I was recently talking with a personal branding client who’s new to Twitter. He’s an expert in a small but growing industry that involves monitoring and outing certain extremists and they don’t like it, to put it mildly. Death threats are not uncommon and other kinds of harassment are to be expected.
One of the questions that came up was about Twitter followers. His concern was two-fold:
- How to prevent these extremists from following him
- How to deal with any potential fallout if extremists did follow him and that fact became known
There are basically 2 ways of doing this, blocking users or protecting your tweets.
Protecting your tweets will stop extremists from reading your tweets directly but your tweets can still be retweeted (manually, not using Twitter’s official Retweet). Worse, protecting your tweets will severely hamper your use of Twitter as a personal brand building tool since follower growth stops being scalable due to you (or an assistant) needing to validate every follower candidate that comes along. Even anti-spammer-type filtering can only go so far and as a result, I only recommend people consider protecting their tweets if their personal brand was successfully built before they joined Twitter, such as in the case of celebrities, sports figures or politicians (who can all afford an assistant).
Since my client doesn’t yet have a strong personal brand and wants to use Twitter to educate the public, he will need to get used to blocking users. That also means he will have to deal with his second concern.
Fallout regarding who’s following you
To get an idea of what my client is worried about, all you need to do is look back on the last presidential campaign. How many times did you hear the media say “Barack Obama is rumored to have had ties to…” or “John McCain previously had links with…”? And this might be when looking many years into the past.
Do you think the Twitter user-follower connection is strong enough for my client to be concerned? Perhaps in the future?
What about when a significant chunk of your followers belong to an “offending” group?
What do you think?