I’m sure that your email inbox is full of unsolicited mail, much of it spammy follow-ups. Mine sure is!
I recently had the chance to test those pesky follow-up skills when my response rate on a recent campaign was zero percent. Since we do our targeting and research upfront, we usually get at least a few responses to any outreach we do, but nope! Not this time.
I knew I should follow up, but I took the very lazy approach of simply finding my sent emails and re-sending them. Naturally, I still got no responses.
This situation reminded me of a recent conversation I had with some SEOs on Twitter where I asked about how they felt when people tweeted to them as a follow-up. Around the same time, one of my link builders asked me, “How do I know when to stop following up?” All of this made me realize that there really is a lot to the art of the follow-up — so let’s dig in.
Note: Keep in mind that I’m writing about follow-up in this article, not initial outreach or contact.
Here’s one very interesting tidbit for you: my most successful link builder is of course my most tenacious one, and he is the most consistent with following up. He follows up with everyone at least once a month (usually twice a month), and many of the links I see come through are ones he got after doing follow-up. He’s not just doing the lazy Julie thing, either. He’s actually forwarding his original email, along with a second inquiry.
We all follow up a bit more once we’ve connected with someone. If we’ve gotten an interested response, then we’ll follow up multiple times until it becomes obvious that it’s not worth our time anymore. We’ve even given up and had a response come in months after we last communicated with a webmaster.
Question: How much follow-up is too much? Is public follow-up via social media okay or not?
Some say that emailing anyone without having a prior relationship makes you a spammer, but that seems harsh to me. I’m also very guilty of getting overwhelmed and forgetting to respond to emails that I do want to answer, so I appreciate follow-up. I just don’t want to be nagged.
Ammon Johns had a very good point when we discussed follow-up on Twitter:
I will say that if you do indeed have a good relationship with someone, you can maybe get away with following up more than once if it’s something really important. But stop there, please.
Considering the links we get after a follow-up email, my team understands that they can’t expect everyone to respond to their initial email outreach all the time. They realize that we do get some great links after follow-up — sometimes people really do forget to respond, or maybe they don’t see your emails.
And honestly, if you reach out to someone in hopes of getting a link, that should mean that the site is truly a relevant linking partner, and that should mean that the relationship is important enough to pursue.
Just like a follow-up email, being prodded through a platform that you pay attention to can be a good thing. Maybe the email went to spam, and this Twitter reminder helps us go find something that we would have responded to if we’d seen it. Possibly because it is so public, I do tend to respond to people faster when they reach out on Twitter than when they email me — so again, I think it definitely can be good.
If I have ignored five emails from you, maybe it’s because I don’t want to respond, so I’m not a big fan of someone I don’t know tweeting to make me feel guilty about not responding to something.
Usually the tweeter won’t say that — but if someone tweets that he’s emailed me, I’ll go check it out. If I see that he’s been emailing me multiple times without my responding, it only annoys me and strengthens my desire not to respond.
So follow up — but judiciously, please. Just because we’re all online doesn’t mean that we should forget how we’d treat each other in person. You can forge a great relationship by following up, but you can also ruin one. So be careful out there!