What Makes You Follow?

I asked this question on twitter in hopes that the response would show you, my readers, how you can use twitter to foster meaningful relationships.

Adam Sacco
Photo cred: Adam Sacco

Everyone’s definition of a meaningful follower is going to differ based on their reasons for using twitter. I consider a meaningful follower to be someone who is active, responds to questions and embraces conversation.  Others, usually brands or people establishing themselves as brands,  are typically more concerned with making themselves accessible to as many people as possible and so they follow as many people as they can. If you want to gain meaningful followers, you need to understand why people follow.

I’ll start with myself.  Here are some things that I consider when deciding who to follow…

  • Can you provide me with any job or collaboration opportunities?
  • Do you engage in conversation with your followers?
  • Humor is a big plus for me. I enjoy laughing.
  • I try to make a point not to take number of followers into account.  I’ll follow someone with 30 followers just as quick as I would follow someone with 1000.
  • I generally like to keep the amount of people I follow around 300.  Any more and I just don’t have the time to keep up!

I also specifically asked a few people who have slightly different takes on how/who they follow.

Arik Hanson is a great example of someone who puts a great deal of thought into who he follows.  If he’s following you, chances are you’re doing something right.  He tends to follow…

  • People before companies, with the occasional exception.
  • People who have an actual personal photo as their avatar.  Being able to put a face with a name is a big step to building relationships.
  • People who don’t spam (No Auto DirectMessages!!)
  • The occasional person from a random industry with a different perspective on matters. (I loved this and think its so important to make sure different viewpoints are represented)
  • People that trusted contacts follow or recommend.

Dave Fleet spoke about how he follows in his blog.  He makes a great point that he is a communications professional, not a professional blogger.  Like many professionals that are looking to connect and learn on twitter, he simply does not have time to keep up with so many followers and do his job at the same time.  Therefore, he chooses who he follows wisely. If you want him to follow you, make sure to…

  • @reply him.  The most important thing to most twitter users is conversation.
  • Make your username your REAL name.
  • Create a compelling bio.
  • Include your website in your profile.  Websites / blogs show people that you have valuable and relevant information to contribute.

Darren Rowes creator of Problogger has a very different approach. He follows everyone that he can and recently started using TweetLater to auto-follow those who follow him.  He explained to me his approach…

  • The biggest concern is being accessible to anyone who wants to contact you.
  • Engaging with users is very important but @replying to every question creates a lot of clutter for followers. Its important to be able to continue conversations privately via direct message.
  • It’s impossible to keep track of updates when you’re following 9000+ people. You can use tools like tweetdeck‘s @reply feed and grouping features to filter out the people you really want to see while keeping track of those who reply to you.

Here are a few more responses from my followers:


So if you want more followers, instead of following people to get them to follow back think about who you want to follow you, and why they follow.

I hope this was helpful!  Comment with why YOU follow people.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

9 thoughts on “What Makes You Follow?

  1. Awesome post David. Saw you being tweeting on #Journchat this Monday and guessed you would be a great person to follow. (Looks like I guessed right) I really like the way you break down the various follow methods advocated by Twitter’s best and brightest. I for one am slightly A.D.D. in how I follow and have a certain unknown random pattern to which I decide. Mostly it involves ratio, looking at their page…and seeing if they are a knitting blog or not. Kudos!

  2. You make great points. It’s one thing to follow for the sake of following (who has the time) but another to actually put thought in to why you would want to see/hear what someone has to say. Building a community where heterogeneous minds can mingle can only spark creativity. Make your *follow* count toward something bigger.

  3. Thanks David. I’ve been thinking about this a LOT lately. Not really into all the apps/games designed to “get” followers. Takes time, sometimes we get a little caught up in the immediacy of all this as well.

  4. Very good post, David. I really liked how you presented those different points of view.
    My view in well in line with Arik Hanson’s. I hate DMs and like to follow people and not companies. because of that i usually look very carefully at one’s profile information and website. If they look like someone that’s there just to sell themselves or their work, I am out!

  5. Well done! I try to follow anyone who comments back and is part of the conversation. I also always do my best to comment to that person as well! Its about the conversation and the community!

  6. Great post- and great thoughts by everyone you referenced. I am very much in agreement with Arik Hanson in the way I approach who I follow. I would like to elaborate that if I see some sort of mutual interest with someone, I don’t hesitate to follow back. In addition, if someone I am not following engages with me, I will follow back.

    I love the art of networking and conversation, but one of my biggest motives for meeting people on Twitter is advancing my business. I have secured tons of new business leads simply by reading tweets and identifying opportunities. I have been interviewed personally through invitations from my Twitter friends. I have also identified many business and press opps. for my clients. I caution people who limit the number of people they follow back to a very select few that they may be missing out on a wealth of information and good fortune. Especially those looking for work. Twitter is about networking which is a two-way street, and your fans will get bored quickly if it becomes all about what they can do for you. @rachelakay

  7. Hi Dave

    I’m a lot like you in my twitter following. When I signed up I used one of my blog pseudonyms as my id so it isn’t my real name. I also put up a quick cartoon avatar image.

    I’ve worked at putting my actual image on my profile page and am currently “morphing” my avatar to be an actual picture so maybe Arik might follow me now 8=) I don’t know if I’ll change my account name since I do like it but my real name is in the profile.

    I generally follow people who follow me if they appear to be conversing on twitter. I haven’t unfollowed anyone yet but you never know. I have also started following people that others recommend which is a good way to find people.

    It is good to think of the reasons that people follow others when trying to expand your network. Thanks for this inspirational post.

    LoneWolf (@LoneWolfMuskoka)

  8. @Stuart I saw you made some great contributions to #Journchat too. I Really like your blog too. Checked up on it a couple times, good stuff. I feel like a lot of people follow based on ratio. It definitely helps in my eyes if you have more followers than followees, but I try not to let it determine whether or not I follow. Glad to have you as a reader.

    @dasob Well said. I’m not even saying that building up a ton of followers regardless of how you do it can’t be valuable, but if you’re going to put in that much time, why not make it worth something more?

    @Kathryn Great great point. A big factor in how people attempt to gain followers is that they want results fast and sacrifice a lot of value to do so. If you can slow down and focus on what you’re doing on twitter, you’ll find that you can get so much more out of it.

    @Luis Arik definitely has a good grasp of how you can use twitter to its fullest. I find myself to be very similar to him in how I follow as well. Thanks for commenting.

    @Dave Very well said and I agree. Anyone who contributes to the conversation is worthy of a follow in my book.

    @Rachel Thanks and great points. I also take into account possible professional opportunities when deciding who to follow. You can almost consider twitter an ongoing online interview. If someone asks a question and you answer it, it can serve the same purpose as an interview minus the face-to-face value. It is also very important to make sure that you’re giving back to the conversation and not just looking for what you can get out of it. Very well said and thanks for commenting!

    @Lonewolf I also started off using a nickname as my Twitter ID. Eventually, due greatly to advice from those more experienced than myself, I realized that changing my twitter ID to my real name helps establish myself as a brand and makes it easier for people to relate my twitter to my blog. I guess it depends on why you use twitter. Glad you found my post to be inspirational and Toda Raba for reading. (=


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