To Follow or Not to Follow; that is the Question

twitter-followers-elephan-train.jpgby Neal Wiser (@nealwiser)

Unless you are a Twitter user who immediately follows everyone who follows you, we have all experienced losing Followers because, for whatever reason, we did not follow them in return. To be sure, deciding when to follow or not follow is not only a personal decision, but one which is driving a growing debate in the Blogosphere. How this debate plays out may have a profound impact on how people use Twitter and how the service will grow in the future.

Although it’s still early in Twitter’s Evolution, the Follow Question is one that has no easy answer. Indeed, deciding whether or not to follow someone is a vexing question for both new and veteran Tweeters alike. The decision ultimately depends on a variety of factors as numerous as there are users of the service and while there isn’t any one right answer, two diametrically opposed positions have emerged. The challenge is that both present valid arguments. For analysis, I call them Reciprocals and Discriminators.

Reciprocals take the view that not only does etiquette require you to return a follow, but reciprocity is the quickest way to increase your Follower numbers. However, as your Followers increase, your timeline can become clogged with superfluous discussions. Even with tools such as TweetDeck, following multiple conversations is not easy.

Discriminators take the opposite view. They feel, among other things, that quality of followers, not quantity is the important factor. Ultimately, the decision depends on one’s reasons and goals for using Twitter, but there are Pros and Cons to each position.

twitter-followers-pros and cons.jpg

Growing Pains in 140 Characters or Less

Unfortunately, Twitter’s phenomenal growth complicates the situation. As the service attracts more users, some of them will discover new ways in which Twitter can be abused. The recent Twishing schemes and the hijacking of 33 high profile celebrity accounts are recent examples of behavior that may slow Twitter’s growth as users hesitate to join or follow out of fear.

twitter-followers-2.png While abuses are inevitable, users are fortunate in one regard; the very paradigm upon which the platform is based Push) places the power of connecting with other users in the hands of the users themselves. In fact, the Push paradigm has allowed Twitter to thrive with only two primary rules:

  1. If you like someone, you can follow them.
  2. If you don’t like someone, you don’t have to follow them (and they cannot reach you).

To be sure, Twitter is working hard to provide greater security. For example, they have suspended accounts for “suspicious behavior” and offer “protected updates” and blocking; but are these measures enough?

Does Twitter Need More Regulation?

Surely there are those who believe that Twitter needs greater formal regulation. Unfortunately, while security needs to be a top priority, it’s the very newness of the service that makes it hard to determine precisely what to secure against. Until then, users are going to have to use good judgment when deciding to follow someone.

There are ways to follow users without letting them know, but that also begs the question; why follow someone covertly? Even if you have valid reasons for secrecy, this defeats the purpose of social media (If you insist on doing so, one method is to subscribe to the other user’s RSS feed).

My Solution: Managed Reciprocity; a Balanced Approach

I personally find significant value in aspects of both Reciprocal and Discriminator positions, but how does one reconcile where the positions conflict? My solution is a strategy I call Managed Reciprocity.

Managed Reciprocity allows me to balance aspects of the two positions in a way that allows me to get the most out of Twitter and the relationships I forge there (individual results may vary). In short, it lets me maximize my relationships with my Followers by allowing me to better manage their expectations as both their numbers, and the numbers of their Tweets, increase. In order to get the maximum benefit of Managed Reciprocity, I have developed the following Guidelines:

Managed Reciprocity Guidelines

1. Know Your Goals: Twitter is a powerful tool that can provide you access to a world of wonderful benefits. From networking to participating in stimulating conversations to just having fun and making new friends, Twitter is better if you begin with a goal in mind. My goals are as follows (this order is constantly changing):

  • Network
  • Look for opportunities to help and mentor others
  • Look for business opportunities
  • Learn and grow both professionally and personally
  • Make new friends
  • Have fun

2. Have a Plan: In order to achieve your Twitter goals, you need to think about what Strategy and Tactics you will use to reach them. My strategy evolved from how I already use Twitter.

