Learned an interesting lessson about organizational Twitter accounts and followers

12 Dec

I received an email from a TechSoup Twitter account follower, David Manzer, asking why we weren’t following him, if he followed us. He was not implying that every follow deserves a return follow, but more,that we had over 4000 followers and were only following one tenth of those. I appreciate the candor of David Manzer, and I wanted to share this lesson with y’all.

Here was the email exchange:


I noticed that Tech Soup have a Twitter account with a fair number of followers, which is no surprise considering how successful your organization is. I noticed, however, that you do not follow many in return. May I ask what it takes to be followed by your organization? Do you look for certain criteria? Just curious since I play in the VAR space and just joined the board of a non-profit here in Austin, TX.

Best Regards,

David Manzer
The Sage

(which was a good point, indeed, so I responded:)

Hi David,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. As you have seen by now, we are now following you. The answer to your question, about how we decide to follow people is no where near as organized as you suggest, unfortunately. We don’t have any specific criteria, other than their tweets should be loosely related to our mission. That is, the tweets should reflect emerging technology, social change and the broader Nonprofit and social benefit community. To answer your question as to why we hadn’t yet followed you, is really that we only periodically dive into the followers area of Twitter and follow people. Megan (my colleague) and I each have our own twitter account (@suzboop and @penguinasana) so we are more preoccupied with reading tweets there, and broadcasting messages via the TechSoup account.

But your message has me thinking that we need to revisit the way we run our twitter operations for the organization. We don’t want to be perceived as only speaking and not listening to the larger conversation.  Finally, your point also underscores the importance of ‘friending’ in online soial networks; so we are developing and engaging a community, not just having followers and talking at them. In the past, the easiest and most low-impact way to follow people for that account was to just see who @ replied to us and follow those people. Then again, that implies that we are only following people who are referring to us, which is actually pretty self-referential and limiting.

Thanks again fro bringing this to my attention. I will blog about this and reference you in my blog entry, since you taught me that I need to revisit the way I manage followers on this account.

Best Wishes,



Anyway– it was a learning moment. And I am grateful for as many of these as I can stumble upon. After all, we are all just making this stuff up as we go along, right?


2 Responses to “Learned an interesting lessson about organizational Twitter accounts and followers”

  1. David Manzer December 13, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for the refreshing interaction. I completely agree that it’s not always about the size and reach of our social network, although having those things can help us accomplish our professional and personal goals! It’s also about the opportunity to truly connect, share points of view and participate in something bigger than ourselves. You’ve certainly given me that experience and I look forward to future communications with TechSoup and your blog!

    Keep up the great work!

    David Manzer
    The Sage Closer

  2. Elliot Harmon December 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    Hey Susan, this is really interesting.

    I’m becoming increasingly of the opinion that Twitter lists have been the huge missing link since orgs started using Twitter. Of course there’s still a need for the “official” voice, but staff lists give a great window into what’s really going on in the org on a day-to-day basis.

    Looking at our techsoupstaffers list, I see lots of tweets about things happening in the organization, several links to happenings elsewhere in the sector, and a handful of jokes and ephemera. The sum total is a great view of who we are as an org, what we’re working on, and what we talk about. I’d love to see more organizations set up lists like that.


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