & Illustrators > Networking > I just followed xxx. Why aren't they following me back? How do I get them to follow me back?

Index of topics: Main Twitter Guide For Writers & Illustrators page. To go back to my blog for kidlit/YA writers and illustrators, see Inkygirl. You can find me on Twitter at @inkyelbows (focus: writing and illustrating children's books) and @DebbieOhi (livetweets, chat, photos, personal ramblings). Also see my list of Other Useful Twitter Guides For Authors And Illustrators and Twitter Lists of: agents who represent kidlit/YAkidlit/YA editors, children's book art/creative directors and K-12/teen librarians on Twitter.

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(Updated May 3, 2013)

I can't speak for everyone, but here's why I may not be following someone back:

Their userpic is blank, which makes them look like a spammer. Or that they're not invested enough in Twitter to bother uploading a userpic, which makes me question whether it's worth following them. If I have the time, I may doublecheck by clicking through to their stream to see what they've been posting...but usually I just skip them.

Their profile bio is blank (see above).

Their profile bio gives me no real info about what their tweets are about. I keep coming across Twitter profile bios that are cute and/or witty but reading them gives NO clue about whether we have something in common. If I have the time, I may doublecheck by clicking through to their stream to see what they've been posting but I usually don't. When I'm short on time, I rely very heavily on bios to make my decision about whether or not to follow back. There are certain magic phrases that will prompt me to almost ALWAYS follow back (like "children's book editor," for instance :-).

They have a locked/private account. One of things I love about Twitter is the sharing of info. If an account is locked, then I'm not sure if it's ok to retweet/share. Rather than have to check with the owner each time or be paranoid about accidentally sharing private info, it's easier for me to just not follow.

Their first few tweets don't interest me. Twitter currently gives me the first three tweets of any user I click on in my Followers list. If I'm on the fence about whether or not to follow a user back AND I don't see anything in the first 3 tweets that grab me, then I won't follow back. In the old days, I used to always take the time to check out the first page or so of their Twitter feed. Nowadays I'm trying to spend less time on social media so I can spend more time on my books, plus I get too many people following me to keep up with checking out each of their streams. When I do, it's because something about their bio or first few tweets makes me curious enough to take the extra time.

Their stream/focus isn't related to my own. The focus of my @inkyelbows account, for example, is on writing and illustration for young people, the book publishing industry, and kidlit/YA. If you're a board gamer, I'd rather follow you back from my board gaming Twitter account (@BGGgirl). If you focus on developing e-books for young people, I'm more likely to follow you back from my @iPadGirl account, though I might follow back from both.

Their account is from the viewpoint of a fictional character or focused on one specific book. Nothing wrong with this (I even have a book Twitter account myself), but it's just something I'm not interested in following from @inkyelbows.

Their stream is mostly self-promotion. If they're mainly promoting themselves or their books or their blog, then I probably won't follow back, though I may add their blog to my Google Reader.

Their stream is mostly word count updates. While I applaud their productivity goal, I'm just not interested in following their Twitter streams.

They seem way too obsessed about follower counts. They post about how many people just followed them, or unfollowed them, or how they only need xx number of followers to reach 1000, etc.

They thank every single person who starts following them. While they may be trying to be polite, it's not the kind of Twitter stream I'm all that interested in following.

Their stream is mostly links to blog updates or copies of what they post elsewhere. If they're just links, then I'd rather just add their blog (if I'm interested in the content) to my RSS reader.

Their stream is mostly links to an RSS or Twitter feed service like Paper.li or other content aggregator. I'd rather follow the original sources.

Their stream is mostly promotion of other people's books. Before you jump on me about this, let me clarify. There's nothing wrong with using Twitter as a promotion tool...but in moderation. I already get put on so many promotional mailing lists via email and snailmail. How people use Twitter varies, but I'm not interested in following a Twitterstream that is mainly advertisements...even if they're offering things for FREE, like book giveaways and raffles etc., or retweeting other people's book promotion. I'd rather follow a stream that has some personal interaction that isn't always tied to promotion/marketing. I like glimpses into their psyche as a writer/editor  or useful info that might help me in my work, for example. 

They are obsessed with follower count. They tweet too often about how many followers they have, how many they'd like to have, how many have unfollowed ("and I know who you are!"), how happy they'll be if they can just get to xxx number of followers, how they'll follow back anyone who follows them.

They use "free kindle ebook" or other spam-popular phrases way too often. I am also turned off by certain words and phrases, and tend not to follow people who use them a LOT. Please note again that this is just my own personal preference and there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these words. But I tend not to follow people back if I see these used a lot in the first page of their tweets: "free kindle book" or "free kindle ebook", "free giveaway", "webinar" (I have turned down invites to do webinars for pay mainly because I hate the idea of having to use this in my own Twitter stream).

Again, however, that's just my personal preference when it comes to following back.

Also, before any of you point to someone I'm following who breaks all the above rules, I should point out that THERE ARE ALWAYS EXCEPTIONS.

But the main reason I may not be following someone back:

I may have just missed seeing their follow notification. I don't check Twitter followers every day. Sometimes I'll go out of town and when I come back,  catching up on Twitter follows will be low on my priority ladder compared to client-related work, etc. I may think I'm following you already.

Also, my follow-back decision factors have changed since I first joined Twitter. I used to follow back ONLY writers from @inkyelbows but I'm now interested in other types of stream content and people.

If you're convinced I should be following you, the best way to get me to notice you is to @ mention me. Don't be obnoxious about it, of course ("Hey, I think @inkyelbows should look at my book page"). But reply to my tweets etc. with an intelligent or amusing or intriguing @ mention frequently enough, and I guarantee that I'll eventually be curious enough to check out your profile/stream. 

SECRET FACT: I've successfully used this strategy myself, when there's someone I'd love to connect with. I take on this challenge every once in a while, partly for the fun of it. It usually takes multiple tries over a long period because I don't want to pester or be obnoxious about it. Often I fail, and I try very hard not to take it personally. The person I'm following has their own list of personal criteria about whether or not they follow back, after all, just like the rest of us.

In the end, DON'T spend too much time angsting over whether or not someone follows you back. You're far better off taking that mental energy and putting it into your creative projects.

 Related resources you might find useful:

How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter) - by Jane Friedman

The Million Follower Fallacy: Audience Size Doesn't Prove Influence on Twitter - by Sarah Perez

Last updated on May 3, 2013 by Debbie Ridpath Ohi