  • My Strategy: I use Twitter to scan what I call the “Buzz Layer” for conversations I can participate in and/or to create opportunities to start conversations (subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed at for forthcoming posts about the “Buzz Layer”). I also use it for discovering interesting information, learning about breaking news and developing relationships with my peers.
  • My Tactics: Any strategy is useless without planning the steps to take in order to achieve your goals. Effective tactics will allow you to:
  • Select the Tools that are right for you (see below).
  • Measure your progress reaching your goals.
  • Manage Your Time (Twitter can be an incredible time sink).
  • Maximize ROI (as in, making sure you use Twitter efficiently, not necessarily a financial return, although that will come soon).

3. Choose Your Tools: To effectively execute a strategy, you not only need the right tools, but to understand why you need those tools and what those tools can do for you. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of third party apps and services to choose from. For more information; two great resources are Twitdom and (Twitter Fan Wiki). Be sure to do your research; read reviews and ask other Twitter users what they use. While I am constantly experimenting with new tools, here is my Primary Toolset:

  • TweetDeck: This is a Twitter Management application for the desktop. Even in its first generation it’s surprisingly effective and easy to use. As of this writing (January 2009), Iain Dodsworth, the creator of TweetDeck, just received venture financing, so we can expect to have significant and much needed improvements soon. I use TweetDeck to filter my “TweetStream.” I have one column that accepts all of my Followers Tweets, and other columns with various filters and groups. I also regularly dip into the general stream just to see if I’m missing anything and to look for interesting voices.
  • Tweetie: Tweetie is an iPhone app that is as inexpensive as it is easy to use. It was also just updated with improvements to its functionality (including one questionable feature). For the mobile Tweeter, Tweetie is indispensable.
  • SocialToo: This is a new web-based service that provides survey tools (a popular and useful Twitter activity) and reports on changes in follower numbers and sends you a daily email listing all your new Followers and who has stopped following you.
  • Twitter Search:A fast and efficient Twitter search engine.
  • Friend or Follow: A nice interface helps you see who is and isn’t following you and whom you are following.
  • TweetStats: Offers excellent analysis tools to help you understand how you use Twitter.

4. Create and Post your Following Policy: Now that people are using multiple social networks, the time has come to let people know how you use each one and what your Followers, Friends, etc. can expect from following you. Your Followers have expectations too and they deserve to know if you are worth following. By presenting them with your Following Policy, you can better manage those expectations and thus the relationship. After all, having a fulfilling relationship with your Followers is what Twitter’s all about. The following are things to keep in mind when creating your own Following Policy:

  • Transparency: I have no secret Twitter agenda and neither should you. Be honest about what you want and expect to get out of Twitter and you will have a more fulfilling experience.
  • Length: Keep your policies short and to the point or else no one will read it.
  • Managing Expectations: Let your Followers know exactly what they can expect from you. It will go a long way to keeping them happy.
  • Accessibility: Post your policy on your blog, Facebook profile, or wherever you call home on the web. Also, put a link to it on your Twitter page, but you probably don’t want to post the entire policy there. Twitter can cover parts of your profile under different screen resolutions.
  • Honesty is the Best Policy: Follow your own Policy. Don’t deviate without a really, really good reason because if your Followers notice, and they will, you will lose friends. Note that I do mean friends, not just your total number of Followers, although that will happen too.
  • Include a Disclaimer: At some point, you may need to update your Policy. Include a short note explaining that this may happen.

My Following Policy

I established this Following Policy so that my Followers can clearly understand how, when and why I may or may not follow them back, and how quickly they can expect me to start following. To be sure, this is not my entire process. When I learn that someone is following me I usually do things like look at their Profile page, review some of their comments and Favorites, and look at who they follow and who is following them.

I highly recommend that all Twitter users adopt policies of their own. I believe it will help reduce churn and make Twittering a better experience for all.


That’s it. It’s helped me and I hope it helps you too. I look forward to reading your Comments.

References and Further Reading (in no particular order):


  • February 6, 2009

    Nice post. You have given lots of details. BTW when someone follows me , i visit their profile check 5-10 tweets and if i find them intresting , i follow that person :)

  • February 6, 2009

    Thanks Rahul, Glad you like my Post. You’re doing the important thing which is finding a system that works for you. Hope to hear from more people to learn about how they manage their Followers. If I get enough responses (and with Darren’s blessings :) , I’ll post a follow up. And don’t forget to Follow me on Twitter (@nealwiser).

    Thanks again.


