3 Methods to Approach Twitter Following

Photo cred: Fi and He

To follow or to not follow… to follow a lot or to follow a little… to follow back or to follow first… these are the tough questions we face on Twitter.

I’ve spoken about what makes others follow to help you figure out a legitimate method to gain followers. Now I’d like to help you decide how YOU should follow by narrowing it down to three very broad methods.

There’s no wrong answer…it depends on your goals. Why are you on Twitter?

Here are three LEGITIMATE methods to approach twitter following. You decide which one works best for you…

1. Selective Following

Selective followers don’t follow very many people.  They focus on their “ratio”, or following a less number of people than the number that follows them.  Usually, they only follow the people that they think can help them reach their goals, or that they interact with very regularly.  They probably follow around 500 people tops (rough estimate).

  • High level of first impression credibility. “If that many people want to follow that person, he/she must be awesome!”
  • Low spam. Spammers can’t direct message them.  Most spammers look for auto-followers.
  • Easier to monitor stream and interact. Following and interacting with 500 people is a lot easier than keeping up with 10,000 people.

Examples: Jacob Morgan, Eric Berto, Brett Petersel

Note: There has been a recent trend in people unfollowing a lot of people, so they may look like a selective follower now when in reality, they haven’t been to this point.

2. Social Following

These tweeps follow most people back, but won’t auto-follow.  They’ll probably follow you if you join in their conversations at least a little bit.  They don’t want to cut anyone out of their network, but they won’t just go following anyone.  You have to be relevant.

  • Still low spam. Although they may be tricked here and there.
  • Access to new networks. Their free following mentality will prevent them from keeping their “fishbowl”, or their immediate network too small…or they’ll gain access to other “fishbowls”.
  • Utilizes groups. Once they follow more than 500 people, it becomes very hard to keep track of everyone.  Apps like Seesmic Desktop will allow them to create groups so they can keep track of the people the don’t want to lose in the stream.

Examples: Stuart Foster, Dave Fleet, Beth Harte

3. Opportunistic Following

These guys or gals will follow everyone back, and then some. They’re on twitter to create as big of a network as possible.  They may still be interested in creating relationships, but they want to make sure every message they put out reaches as many eyes as possible.

  • Uses auto-follow. They use a tool like socialtoo or tweetlater to automatically follow back anyone who follows them (and might automatically unfollow those who unfollow them). One downside is this makes them extremely susceptible to spam.
  • Relies on groups, replies and DMs for interaction. If you’re not in one of their groups, don’t expect them to read your normal public tweets.  They follow so many people that they don’t even look at their regular stream.
  • High response rate. The large number of followers they’ve gained creates a larger audience for their message to reach.  They’ll get a lot of replies and retweets.

Example: Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan (although he recently stopped auto follow), Calvin Lee

Note: simply following a lot of people won’t create a valuable network. You still need to provide value so that non spammers follow you too

If you’re curious, to this point, I’ve been a selective follower, but have recently decided to become a social follower, as I feel like my potential network is being limited by not following as many people.  It’s all about figuring out what works best for you.  I’ll let you know how it works for me.

How do you follow?

28 thoughts on “3 Methods to Approach Twitter Following

  1. Well David, let me answer your question. I believe that I am a hybrid of the social and opportunistic categories. I have created a list of rules that I use to decide who to follow.
    1st. If they are from Rochester (Where I live) I will follow them.
    2nd. If I see engagement, content, and retweets in relation to topics of interest, I will follow them.
    3rd. If they have a huge disparity between the number of “Following” to “Followers”(ex. following way more than followers). I do not follow because they could be spam or do not add value.
    4th. If I follow him/her first, I introduce myself to begin conversation.


    1. Awesome Miguel! I was hoping that people could use these as guidelines and would absolutely find hybrids between them.

      Everyone has a method that works for them…very interesting to see how you’ve developed your system for following.


  2. Hey there! You’re right, I do selectively follow, but here’s my rationale.

    * Do I know you? If we’ve met or interacted, I’m more likely to follow you.
    * Are you a dope? Sometimes personalities clash in real life. Twitter is no different, so sometimes I just don’t follow.
    * I think my “ratio” is a bit flawed based on mutual interaction. If I blocked people who are passively following me, then it would fall back in line I’m sure…

    1. Right on. I was very similar to you and have been very selective in following. I’m trying to open up to become a bit more of a social follower, so we’ll see how that works.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your methods. (=

  3. I don’t have hard and fast rules, but I think I’m somewhere in between the first two models. I don’t auto-follow, for sure. I’ll typically look at my list of followers and follow-back people who are from my area or have similar interests in PR, social media, communication, cycling, college football!

    As I’ve had more people follow me it’s been harder to keep up. So I definitely am much more likely to follow-back someone who engages me in conversation via an @ reply. I also try to look at tweetstreams and if there are no @ replies on the first page then I tend not to follow – I want people to connect with, not people to just broadcast to me. The exception would be certain news or brand feeds.

