Skip to main content

How I Decide Whether to Follow You on Instagram or Twitter

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

Here are some general thoughts about how I choose who to follow on Instagram.

Here are some general thoughts about how I choose who to follow on Instagram.

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.

Why I Don't Follow "Checkerboards" on Instagram

If you've spent any time on Instagram, you've seen user profiles that look like checkerboards. In other words, if you look at their galleries of posts on their profiles, it looks like a perfect checkerboard with artful quote graphics strategically interspersed with usually staged and perfect photos of themselves or their surroundings.

Some are even worse by trying to create a profile where each post is a puzzle piece of a grid that ultimately creates a big picture on their profiles.

I don't follow checkerboards. Why does this bother me so much?

  • Not Authentic. These users are thinking so hard about their Insta-image that they will only post in a manner that makes their profile look perfect. That says a lot about the person. Too concerned with image. Too concerned with being perfect. You have to wonder if there's even a real person behind the perfection.
  • They Probably Don't Care About Their Followers. I think this is more the case for the "big picture" folks who post pieces of the picture puzzle. Each of those puzzle piece posts is unrecognizable on its own. Is that a valuable post for followers? Absolutely not. Plus, they usually don't have any caption for each of the puzzle piece posts. So there's no context or conversation either.
  • The Perfection Gets Messed Up. If a follower wants to look at the posts on the profile in sequential form, instead of the grid, the perfection gets messed up. Each post will be seen one by one. This is especially problematic for the "big picture puzzle piece" people.

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 01, 2020:

Adrienne, you really have to pick and choose what platforms really work for you. For me, it's Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. The rest I just have a minimal regular presence since they don't provide much value. Glad you found the tips helpful. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Adrienne Farricelli on July 01, 2020:

I have joined Instagram a while back, but for some reason I haven't fully taken advantage of the platform. I am more active on Pinterest, Twitter, and most of all, Facebook. Your criteria for deciding who to follow are very valid.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 14, 2018:

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!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 14, 2018:

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 from Melbourne, Australia on January 13, 2018:

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!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 13, 2018:

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

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 13, 2018:

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!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 13, 2018:

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.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 13, 2018:

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 from USA on January 12, 2018:

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

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 12, 2018:

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!

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on January 12, 2018:

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:)