  • February 6, 2009

    Great Article, packed with loads of great tips.. I take the view to pretty much follow anyone and everyone. Why? because until they start tweeting, I have no idea if I will like what they have to say.. I also try and follow all those that are following me, as a coutesay…

    just curious, where do your new followers see your following policy..

    Mark Shaw

  • February 6, 2009

    Hi Neal! Thanks for the great post, it really goes into detail. My tactic is a little simpler than yours: When a person follows me I check out their profile description and previous tweets. If they tweet about topics I’m interested in I’ll follow them back. If I notice that someone in my timeline is constantly posting irrelevant things I’ll recheck their profile and may consider unfollowing them. Also, I rely on Mr. Tweet ( for follower recommendation. Tweetdeck groups and columns also help a great deal with managing people I’m following.

  • February 6, 2009

    Great article! Love all the resources.

  • February 6, 2009

    Nice post; thanks. I’ll think about a policy.

    As an aside, you have a broken link to Micah’s post

    You link to: [ Ooops?

  • February 6, 2009
    Victor Augusteo

    great tips neal. i guess i’m the same with raul. whenever a person follows me, i’ll check if they are follow worthy, haha. but mostly are.

    anyway, good job. will be waiting for your next article.

  • February 6, 2009

    My view is that if someone is going to unfollow you because you didn’t follow them, a relationship would not have developed anyways. That person is just looking for raw numbers, not quality. That being said, there is definitely a balance between numbers and quality. If you are just following the 2 or 3 people you view as the highest quality, you probably are not going to get as much out of Twitter as you possibly could. Likewise, if you follow everyone, you are going to be swamped. That being said, I usually follow most people that follow me, unless they are obviously TwitSpammers, or espouse points of view I find offensive. I don’t think I’m at the point where I need a policy yet, but it’s definitely food for thought.

    Great post.

  • February 6, 2009

    I love Twitter.. now lost in the land of Tweets.. but I want to know how the development will continue and if I can transfer my 140 characters to a work strategy.. basically I want to know how I can reduce my time spent with maybe 140 characters or less.. My boredom threshhold is now even smaller than it was before I became a Tweet slave! :)

  • February 6, 2009

    Lots to think about here.

    For me, the takeaway is that I probably need to switch to the Tweetdeck platform.

    Coolio, and much thanks.


  • February 6, 2009

    I don’t have a follow policy so much as I make sure that I only follow people that I know I actually will reply or interact with. If I look at your twitter stream and you’re not showing any tweets that would ever be of interest to me, I won’t follow.

    I also am more likely to follow someone who is in my niche for one of my websites – people that can help me, or that I can help in return. There has to be a good reason for me to follow someone.

    By the same token, just because I follow someone doesn’t mean i will continue following that person. If I find that they aren’t of use or interesting to me, I will unfollow.

  • February 6, 2009

    I will generally check the profiles of those who are following me to see if I want to follow back. I try to answer the question “Why did this person decide to follow me?” I look at 1-2 pages of tweets and their blog or other website, if one is listed. If they offer interesting conversation or are in my niche, I follow back. I *always* follow back if someone actually talks to me! If it looks like the person is only following me to get more follows or promote a business I have no reason to be interested in, I don’t bother. I regularly search keywords in my niche and follow those who mention them. I also try to retweet things for my followers so that they get some promotion. Most people will thank you for a RT and then you have an opening for a nice conversation.

    I used to feel guilty about not auto-following, but I realized that many of the people who follow me and don’t fit my guidelines are just trying to use me. They won’t be talking to me anytime soon, and they probably won’t even notice the lack of a return follow. They’re already off spamming more people with their follows and advertweets.

  • February 6, 2009

    Very good post and very helpful. I don’t do auto follow. I follow most who follow me excpet for those when I go to their website is just all about teaching me I can I be a millionaire (scam kind) and those who just swear on their blog but do not say anything construction (which they also do on their twits). Other than those exceptions I follow those who follow me. Yes, I manually check.

    Recently I was followed by some “big time” internet gurus and I felt so honored! There’s something about being followed by a famous one that makes out Twitter Heart happy :)


  • February 6, 2009

    Under Pros for Discriminators I’d add, “Reduces Spam”. That’s my primary reason to not reciprocate a follow.

    Thanks for prompting me to post a follow policy.

