Once you begin embracing Twitter, every day can be a Christmas of sorts, when you open up your e-mail to notifications of several new overnight followers. However well-developed your self esteem, a new crop of names and faces interested in what you have to microblog about definitely gives you a little tingle.

But then — as quickly as Christmas passes, the needles fall off the tree. Thing is, you don’t even see them turn brown. Boom, the bulbs go out, and your numbers drop. As followers disappear without reason, that little tingle becomes a little knot in your stomach, and you wonder what you did so wrong on this Twitter thing, anyway. We wonder if we will ever be followed again.

Margot Tohn, CEO of ParkIt Guides (@ParkingExpert), was excited to see her Twitter traffic on the rise, then confused when they backed out just as quickly.  “I was seeing an influx of new Twitter followers with high Klout scores. But 50 percent of them would unfollow me if I didn’t follow them back within 24 hours. Is the expectation that we should reciprocate immediately? Is it that they took some time to check out my Tweets and decided they weren’t interested? Or are they just trying to get more followers themselves?”

The quick embrace followed by a virtual dine-and-dash feels personal. And people will tell you, you are online, so of course it’s NOT personal. But if you are doing social media right, I think it’s a good sign that you are feeling slighted. That means, perhaps, you are trying to connect and interact with these folks — that the connection actually means something.

The essence of a healthy social media strategy is engagement with people and the formation of mutually beneficial relationships. There’s an implied conversation (some people are just better listeners, but they are involved). So if your new Christmas-morning friends ditched you within just one day, they probably weren’t relationship material after all. Chances are that either:

  • It was just a bot, after all, meant to artificially inflate followings or spread some get-rich gospel. You learn to recognize these by their just-shy-of-porn-star handles and provocative images, large followings, and 0 to 1 tweets.
  • They realized they “just weren’t that into you” — which, as they taught us on “Sex and the City,” is okay. Did you ever go on three, four dates with someone and realize you have absolutely nothing to talk about? Wouldn’t it have been easier if you never had that first date to start with? It wasn’t meant to be.
  • They are just trying to build their stats — the wrong way. Good riddance.

Keep in mind:

  • The girth of your gain doesn’t necessarily reflect the strength of your reach. Better to have fewer engaged, interactive followers — even if their Klout scores are nothing to write Santa about — than buckets of faces who never actually read your tweets. (See “Why Twitter Followers are Only Half the Story.”)
  • Your followers may change with your own interests. If you began to build your own lists and topics, your interest might be reciprocated. Then, when ski season is over, or you’ve finished your new car research, you might decide the relationship has run its course. You learned from each other, but it’s time to tweet new people.
  • It’s not the size of your following, but the commotion of your notions. If you are getting a lot of retweets, replies and mentions, you’re sailing the right direction.
And finally, when you’re ready to take the next step: 8 Ways to Take Your Relationship Beyond Twitter
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