How I Decide Whether to Follow You on Instagram or Twitter

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.


As I ramp up my activity on Instagram for business, I’ve had some good reminders about what makes someone worthy of following on social media. In addition to providing relevant content I want to get, here are additional reasons why I’ll follow you—or not!—especially on Instagram and Twitter.

Your Instagram or Twitter Bio

Though often it’s obvious what people do and what’s important to them from the pictures and messages they post, sometimes it’s not always clear. So don’t make me guess!

I don’t follow people who don’t have even the most rudimentary bio details on their account. Those basic details would include what you do for a living and your website. A few personal details (that you don’t mind sharing publicly) about hobbies or interests help humanize you and make you more interesting to follow.

Also, if a bio includes something such as, “Message me for details on how to get thousands of followers.” Or, “Visit my website to learn how to earn,” I am NOT following you. Hard sell is no sell for me.

I rarely follow “private” accounts on Instagram or Twitter. It usually tells me they’re probably posting a lot of personal or family stuff—maybe even inappropriate material—that won’t interest me. I respect their right to privacy and move on to following those who are there to do business or want to honorably connect with the larger world.

Direct Messages and Private Messages

I always like the guys (often it’s guys) who instantly want to direct message (DM) or private message (PM) me, or invite me to a personal chat with them. They usually don’t say why they want to connect, indicating a waste of time and a possible spammer, scammer, or stalker. So I’m not following them, I’m not accepting their message or connection requests, and I might even block them.

Even if you’re really and honorably interested in connecting with someone you discover on social media, don’t resort to creepy behaviors. A DM/PM too early in the connection process is like asking for a marriage proposal on a first date. Trust is fragile and hard won. Become someone worthy of being followed so that users can get to know you over time.

Mentions and Tagging

Mentioning, or “tagging,” someone’s username in a post on social media, particularly on Twitter or Instagram, can be an invitation to begin a conversation or to give recognition to another user. However, there’s an etiquette for doing so.

In social networking, overusing or inappropriately using mentions and tagging can be considered offensive and aggressive. Users who feel threatened by tags will likely unfollow or even block you. Most of the social networks have privacy features that allow users to prohibit or remove tags that were posted without their consent. Users can also report unwelcome tagging to the social network which could damage your reputation and may even get you banned for violating any tagging policies. So use tags with extreme caution!

I have notifications set up so that I’m notified when someone mentions or tags me. If I am randomly or inappropriately tagged or mentioned, I remove the tag and unfollow, block, or report the user as necessary. So watch how you play “tag” with me.

Following are some examples of tagging that can help engage other users on Instagram and Twitter. Note: In these examples, “username” means the user’s name that he or she uses on a particular network. On most networks, typing in the “@“ symbol and entering the user’s name will drop in an active link to the user’s profile to create the tag.

As a side note, if you tag famous celebrities, don’t expect to engage them. They have hordes of followers tagging them and ignore most. They just don’t have time for it, and your connection is probably not valuable to them.


(Comment example) “@username I totally agree about your point on [fill in topic here] because [tell the user why you agree].”

(Comment example) “@username I really enjoyed your video on [fill in topic here] because [tell the user why you liked it]. Thanks for sharing!”

You tag @username in a caption for a photo of an event you both attended and at which you made a mutually beneficial connection. If the photo includes the user, getting permission to post the photo and the tag is recommended.

In a comment, you tag @username and invite him or her to join the comment thread, e.g., “@username Do you have anything to add about this?” Or, “@username I think you’ll appreciate this.” This only works if you have already established some connection with the person. Otherwise, it's random, spammy tagging.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Heidi Thorne


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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      K.S., those like us who are genuinely trying to build an audience are definitely aware of the impact these things can have. Glad to see I have company. :) Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific weekend!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Linda, you got that right! I was a Twitter-er for many years. Now that I'm trying to build an audience on Instagram, I'm having to think about all these things again. Thanks for stopping by and have a terrific weekend!

    • K S Lane profile image

      K S Lane 4 months ago from Melbourne, Australia

      As someone who's trying to build their online platform, this was really useful! I find that when I'm deciding to follow people I generally look for these things too, though I wasn't conscious of it until now. Great hub!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      As usual, you've raised some good points, Heidi. There's quite a lot to think about when using Twitter and Instagram.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Bill, with all that you do, I don't think Instagram is probably a good use of your time... at least at this time. Plus, you've gotta pour some cement. :) Thanks for taking time to stop by and have fun with your weekend projects!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All turn-offs for sure. I don't even do Instagram....sigh....just one more thing I probably should do, but because I'm always feeling overwhelmed, don't do. :) Well, as always, an interesting read. Have a great weekend as I pour cement.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      You got that right, Flourish! I never know what motivates these folks. Whatever, I just ignore them and move along. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      Those DM/PMs are often creepy, especially when they are not complimenting your writing or comment. Weirdos can be live or virtual.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Sally! Glad you found it motivating. :) I know we've talked before about how getting your images into Instagram is a deterrent for using it more. Hope to see you more often in Insta-land. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

      Very useful info Heidi, thank you. You have convinced me that I should be using Instagram more effectively. I had better go and check to see if I have a Bio:)