    Any chance you’d post tips on organizing and managing TweetDeck groups some time? I really struggle with this. (Perhaps you already have? Need to go look.) Thanks!

  • February 6, 2009

    Thanks for the great comments. Some excellent food for thought. Please keep the comments coming!


  • February 6, 2009

    Great post, I liked your detailed work.

  • February 6, 2009

    When someone follows me, I always go to there profile, look at their tweets, and see how many followers they have. I also check out their website if they have one.

    I think most people do this and thats why its so important to have a killer twitter landing page.

  • February 6, 2009

    Way to go Neal!

    Excellent post I must say! :)

  • February 6, 2009

    Its great thanks

  • February 6, 2009

    I definitely look at profile pages and past comments to judge whether I would follow someone. I haven’t been looking at Favorites, though, probably because I’ve seen people use that in different ways. For instance, I use it as a way to mark tweets I’d like to follow-up on later. This is especially true of tweets with interesting-sounding links. They may not really be my favorites, but something intrigued me enough to return to that tweet later.

  • February 6, 2009

    I fail to see how automatically following any spammer that deigns to follow you is being “true to the spirit of social media” but your managed reciprocity approach is a good one.

  • February 6, 2009

    Sorry to disagree, but all debate is good. I think trying to put too many rules around Twitter spoils it’s greatest asset, which is the spontaneity of the whole thing. One moment I’m hearing about snow in London, the next some corny guy selling his wares – it all adds up to the rich tapestry that is Twitter.
    I don’t think you need a policy – just do what you do in real life – if they annoy you, unfollow, but you don’t need to tell them in advance that’s what you’re going to do. When you meet people in real life, you don’t give them a list of behaviors you will tolerate if they wish to remain your friend, so why would you on Twitter?

  • February 6, 2009

    I have much the same approach as noted in Neal’s “Twitter Following Policy” above, aside from the “I will follow (almost) everyone who follows me”. I have been followed by SOOO many spammers and so many people just using Twitter to sell something, that I have adopted a “you must engage me in some meaningful way” approach before I will follow you back.

    For some time I would blindly follow anyone who followed me, as not to seem rude. However, my Twitterstream became so overrun with tweets that were of no interest or value to me that I would miss out on a significant amount of useful information. That said, please don’t be offended if you follow me and I don’t follow you back right away – engage me in some way and I’ll probably follow you back at some point! :)

  • February 6, 2009

    This a very, very helpful, insightful, and informative article for new Tweeters like me. The first day I signed up, I was shocked by all the “follows” I received. What the heck, why did these people decide to follow me? I soon decided that most were just trying to increase their own follows, which I understood. However, I wasn’t interested in following all of them.

    Your article will help me to define my own Twitter policy and to express it appropriately.

    Thank you!

  • February 6, 2009

    Neal –
    I love the Twitter Following Policy, and will definitely construct one of my own.
    One issue that I see is that few will see it.
    I use TweetDeck and when I come across a potential Twit I follow right from there.
    I don’t use the website and so I never see the background image.
    I realize I might now be the norm, but as more and more twitter API’s become the avenue of choice, that’s bound to happen.

    One solution might be to have the Policy on a twitter landing page. The new Twit would have to read your profile then click on the link to get there.
    Maybe a better option is to enable an AutoResponder (I know I know…) that sends them a link to your twitter policy page.

    No matter what, having a clear cut Twitter Follow Policy is a great idea!

  • February 6, 2009

    Great post, thanks Neal.

    I’m new to Twitter but I’m purposely going for quality and treating it like a dinner-party – focussing on like-minded people that have things of interest to say and where I feel I can contribute. I don’t use a “you followed me so I’ll follow you” approach. Time will tell if I’m on the right track! Like Rahul, I check all followers out first before I follow.

    I’m intrigued by your comment re Tweetie: “including one questionable feature”. I’ve only just bought this and haven’t used it much as I’ve been office-bound recently (using Tweetdeck). What’s the questionable feature?


  • February 6, 2009

    Hi MikeCJ, and MikeM, Great comments from both of you.

    MikeCJ; Granted, whatever policy one might use is obviously up to them, but my Twitter Following Policy is actually only part of a more comprehensive Social Networking Policy (that you can see at that I’ve adopted for all of the services I use. In my experience with Twitter I thought it would be a nice thing to let my followers know what to expect and I’ve been getting some great feedback (including yours) about such policies.

