So I went on a mini rant yesterday about my hometown team’s social media ineptness. And my brother posed an interesting question in return.

He’s right (of course) and he’s wrong.

I’m not impressed when a brand follows me. But I’m irritated when a brand I follow (and talk about) doesn’t follow  me back.

Being social starts with perception. 

Most companies have a few evangelists. A few brands, a la Apple, have big, rabid fan bases talking about them. Don’t you want to cultivate the ones you have?

Here’s why the 26K matters: 26,000 customers and prospects have indicated that they are interested enough in your brand to put your tweets in their Twitterstream. Not following them back implies you don’t care about them. Or worse, you’re taking their support for granted.

If you’re not talking, we think you’re not listening either. 

The Washington Nationals have a very good blog. It’s conversational. It’s fun. It lets fans peak behind the curtain. It’s a good social outpost for the team. Ditto for Screech (the mascot), who follows back his fans. But the corporate Twitterstream (and Twitter behavior) suggests someone said, “We need a Twitter feed.” It’s not ready for prime time.

If your customers are being social but you’re not, you risk alienating them. Sure, it might not change my feelings about baseball and the Nationals (where a rabid fan base comes in handy), but can your company afford to take this risk?

Photo by USAG-Humphreys (Flickr).