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Twitter Follow Flow – To Follow or not to Follow?

2009 June 16
by Eric Hwang

To follow or not to follow? It’s is a question I answer every time I check and see who is following me. I get a few new followers each day and I have to decide fairly quickly whether I want to follow this person or not. I believe that on Twitter I can easily follow more than what Dunbar’s Number suggests I can. Because of tools such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic, I can narrow my list of who I actually see as a subset of who I follow. But that doesn’t mean I follow everyone. Here is a decision-tree flow of how my mind works in my choices. What criteria do you have for following people?


You can see that even if I met you and you were pompous, arrogant or just plain rude, I still may end up following you because you passed all the other criteria. If you don’t have a picture and/or bio, I can’t figure out anything about you and I probably won’t follow you unless your name or twitter name is known to me. Add a picture and a few words in your bio and you’re more likely to be followed.

I should also qualify the question about retweeting. Too few retweets can almost be as bad as too many retweets. That’ll have to be a judgement call for you to make. Look for a high signal-to-noise ratio. Some people offer a lot of signal (useful information) without retweeting, others only add noise and use Twitter as a text messaging party line. All I ask is that you at least have an opinion. The other type of follower I avoid is the monologuer. You know, the ones that never reply when you tweet them directly. Unless they’re a celeb with a million followers there’s no excuse for that. Heck, even Ashton Kutcher occasionally replies.

And what is it with the quotes? I like many quotes. I have quotes on my site, but I don’t appreciate quotes in my twitstream. What’s the point, unless you add a comment that makes it funny or are using it with some of your own words to make a statement? I especially dislike the quotes that could be on one of those motivational posters, unless it’s a demotivational poster.

Lastly, many people follow thinking I’ll follow back and then later will unfollow me. Since I’m not using any automated tools to follow people, that tactic doesn’t really work with me. I use a couple of tools such as The Twit Cleaner and Twellow to track who are mutual friends and periodically I go through and remove those people who get flagged for spam or unusual behavior or who simply haven’t tweeted in over a month. After all, it not about numbers; it’s about quality.

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