    Mike M.; I placed a note about my Following Policy just below the menus on my Twitter Profile page, but you make a good point about being able to see it if you use tools like TweetDeck as I do. However, from TweetDeck, I often click on the profile link because I like to see what people have done with their Profile pages. Maybe I’ll add a note to my Bio.

    Thanks again!


  • February 6, 2009

    My own policy is to follow all human beings back who don’t fall into the category of “get-rich-quick” marketers. If the words “cash,” “profit,” or “rich,” are in the username, it’s likely gonna be a no for me. I do think you eventually have to settle for seeing only snapshots of your timeline. It isn’t email, so don’t try to engage everything and everybody, dip your tows in the stream now and then as it passes by, and respond personally. That’s my rough draft of a policy.

  • February 6, 2009

    I’ve recently noticed a trend of people following me, then when I check their profile a day or so later to see if I’d like to follow back (sometimes it takes me that long, as I do not do the auto-follow thing), they’re no longer following me! If I find what they’re tweeting about interesting, I’d like to follow them, but just can’t bring myself to do it. It seems like they are just following people to get more followers, which is annoying, misleading, and pretty pointless.

    Also, there are so many “rules” to Twitter now that it’s dizzying. I like this one from Chris Brogan,

    “If someone says you’re using twitter wrong, forget it. It’s an opt out society. They can unfollow if they don’t like how you use it.”

    Anyway, great food for thought in this post. Very detailed and thoroughly thought out… thanks Neal!

  • February 6, 2009

    This is probably one of the most thoughtful to follow or not to follow posts that I’ve read… As a pastor, I use discretion! If you wanna know whether I’ll follow you back you mught just have to follow me and find out!

  • February 6, 2009

    i’m not sure what to say.. you’ve already said everything to be said about that following issue!

    good post.

  • February 6, 2009

    Lovely timing of this article, Neal. I’ve just purposely added people to follow and in the process, have gained several new followers myself. In the process, I’ve “uncovered” more tweeters who are operating from a very promotional push perspective. To me, that’s the anathema of what I am looking for, or the intent of social media. Many such self-promoters I’ve chosen not to follow. Some are so blatantly tacky about their intentions that I’ve flat-out blocked them. Like you, I have elected to participate under a “Managed Reciprocity”.

    It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out in a year or two. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  • February 6, 2009

    Neal, thanks for mentioning SocialToo as an option. While there is no wrong or right way to use Twitter, my personal preference is to follow everyone (of course, I use SocialToo to do that for me), as I believe it’s a nice gesture, saying, “hey, you can dm me any time you want, and I’d like to stay in touch”. Then, I use TweetDeck to organize all the activity.

    –Jesse Stay, CEO,

  • February 6, 2009

    If I read one more “should I follow or not” post I think I’m gonna puke. I can’t believe people get their panties in a bunch over this. And now we’re posting Twitter “follow policies” and fawning over them like a new era Gutenberg Bible? As the beer commercial would exclaim, “Brilliant!”

    Twitter is popular because the mass of people these days can’t hold a cogent thought longer than 140 characters – and if you read the public stream, most of them can’t get even that far.

  • February 6, 2009

    I am a relative twitter newbie, and I try to read all the guides on how I should behave on Twitter and I have now developed an alarming habit of whenever I do anything in real life I find myself thinking, “How can I break this down into 140 characters and make this sound interesting?”
    I tend be the same, I was worried I wasn’t getting many followers and my insecurities grew, and I began to ask myself, “Does this mean i’m not interesting or does it mean I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the wider world?” Purely my problem but I’m getting over that now. I look at who is following and check out their profiles and look at how many they are following and how many are following them if they have thousands of followers then I think they can’t be that bad but if they are following thousands with just a couple of hundred following them then I tend to be suspicious and ask myself, “are they spammers?”
    I began thinking after reading the post, “yeah I need a policy” then I read Mike’s comments and agreed about the variety but then I thought is that not a policy itself?
    So my question is where do I write a policy people to read on Twitter?

