If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a good profile picture on Twitter is a powerful way to evaluate the viability and worthiness of a Twitter account. Red flags that portend accounts to avoid include those displaying the default Twitter egg — a favorite of spammers that don’t want to take the time to upload legitimate pictures for their profiles.
The egg is also the go-to image of choice for newbie Tweeters. While you don’t necessarily need to avoid following new accounts, use discretion to make sure the rest of the Twitter profile checks out (see below) and that the newbie tweeter in question is at least trying to move in the right direction.
Give bonus points (and consideration) to accounts that feature a person, as it’s much easier to carry on a conversation with an individual as opposed to a logo. A custom background and a creative Twitter header image are also good indicators that the tweeter is invested in Twitter and has spent some time getting his or her account in order.
2. Interesting Bio
Next on the list of things to consider is the Twitter bio. You have just over the length of a tweet — 160 characters to be exact — to tweak out a bio and make it interesting and appealing to would-be followers. Make sure that the person you’re considering to follow has spent a little effort making it something more than an advertisement for his or her products and services. Product mentions and occupation listings are fine, but ideally a bio will include something that conveys a little personality as well.
Links to external content like websites, blogs, and so on, are usually good signs in a Twitter bio. It shows that the person has a depth of content that might be useful, pertinent, and interesting and it may help paint a fuller picture of what he or she represents.
Listing one’s location right in the bio is also very helpful. While a tweeter with a foreign location shouldn’t necessarily preclude you from following that person (if you run a local business, for example) it can at least provide you some geographic context to help you understand what that person tweets about.
3. Positive Tweet Stats
A few of the most telling Twitter stats include how many times a person has tweeted, when the last tweet was posted, and the ratio of followers to followees. All of these stats are visible on the front page of every Twitter profile.
In general, if someone has tweeted a lot, that’s a good sign. It usually means that the person is active on Twitter and spends time keeping his or her account updated. Of course, what constitutes “a lot” of tweets is subjective. However, an account with more than 100, or even more than 1000 tweets is indicative that the account will be more interesting to follow than one with tweets in the double digits.
But the total number of tweets is only one indicator of positive tweets stats for a follow-worthy account. Check the time stamp of the last tweet to make sure it’s current. If the last tweet posted on any account is more than two or three days old, particularly if the tweet before that is more than a week old, then chances are this account is not very active. There’s really no point following an account unless the person behind it is actively tweeting.
The number of people an account follows compared to the number of people following it can also be an important stat to consider. An account that has more followers than followees suggests the account may be useful, interesting, and that other people have tacitly endorsed it as being worth following. On the other hand, if an account follows almost nobody, don’t expect much interaction from it.
4. Compelling Content
In this case, we’ve saved the best for last. Content is really the most important thing to consider when deciding whether to follow someone or not. For example, take a look at marketing guru Seth Godin’s Twitter account @ThisIsSethsBlog.
On the surface, Godin’s Twitter account might not look like a great account to follow. There is no customized background or Twitter header image, the account follows nobody, and the bio declares that the account contains only retweets of Godin’s blog. However, as most people in the marketing industry know, “when Seth Godin speaks, people listen.” If you chose not to follow this account (and you weren’t following Godin’s writings but any other means) you might be missing out on valuable content that can impact your outlook on marketing (and your business in general).
Of course, you must use your discretion when deciding whether a Twitter account warrants a follow. Don’t ever feel obligated to follow an account simply because it follows you or retweets some of your updates. In fact, to follow more, sometimes you need to follow less. Use these suggestions as a barometer to help you get the most out of the people you follow (or not) on Twitter.
What other ways do you evaluate whether a Twitter account is worth a follow? Let us know in the comments below.