“Men with insight, men in granite
Knights in armor bent on chivalry.”
…Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey

I’m probably getting 6-10 new Twitter followers a day and, unless it’s an obvious bot, I always check out the page of each new follower in order to decide whether to reciprocate.

Here’s the criteria I use in making my “follow” determination:

If the account has the default avatar and or haven’t done any @ tweets yet, I won’t follow back unless I know them.

If the account doesn’t tweet in English, I won’t follow back.

Even if the account has lots of followers, if they don’t @ people often, I won’t follow back (with limited exceptions).

I will almost always follow back people who are using the medium in the way that it is intended no matter who they are, what they do, or what they think.

Now to me, the act of following back doesn’t carry any special significance apart from allowing that person’s thoughts and communications to enter my consciousness. Therefore, I find it a bit strange when I’m thanked for following somebody back. It’s the equivalent of giving me a limp-wristed handshake. Twitter is all about establishing powerful personal brands and strong brands don’t need to thank people for tuning into them.

When I follow back somebody who not only thanks me for following them but sends me a link to whatever website they are pushing/pimping/whoring/begging people to see/sharing, that’s the Twitter equivalent of going into a public place with bad body odor (or passing gas in an enclosed space). I think very little of folks that do this. I probably won’t unfollow these people right away, because on very rare occasions, there could be a legitimate reason why somebody might smell like a ripe cheese in public (or be a potential biohazard in the presence of an open flame). I let folks get away with that just once with me, because if it happens a second time, I will sense a trend and unfollow/block that user.

People new to Twitter who have the goal of building a base of influence should start by following people they know well (and who will follow them back). They should then establish a pattern of communicating with (and not at) those people. Then, they should mix some industry rock stars into their Twitter follow list (especially ones that follow back all who follow them). Only then should they attempt to follow the key influencers who they’d like to establish contact with and who don’t follow everybody back.

And if a novice Tweeter wants to get noticed by a prominent person, retweet their stuff. That’s the Twitter equivalent of buying somebody a drink. You’ll almost always get noticed and remembered in a favorable manner. Or, tweet to that person in a complimentary way. Everybody likes to hear nice things about themselves and their work.

Random acts of cyber-kindness will serve you well in Twitterland.

8 thoughts on “How I Decide Who To “Follow Back” On Twitter

  1. I agree, Todd. I am very picky about who I follow, which keeps my twitter stream high-quality.

    I know many people follow thousands, and only pay attention to DMs and @replies, but I actually read everything my followees say.

    Loris last blog post..The Ups and Downs of Life

  2. “Even if the account has lots of followers, if they don’t @ people often, I won’t follow back (with limited exceptions).”

    Interesting… I actually do the opposite and look for folks without a steady stream of @ mentions. I gravitate to those that are sharing links and RT interesting items. Long ping pong @ conversations have a place for everyone… I prefer mine by DM or on FriendFeed where others can follow the thread.

    great post nonetheless. cheers


  3. I feel differently about people who are constantly ‘@’ing others. For me, that is more about adding to the noise, particularly if I am only following half the conversation.

    I like to use twitter to learn new things, not just eavesdrop on conversations between folks. As time goes on, I’m starting to appreciate the “conversational” aspects of twitter a bit more, but I still find that I tend to follow folks who don’t simply respond to others more readily than those who do.

    Andrea Hills last blog post..The difference between social media and social networking

  4. I appreciate reading this article. I am new to Twitter and haven’t (until now) read any information on how I “should” use this service. I will use your advice and not just run amuck with tweeters and treet-ee’. See, I am not even sure of the lingo to use. Thanks for the example!

  5. Todd, thanks for sharing your twitter follow back methodology – great stuff here.

    I’m curious to know what strategies or rules you apply to going on the offensive and initiating a follow?

    And once you follow first do you ever unfollow for any reason other than what you’ve listed above? For instance, I’ve seen a lot of people who unfollow if someone they’ve followed does not reciprocate within a few days.

    Looking forward to the next post!

    Xurxo Vidals last blog post..AdWords Editor 7.0 Update – Find First Page Bid Estimates & Quality Score Problems Quickly

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