TheStreet's New Social Contract With You

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Since becoming TheStreet's Director of Social Media in late October, I have met with countless numbers of smart people about how to best utilize social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook (FB).

Lots comes up in these conversations, however, this one almost always tops the list:

How do we increase "engagement" on Twitter?

Engagement is a not-so-fancy word for how many mentions, retweets and such an account receives. Beyond delivering great content with snappy headlines at the right time, nobody that I know of has a novel or satisfactory answer to this question.

For months, I have pondered this conundrum. How do you get your followers to interact with you on Twitter?

Recently, I broke it down to basics. And, as usual, I made a connection via analogy.

When you're dating, it's easy to get swamped by fear, sit still and do nothing. But, as Springsteen said, "You can't start a fire without a spark." You need to master your fear, approach the object of your desire and then set about distinguishing yourself, to show why you're different from all the others.

At TheStreet, we've already mastered our fear. It doesn't scare us to beat you over the head repeatedly with my latest opinion piece on Apple ( AAPL). We're reaching out to you.

But now we must go beyond. We need to distinguish ourselves, to be different. We're already delivering great market coverage, great analysis. Now we need to harness the power of the Twitter platform to take things farther. We're moving in that direction immediately.

While it might sound small, I think this is pretty big. From here on out, if you follow us on Twitter, we will follow you.

It stuns me to see how many media outlets, personalities, companies and brands have tens of thousands of followers -- sometimes millions -- yet they follow very few accounts themselves. No matter how you cut it, this implies that we -- the one you decided to follow -- have an inferiority complex. You want to hear what we have to say, but there's not possibly anything we can learn from you. Frankly, I think this attitude -- and it's so commonplace -- sucks.

If you want engagement from your Twitter followers, you cannot be a pompous ass! You have to follow and engage with them. It works wonders and, as I have experienced at my personal Twitter account, you learn a lot of really great things, get some laughs and find entertainment from random people you never heard of before.

And, when you engage them like a real person -- genuinely -- they respond and that response snowballs rapidly into increased engagement. Your Twitter feed becomes a meaningful conversation, not a glorified RSS feed.

With that said, expect to see TheStreet interact with its Twitter followers much more going forward. And we really will follow you, shortly, if not immediately, after you follow us. That doesn't mean we'll bug you. Consider the follow, our offer -- passed on by the bartender -- to get you a drink. If you accept -- interact with us -- chances are you'll receive a response and, quite possibly, trigger a dialogue.

If you are one of our 57,000 existing followers, we want to and will try to follow you as soon as we can. But, realize it's a big job not only because of the number of followers, but because Twitter, while it doesn't restrict the number of people an account can follow, does put a cap on how many accounts you can follow over specific time periods, relative to the size of your following.

We're real people here. We're no better than you. We're just lucky to have incredibly fun and interesting jobs. So, in the spirit of Phil Collins, "Follow You, Follow Me."

Click here to get to TheStreet's Twitter page.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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