Should You Always Follow Back?

shocking image on a computer screen
Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.
Original Photo: CC Kenny Louie

Every social media platform has some system for keeping track of your contacts. Twitter calls them Followers. Facebook calls them Friends. LinkedIn calls them Connections. Minds calls them Subscribers. Whatever you call them, we all seem to want more. If you’re using social media as a tool for business networking, then you need contacts. But does that mean you should follow everyone who follows you? Are there ever reasons to stop following someone?

You likely put a lot of work into your social media networking and it feels good to see your follower count increasing. But not everyone who follows you does so because they’re interested in your services. Some just want you to follow back to increase their own counts. As a consequence, you may get some unwanted followers. What makes them unwanted?

Sometimes it’s easy to identify bad followers. If one glance at their profile picture gives you an unexpected anatomy lesson, you may want to hit “Block.”

But often it can be difficult to tell what someone is really like just from their online profile. Their photos and bio may appear normal. Perhaps the majority of their posts are perfectly in line with your interests and your values. They may work in the same field as you, and you may even have many connections in common.

And then something shows up on your timeline from that person that takes you by surprise, a post that is not just irrelevant to your interests, but that runs contrary to your values. Maybe it’s something political, or extremist, or vulgar. Unfortunately, some people just don’t seem to know how to keep their business social media presence professional. Should you immediately unfollow them? Of course, only you can gauge how egregious the infraction is, and how its appearance on your timeline may affect your reputation. But you need to make that assessment.

Your potential clients, employers, and associates will examine your social media presence. They’ll look, not just at your profile and at what you post, but also at those with whom you’re connected. If someone looks at your connections or views your timeline and the posts from the people you follow, what will they think? Would you be comfortable with them assuming that you agree with what your connections stand for?

Like it or not, we are often judged by the company we keep.