Recently, I’ve noticed some tattletale bot notifications to tweeps who my company twitter has unfollowed. I was bothered by this for some reason (maybe I’m still harboring little sister tattletale resentment?) and I figured it was fine time to air my thoughts on Twitter following and followers.
The way I see it is there are a few different schools of thought.
1. Following back is a courtesy.
There is a school of twettiquette thought that insists following back all followers is simply proper manners. This may entail auto-following programs depending on how many followers you have and how many new ones you receive a day. Additionally, this may entail inadvertently following spammers.
Inherent in this is also unfollowing those who unfollow you or who choose not to follow you back.
I asked @buzzedition for her thoughts:
I follow everyone back because I feel Twitter is a two way conversation. I do find myself weeding out spammers as DMs come in, but that kind of comes w/ the territory. U have 2 take good with the bad. I am here to engage, and I do respond to everyone,sometimes with the large number of messages I receive public and private, it takes awhile to get back to everyone. I feel that everyone has value, and I look forward to meeting new people everyday. ~hugs~
Fair enough, and much respect to her – she’s an incredible Twitter conversationalist and she shares a lot of great content, too. With this category, I’ve also noticed that @ replies go much further than DM’s.
Pros: Creates more opportunities for conversation.
Cons: Lots of noise in the following stream including spam (until it’s filtered out).
2. Following back is a tool for more efficient communication.
Twitter guru @guykawasaki uses this follow tactic to enhance communication capabilities because he finds direct messages more efficient than @ replies. I asked him if he parses through for spam and his response was, “I follow everyone and don’t worry about spam/bots.”
This philosophy seems to have many of the same reasons as #1, but with this one, the intent is to be accessible via DM.
Pros: Efficient means of communication via dm’s.
Cons: Quality of the feed is diminished.
3. Following back is a nod to credibility and value.
I personally follow almost as many people as are following me. However, I’m still selective of who I follow. Yes, I follow @sockington and @ichcheezburger and many others who are ridiculous. However, their content has value to me. Some tweeps are valuable to me just because they’re entertaining; some are valuable for the content they share. The list of reasons goes on and on, but the point is that I follow people who tweet consistently worthwhile material. The @scobleizer recently converted to this tactic, unfollowing 106,000 tweeps (that’s a lot of tweeps..) and following a select few (1600 tweeps – still a lot) back. In his blog, he mentioned the 7000 followers he lost, stating:
They [unfollowed me] so fast that I assume they are just bots that are looking to increase their follower numbers. I knew I’d lose them, but that’s sort of why I did it. People who are following me just to get another count on their follower numbers are just plain, well, lame.
Ari Herzog (@ariherzog on Twitter, blogging at ariwriter.com) wrote on the topic as well, experimenting with various methods and settling with the “follow for value” tactic. I think he sums up the sentiment quite well here:
Don’t focus on who follows you or who doesn’t follow you but on contributing to the at-large Twitter community. Focus on building your foundation of believers.
Pros: Incredible value within the stream of people you follow and the ability to truly tune in to what people are saying. No spam, minimal noise.
Cons: It can be a painstaking task to parse through everyone who follows you to determine whether or not you want to follow them back.
4. Following back is to keep up with people I want to keep up with.
I associate this tactic with some professionals in certain fields and celebrities. Tons of followers, minimal following ratio. Usually something like 150 following to 1.5 million followers. Usually, the people they follow are either celebrities themselves, professionals in the same field, power tweeps, or a mix of the 3.
Pros: Noiseless stream, manageable DM inbox.
Cons: Makes you seem elitist and inaccessible. Not that people won’t try with @ replies, but it does rub some people the wrong way. Limited stream of information, possibly biased and narrow mix of topics.
There are many more trains of thought, but I found these to be the most noticeable. All have their merits, all are valuable, and all work for someone. What works for you?