  • February 6, 2009

    Great job Neal. Well thought out and conveyed. Initially I began on twitter thinking I’d focus on the business side. I am happy to say I have forged so many meaningful relationships and enjoy the dialogue so much, I follow almost everyone who follows me. My rule is if I run into someone who is trying to MLM me or seems to have a negative attitude, well I’m to busy to embrace either arenas. But I am always looking for people who can make me smile, give me a point of view I hadn’t considered and most importantly people I can help. By helping people I mean, reaching out during difficult times, helping them gain contacts in industries or locales I am familiar with and putting a smile on their face. If through that business comes, well that’s just the cherry on the sundae. Warm Aloha, Kelly

  • February 6, 2009

    I agree, it’s important to know what you’re using the service for to best determine your “followship,” goals. I try to find people with similar goals, but from all walks of life. So far so good! (It’s pretty easy to detect the narcissists and sock puppets)

  • February 6, 2009

    I just think the whole point of Twitter is communication and to me communication is two way. If you follow me I’ll check your profile and see if we have anything in common or something to talk about (although I don’t follow people whose every tweet is promotional). If I see a possible connection I’ll follow back. If I don’t then it’s fine if you then choose to unfollow me.

    If I follow you and you haven’t followed me back after a week or two I’ll unfollow because clearly you don’t see us having a connection (and that’s ok) but why bother with one way communication?

  • February 6, 2009

    Up until reading this post I would say I was definitely a Descriminator. I followed few because I only wanted to read what the top marketers were twittering on about… not the inane conversations of many!
    Now, I will try the TweetDeck and perhaps my followers will find me more friendly as I follow them!

    -Melanie Milletics,

  • February 6, 2009

    I’m a “Discriminator” :-)
    My follow policy:

  • February 6, 2009

    What a thoughtful and helpful article. You clearly put a lot of work into your posts, and it shows. According to your classification system, I’m definitely a discriminator. I only follow a handful of people, but I do enjoy the opportunities for meeting new people on Twitter. I tend to do the same as Rahul (commenter #1 above): I visit their profile, check 5-10 tweets and if I find them interesting , I follow that person

  • February 6, 2009

    Hi Neal,

    Great post, I think the follow you, follow me debate can be taken many different ways, it all depends on what your reason for using twitter is. We use it as a lead generation strategy and have tried different strategies on how to get a better response from your following.
    Twitter Research


  • February 6, 2009

    I would also reccomend Alertme as a tool very valuable. I believe in the follow in any case in which you have something in common with a person. I follow people I find might tell me something new and different.


  • February 6, 2009

    I follow people if they’re interesting, and even if they’re not that interesting but I know them or have some reason to believe that they’re following me for a reason other than a desire to sell me things.
    However, people who twitter with great frequency — like the ones who will fill up the page every day — well, if I follow them, then I’m going to miss everyone else. If they’re interesting, I’ll go read their blog. For me, Twitter is supposed to be a quick circuit of the cocktail party before heading on to something else, not a deep and meaningful relationship.

  • February 6, 2009

    I like your follow policy. I do need to use friend or follow to see who I need to add and who needs to add me.
    Thanks for the post!

  • February 6, 2009

    FABULOUS post. Thanks so much! Going to make my policy now. I am uncomfortable that I have so many followers and don’t reciprocate but for me, Twitter is about socializing and chatting, and I can only chat with so many people. Writing up a policy is a great way to communicate that to my followers and potential followers.

  • February 6, 2009

    This is a a really well thought out take on the Twitter follow dilemma. Probably like most people who start on Twitter, at first I followed everyone who followed me. Plus as well as seeing what they tweeted about, I looked at their profiles and read their blogs or other Web sites they listed. And I tried to write a personal message to most. I guess that would make me a reciprocal turned discriminator — probably a common tweep progression. I have some catching up to do, thanks for the advice, it’s a help.

  • February 6, 2009

    Thank you for this post. I am certainly a newbie so I will be using quite a bit of what I learned from the post and the comments. I do not follow those with pictures that are mostly nude or those whose posts consist mostly of profanity. (They annoy me and may offend any shoulder surfers at the office.) I do look at profiles, recent posts and who they are following / who else they follow.

  • February 6, 2009

    I autofollow everyone and then go back and unfollow bots and spammers.

  • February 6, 2009

    Thanks for the post Neal (and added comments everyone).

