Okay, okay, so maybe everyone in the social media world is not sitting around, wringing their hands, wondering whether or not *I* personally will follow them back (thank you for pointing that out, Nika Stewart), but consider *me* as the collective *we* – as these guidelines will apply to most people.

As individual social media users, we get to establish or own criteria for who we follow back (or not follow back). And while we are free to institute arbitrary, illogical requirements for following back (it’s our right, dammit!), there are certain general rules of thumb that apply to most.

So, when you follow someone on Twitter, extend a connection invitation on LinkedIn, or send a friend request on Facebook, do you want the recipient to reciprocate? Here’s how to increase your chances of welcoming those new people into your social media world:

For God’s sake, fill out your profile – completely.

If I see your connection invitation in LinkedIn and your summary has nothing but:

Entrepreneur, 1996-Present

What are the chances of me accepting your invitation? That’s right: 0%. I need to know a little more about you before I accept you into my network. It’s embarrassing when one of my connections scrolls through my contacts to see that I am letting in riff-raff. Take the time to create a profile that shows you off as an expert. What value can you add to my network? If your LinkedIn profile is less than stellar, read this to spruce it up.

The same holds true for Twitter. You are given 160 characters to show off your brilliance and charm. Play around with some phrases and choose your words carefully. This is how you are representing yourself to the social media universe. And it’s one of the leading factors that will determine whether or not people decide to follow you back. (Here’s how to write an effective Twitter profile.)

No Photo, No Follow.

Does your profile have a picture of an egg? Cute. But don’t expect a lot of people to follow you back. People like connecting with people, not eggs (I think that’s an excellent tweet, by the way. Feel free to use it!).

Post a picture of yourself that makes you proud. While you can have more personality and flexibility on Twitter and Facebook, Linkedin is a more business-oriented community, and a professional-style photo is more appropriate. You’ll probably find that your local mall has a photo store that can take a professional headshot (and yes, touched up as well) for less $$ than you may think.

(Also – I know you looked your very best last weekend when you got all dressed up for that evening party, and you have some awesome photos showing off your gorgeousness. But a photo of you – with your friend cut out of the picture – is NOT a professional-looking profile headshot.)


Consistent Branding

What are you posting? Make sure your content aligns with your brand image. Your posts need to be consistent with your core messaging. If you are a marketing strategist, I expect to see value-rich content about the latest marketing stats, tools, or techniques. Of course, your content can include material that reflects your personality, but make sure the majority of your posts delivers on your promise of value.

If your recent posts reflect this value and you are focusing on people in your target market, there is a good chance you will earn a substantial amount of follow-backs.

Do You Engage?

Do you use social media only to broadcast? Or do you actively participate in discussions, share/retweet others’ posts, and comment on appropriate material? Those who do the latter experience a much higher rate of community growth and engagement. Show that you are a contributing member of social media and you will attract a much larger following.

So, want to see how you stack up? Give me a follow @StreambankMedia and see if you get a return follow back! Or connect with me on LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RobertMandelberg

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