Warning: there is some suspiciously guru-ish lingo and ideas coming up. Sorry. I'm not a Twitter guru. I'm not a social media expert. Anyone that tells you they are is a douchebag. I just had an idea that might be fun, one that I'm going to try myself, and I thought you might be interested.
What's Twitter for, exactly? The answer, in varying degrees, is different for everyone. Some use Twitter for true social interaction; they send lots of @ replies, and engage in actual conversations. Some use Twitter an an announcement platform; they don't have very many conversations and/or tend to post very little other than headlines from their blogs. Some use Twitter as a marketing tool; while they may have some personal interactions, they're there simply to pitch their products. Businesses often use Twitter as a channel for customer support, which is great.
Regardless of how you use Twitter, there is an underlying truth: if you engage with your followers, and with the people you're following, your experience will be more rewarding. Even if you use it as an announcement platform, having the occasional conversation with a follower can turn that follower from a person who might be marginally interested in what you're tweeting into a loyal customer. If you're all about the social interaction aspect, then my challenge might be a little “yeah whatever” for you, but who knows? Let's see what happens.
My challenge is simple.
Send an @ reply to everyone you follow.
That's it. Interact. Have a single conversation with everyone you follow. Following Kevin Smith? Send him a message. Following me? I'd love to hear from you. Even if you're following a company that doesn't really do @ replies, send 'em a message anyway. This isn't about increasing your follower count (because I'm not a social media guru/expert/douchebag), this is about finding some value in your use of the platform. There is value in having a conversation with someone, even if it's not related to selling that person a product or service.
If you're following only a couple of hundred people, it shouldn't take very long. If you're following 50,000 people, well, that's ridiculous. Stop it. People with half a brain know that you're not really paying attention to all those people anyway.
Hell, I don't even follow people back that follow me if I see that they're following thousands of people… I'm not interested in bumping up someone's follower count, I'm interested in interacting with people.