    I check their profile and some of their stream. If there’s nothing to give me a clue about who they are, I don’t follow. If it’s a numbers play, or blatant spam, .. nope.

    I always follow people in my interest areas (quite wide). I will favour anyone in my community (Vancouver) even if no shared interests and for people who like like they are just getting going and are trying and are reaching out.

    One of my favourites who I follow is @SMLois who is a stage manager in Vancouver Canada. Lois was one of my first follows. Sharing her thoughts and activities working behind the scenes as performances are going on is so cool. It’s not how I use Twitter, but I really appreciate her Tweets. Makes me want to go to the theatre more.

    That’s all. Tom

  • February 6, 2009

    One more thing to my previous post a moment ago …

    Thanks for the Friend of Follow tip. As a beginner I had to keep reminding myself that it’s not a single pool of folks in a room (like a newsgroup): the people I see in my stream are not necessarily the ones that see what I send out.

    Everyone knows that of course, but it’s easy for me to forget (I’m a full-team oriented baby-boomer, hence the bias). SO Friend of Follow is perfect for me to see that. It helps me fix up some quick follow decisions too.

    The other thing to adjust to is that Twitter really is about one-on-one relationships.


  • February 6, 2009

    Great Post Neal. Thank you for the tips and insight. To me, Twitter is about one thing, the conversations. Numbers are wonderful, if they are supported by meaningful interactions and not numbers for numbers sake. I do not automatically follow everyone who follows me. I am flattered that they have found something of value and interest in my tweets or interactions, but personally, I also need to find something of value in theirs. Since the definition of that value is different to every person, it may not result in reciprocal follows. I make my choice on whether or not to follow by reviewing some of the person’s tweets, their bio, their website link and maybe who they are following or who is following them. If in that information I find something that brings me either education, information, entertainment, common interests or even, other undefined value, then I will return the follow.

  • February 6, 2009

    In your chart, you write a reason favoring follower reciprocity is it adheres to social media spirit. How’s that? If we are both members of the local Rotary Club, we may only see each other at the biweekly lunches and that’s if we both attend. Belonging to the same group does not necessitate greater networking.

  • February 6, 2009

    This is terrific. The nebulous world of Twitter follows has to be somewhat comparable to Does this person look “attractive and interesting” and do I believe them or can I care. : – ) I just get a wierd vibe off some of the followers and can’t make myself follow them. In the end, I am more the reciprocal type. But as a writer, the overwhelming masses is helpful, brings an amzing new depth to dialogue if nothing else. Thanks!

  • February 7, 2009

    I have not decided if I will be using a twit to add to my already packed-full email requests that I open daily. It sounds like another platform to me and I’m really tired of those. I have better things to do with my time. I don’t want to be followed by anyone and I don’t think I want anyone following me. Great write-up Neil, thanks

  • February 7, 2009

    Wow. You’ve really put a lot of thought and work into this. A following policy? Well done and all, but to be honest, when deciding to follow someone I would never bother to read something like that. I’ll follow you if I find what you have to say interesting or useful. Whether or not you plan to follow me back doesn’t come into it.

    However, having read your policy in this post, I’m curious about the fact that you say you will follow almost anyone who follows you, but then say you may not notice their tweets anyway unless they @ you or use a key term. So why follow them automatically?

    I’m also a bit resistant to the view that automatically following, friending, or linking to people who do the same for you is somehow “true to the spirit of social media”.

  • February 7, 2009

    I follow people becuase a) I know them in real life or b) I am interested in what they have to say. If people want to hear what I have to say then thats fine but if they only want to follow me for the return follow is it really worth having them follow you in the first place?

  • February 7, 2009

    I have developed the following loose rule-set:

    If a follower is a business, or marketer, I will follow-back only if I am interested in their tweets, or product, hardly ever, if there are only self-serving tweets in the first 5 or 6 tweets.

    If a follower is an individual, I will follow back, as my way of saying thank you, if after reading their bio and tweets, I find they are sincerely interested in meeting and interacting with new people in a calm, adult and friendly manner.

    If a follower is someone I am very impressed with, either by bio, tweets, or type of friends and conversation, never simply by number of followers, I will follow back and make a personal comment publicly, thanking them for the follow, and maybe how I hope to interact with them.