    1. Interesting. I relied solely on @replies for a while. I actually got into the habit of not following, which isn’t good because there have definitely people that I should have followed where I just didn’t think to do so.

      Thanks for sharing Amy. I think you’re doing a good job.

      1. Waiting for an @ reply is like arguing with a friend that you haven’t talked to in a while. You ask what took them so long to call, however, you could have easily picked up the phone and made the call yourself. At least the friend made the effort. Just like someone made the effort to follow you.


        1. Eh I wouldn’t say that. That would be assuming that the person I’ve yet to follow is my friend. Chances are, I have no idea who that person is…at least not yet.

  4. David,

    I’m a hybrid as well, somewhere between selective and social. I’ve become more and more selective as time has gone on. I use TweetDeck’s groups feature to help me organize. Here’s the method to my madness:

    0. Do they have a bio and a picture?

    1. Are they in PR, volunteerism, HS education, career help, marketing, or journalism? In other words, do they match my interests?

    2. Are they engaging? Do they RT? Do they talk WITH other tweeters? Do they add to conversation? Are they human?

    4. Will they flood my twitter-stream?

    3. Are they following me just so I follow them back? If I feel they are, I likely won’t follow (plus these are usually the “gurus”, “experts”, or “mavens”).

    4. Are they from Worcester/Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or DC?

    5. Do I know the person IRL?

    It’s not scientific, but it works for me!


  5. I feel like I’ve been a social follower, although in recent months as my follower count has grown, I’ve become much more selective. I follow a criteria similar to Tom’s:

    – Do they have a bio/picture?
    – Do I have something in common with them? Are they in PR/Marketing/etc?
    – Do they engage with others?

    Great post as always!

    1. Thanks Sheema,

      It’s great to hear what works for other people (= Hopefully this post and these comments can help people that are newer to twitter figure out a system that they like.

  6. I turned on Auto-Follow once I started getting 100+ followers a day.

    Since then I’ve gone into tweetdeck and arranged everyone into different groups so I can manage the noise.

    1. Interesting. I should point out that I have used auto-follow, for some period of time, for the @scribnia and @seatgeek accounts. The goals were different.

      For my personal account, I don’t think I’ll ever add an auto-follow. I can see why you would though.

      …and I also reply on groups like crazy, although I do check the normal stream a lot.

  7. I think the key is grouping. 90% of my time is spent scanning and interacting people in my various groups. If you’ve engaged with me or had a series of useful tweets, you’ll get added. If not, then I’ll follow you and put you in the general stream.

    I’ve never been about numbers or auto-follows and probably never will be.

  8. I guess I’d fall into that Opportunistic Follower category but I’d disagree with your rationale for why one chooses this method. For me, it’s not about putting my stuff in front of as many folks as possible…instead it’s about casting a long wide antenna by which I hope to find more interesting nuggets and people that make me smarter.

    But like you say, different strokes for different folks.

    1. I’d probably place you somewhere between the social and opportunistic follower types then…but well said, not all opportunistic followers are looking to get more eyes, but most would admit that it’s a benefit they can’t ignore.

  9. I think you have left out an important category. There is an even more selective follower who only follows people whose tweets he actually wants to read. He isn’t concerned with his ratio or any other nonsense. He will follow you if he thinks that what you have to say is particularly interesting or entertaining. He thinks that even following 500 people is insane because (unless they rarely post) you cant possibly really keep up with that many (and do anything else in life). He doesn’t play stupid games like following people he is not interested in so that they will follow him without being interested in what he has to say. His goal is to open his twitter client and have a lot of really interesting stuff to read, and not have to skim or sort through all the stuff he doesn’t really care about. He prides himself on tweeting with integrity. A fourth legitimate type.

    1. True…I guess the one term that separates the two is “ratio” because it assumed that they care about numbers…possibly not a fair assumption for the people I used as examples either. Thanks for pointing that out Bill.

  10. I am probably closer to the methodology that Miguel lays out above. Originally I tried to have separate accounts for different topics of interest vs. work related topics. Ultimately I found that very “anti-social”.

    At this point I am most interested in following people who are pro social media yet willing to admit it is not nirvana.

  11. I don’t see what the “ratio” necessarily has to do with selective following, because you can’t control who follows you (unless you block everybody). You can control the inward information flow. Personally, I think it makes sense to follow people that are interesting and consistently add value. Following 28,543 people has never made any sense to me. That’s sort of like subscribing to 145,543 RSS feeds – and then just reading the NY Times anyway.

    1. Assuming you’re providing value, people will follow you and if you’re selective in who you follow back, your ratio gets better.

      I agree on following interesting people. I think the people that follow 28k people aren’t looking to pull information from those people, they’re just looking to build a bigger audience. The people that they’re looking to pull info from, they’ll put in groups.

  12. 9. Buddy, your site is magnificent somehow realizes me at instant that even how easy the factor is, it’s still complex. However, it takes additional careful when meeting those issues.

Leave a Reply to Patrick Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s