Sound familiar? I get approaches like this all the time. I’m sure you get your share, too. Indeed, it seems a fairly common occurrence on the network.
Sometimes, the sender will put a spin on this, and ask you to send them a direct message. Either way produces a follow from you to them, which in many cases is neither desirable nor necessary.
The catch is, direct messages on Twitter are only two-way if both parties are following each other. If I follow you, but you don’t follow me, then I can’t direct message you – but you can direct message me. It’s a bit of an alien system but it was established to prevent spam, bombing and abuse. Imagine if it was the other way around, and worked like email – you’d get gazillions of invasive DMs each and every day.
That said, like a lot of people, I’m not a big fan of the direct message (DM) system on Twitter – it’s clunky and limiting, and the administration of direct messages is an awkward process. Moreover, a lot of people on Twitter abuse the DM feature, and use it to send spam and other messages where they’re trying to pitch some useless product in your direction.
So what to do when you get a message like this?
First, don’t just automatically follow the person – remember, you’re under no obligation to follow anybody, and certainly shouldn’t feel you have to follow somebody just because they want to send something privately to you. As I keep saying, it’s very important to keep your network both relevant and optimised.
Moreover, because @replies on the Twitter network are open – you can @ people you aren’t following, and vice versa – communication and engagements can be (and often are) made between people who aren’t following each other at all. Certainly, a one-way follow is not the end of the world – I follow over 50 people who don’t follow me back. Why? Because I find them interesting.