The Guide to Following Fewer People

For many people, following a lot of people on Twitter is akin to collecting baseball cards – the more you have, the better you’re doing. This explains why many people are following thousands of people even though the value of following so many people is, at best, dubious.

I fall into the camp of following a limited number of people – currently about 200. That may make me a bad member of the Twitter community because my follow-followed ratio is 1:10 but 200 seems like a comfortable and management group. It’s enough people to let me know what’s happening without being overwhelmed.

In the spirit of following fewer people, here’s my approach:

1. Simply because someone follows you, you don’t have to follow them back. It may be impolite or downright social media-like but we’re not talking about a quid pro quo environment.

2. If you are going to follow someone, get a handle on who they are and what they use Twitter to do. This means reviewing their profile, Web site and recent updates. If you want to streamline the process, I recommend using Twimailer, which sends e-mail notifications of new followers that include much more than what Twitter does.

3. Have a benchmark for the kind of person you want to follow. Consider things such as how much they update, and what they use Twitter to do (personal, professional, sharing information, asking questions) to see if their approach aligns with yours. It’s great to follow a variety of people to get different perspective but it’s also important to be focused on getting the right kind of people to follow

4. Prune the number of people you follow on a regular basis. Just because you followed someone doesn’t mean it’s a forever kind of thing. People stop using Twitter or they start to update about things that don’t interest you. If you’re not getting what you want, cut ‘em loose.

Update: CNet has an article on how to attract fewer followers.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted March 16, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I entirely agree! I currently only follow about one fourth of my followers – only the people who's tweets I find interesting.

    Thanks,
    Nate

  2. Posted March 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Great tips. Right now I'm following thousands of people, maybe too much for me.

  3. Posted March 16, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    It all depends on why you want to use Twitter. If you want to connect with some friends, you can have less number of followers and following count. You can even make your updates private. As you mentioned, services like twimailer are quite useful to decide whether or not to follow a person. I go through their profiles and if they have anything in common with me, I follow them back

  4. Posted March 17, 2009 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I agree!! I don't follow those who follow me unless they fall into the categories that I want info from. Often, the not-followed will unfollow me leading to fluctuations in my followers, LOL! Also, I prune people I follow every 2 weeks =)

  5. Posted March 17, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    I'm not sure I agree. I don't have a huge following, but it's bigger than just a couple hundred. There are some I don't follow back – like they never ever engage in conversation (no @'s) or they only ever link to stuff – but for the most part I follow back. There are also people I follow who don't follow me back but they're interesting to me and I'll keep reading what they have to say.

    I agree that it depends on how you want to use twitter, but if it has anything to do with networking to build business you should be really selective about who you won't follow back. Not following back is akin to saying, "I'm sorry, you're just not interesting."

  6. Posted March 17, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    I'm not sure I agree. I don't have a huge following, but it's bigger than just a couple hundred. There are some I don't follow back – like they never ever engage in conversation (no @'s) or they only ever link to stuff – but for the most part I follow back. There are also people I follow who don't follow me back but they're interesting to me and I'll keep reading what they have to say.

    I agree that it depends on how you want to use twitter, but if it has anything to do with networking to build business you should be really selective about who you won't follow back. Not following back is akin to saying, "I'm sorry, you're just not interesting."

  7. Posted March 17, 2009 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the tips. I'm often torn by this. While I want to have a huge following, I don't just want to follow someone just because they are following me. It feels a bit inauthentic to me. However, as I learned from Perry Belcher, it's not nice to be a Twitter snob either. I think 95% of the time I will follow you back if I like your bio and past tweets and if you look sincere in your pic. But if I think you won't really 'add' to my stream, I won't follow. Way too many spammers out there. I have yet to 'unfollow' anyone…

  8. Posted March 22, 2009 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    There seems to be a myth propagating amongst Twitter's power users that you should automatically follow everyone who follows you, regardless of their value. Apparently, if you don't follow every single one of your followers, you're somehow a bad Twitter user, can't possibly be getting any value out of the service and just simply don't "get it".

    I just don't see the point in getting sucked into the numbers game. If you're a celebrity, then it stands to reason that you're going to attract tens of thousands of followers. I understand that. If you're selling a service or product, then I can also understand why you're playing the numbers game. You follow people because you're counting on the chances that they'll auto-follow, thus putting your tweets (and therefore your product) on their Google-indexable Twitter page and you on top of their follower/following list for a short while.

    If you're neither a celebrity nor a salesman, playing the auto-follow numbers game is essentially worthless. You're much better off using one of the hundreds of tools available to search the Twitterverse for specific users/tweets if you want to mine for information, rather than building up a huge follow/follower count and hope you strike lucky there.

    Here's my strategy for deciding who to follow:

    When someone follows me, I'll check out their profile. If they regularly post witty, informative tweets about things that interest me and regularly engage with their followers, I'll follow them. If they hardly ever post tweets, post about subjects that don't interest me, or just use Twitter to link-dump, I won't follow them. If it also appears they're just following me to draw attention to a product or service they're selling, I'll take the additional step of BLOCKING them. Yes, block. I'm not going to contribute to their inflated follower count, nor do I want them to use me for top-listing and Google indexing purposes.

    In order to discover new people to follow, I use TweetDeck and Twhirl's search capabilities to set up numerous keyword searches for things that interest me. I also explore #followfriday hashtags from people I follow to discover more users.

    I don't really care if peoaple I follow choose not to follow me in return. I don't take it personally, harbor a grudge and then unfollow them, just as I don't expect the owner of every web site I visit to visit mine in return. The exchange of information between the follower and the followee will rarely be equally balanced. Someone's always going to gain a little bit more from the relationship than the other. It's just important to remember that there's nothing wrong with that.

    In short, playing the numbers game is pointless. Only follow those who genuinely interest you. Don't ever feel obligated to follow people in kind just for the sheer hell of it, regardless of what the Twitter elite tell you. Post interesting tweets, interact with your followers and everyone's happy.

  9. Posted March 22, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    That's terrific insight, and an approach that I follow as well. Thanks for swinging by and leaving a comment.

  10. Posted March 31, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I think that it doesn't make sense to follow more than 20 or 30 people – you can't really read all messages if you follow hundreds of people. You might feel good, or feel 'important', but it's pretty useless.

  11. Posted March 31, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I think that it doesn't make sense to follow more than 20 or 30 people – you can't really read all messages if you follow hundreds of people. You might feel good, or feel 'important', but it's pretty useless.

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