    I have stopped worrying about who quits following me, or why, as I only want people following me who are interested in my comments, and me, to whatever extent they may benefit from me, even as a customer. I want to network not only with people who have a lot in common with me, but with people who reasonably challenge my thoughts or ideas, and who are still reasonably positive about life.

    If almost never follow people who show a tendency to engage in arguments with others or use rude or abusive language to get their points across, no matter how much I feel they might ultimately benefit by an exchange with me. I will not block them however unless they prove to be pushy as well as abusive.

    I outright block anybody who is obviously spamming, using adult images for their avatar or links to adult websites, or slanderous websites of any kind. Blocking should not be abused, and should be considered also a signal to Twitter to check this person out for possible abuse.

  • February 7, 2009

    Hey that a great idea but what great its that all to create a good net work. and that you and your followers guide them self of it.

  • February 7, 2009

    I will in turn follow those who follow me, but only if they are not twitting about things I find really off the wall. If they seem okay I do not mind following them.

  • February 8, 2009

    This is a good post. The interesting thing about Twitter (and other platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook) is that when people have different policies and ideas about how to use the tools, they must remain respectful to those who have different thoughts. I have seen people (even the “top users” of Twitter) insult others and be a clique based on their views – calling others “wrong” , or worse.

    Your point that everyone should know their reasons and have policies is spot on.

  • February 8, 2009
    Alisha Miles

    Great twitips! As a newbie to twitter these tips really help. I had not even thought of implementing a following policy but it really makes sense. By the way, is your following policy CC? I would like to use some of it for my own following policy if it is ok with you.
    Thank you,
    Alisha Miles, MLIS

  • February 9, 2009

    Neal & Darren,

    Thanks for mentioning Twitdom in this post. I appreciate it :-)

  • February 16, 2009

    Not following a loyal fan is worse than autofollowing unloyal fans.

  • February 17, 2009

    Hmmm, Jeffrey Summers, I don’t think of my Twitter followers as fans, and I certainly don’t consider myself a fan of anyone I’m following. And what does “loyal” mean in the world of Twitter?

    Just wondering….

  • March 9, 2009

    Thanks Neal,
    Interesting and thoughtful post. I’m working on my next column, the subject of which is using Twitter. I’d like to reference you in the piece. I hadn’t thought of developing a policy on following, but I think I’ll try it. Up to now my criteria for following has been simple: I look for a mix of conversation and posted links to blogs or articles; I look for tips on using Twitter and other “new media;” and I look for music-related Twitterers.

    Thanks again! DARIEL

  • March 18, 2009

    Very useful and helpful. It is addressing some of the questions I and others have been discussing regarding appropriate protocol. I, too, would be interested in knowing where you post the policy for others to see. – Mike G <

  • March 22, 2009

    Thanks Neal, Some great stuff that has been well thought out and well organized! I appreciate your thoughtful views! When I receive a follow notice I check them out and decide whether to follow them back or not. I follow most people back, unless they are obviously of no interest to me for one reason or another. I don’t care much for auto-responders and am old enough to be thinking in terms of ettiquette so I answer every twitter I receive to thank them for following me. Perhaps if I ever get too many I will no longer be able to keep up. We shall see!
    With gratitude, Dyann ~ dml.edbd

  • April 9, 2009

    Excellent article. You provide lots of good tips. I personally like to keep my follow number a bit low as I like to read the tweets from the people I follow. I find it impossible to keep track of lots of people and thus if I follow too many as might as well not follow any. I do follow people that constantly interact with me and somehow can provide value to me. I actually have some friends that I personally don’t follow as their tweets are primarily about topics I’m not interested in.

  • April 27, 2010

    The one thing that I will really take with me is having a posted Twitter policy. I am a discriminator and it had never occurred to me to post my thought process and usage patterns. Thanks for the idea! I’m going to write mine, include in my website, blog, and in my static custom Twitter background. Rare is it to find a new thought in relation to Twitter use. Thanks!

  • April 27, 2010

    The point that really struck me about this article is the idea of having a policy. It had never occurred to me to lay out my Twitter philosophy before (I am a discriminator). Many times I’ve explained it but felt there was a better way. I’m going to write mine and post it on my website, blog, and on my static custom Twitter background. Thanks for the great idea!

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