Twitter Etiquette: Should You Follow Everyone That Follows You?

In an earlier post, I talked about the idea of quality vs. quantity when it comes to building out your Twitter following.  Since then, I’ve noticed two schools of thought when it comes to the art and twitter-follow-me-post-300x222science of Twitter following.  Those that follow everyone that follows them, and those that only follow a select few no matter how many followers they rack up.  Which one is the proper “Twitterquette”?

Let’s preface this discussion with a few omissions.  Spammers, robots and automated accounts do not count. Most users aren’t interested in those connections unless they are providing some sort of value.  Also, celebrities, sports stars and industry superstars don’t count either.  You can’t expect them to really care too much about following every fan when they don’t have to.  It’s not realistic nor necessary for them to do so.  I’m talking about everyday, normal Twitter users with real human beings behind the accounts; those that choose to follow you for whatever reason.  Do they deserve or warrant your follow in return?

I come from the school of thought that they do.  I believe that by not following someone back I am in essence saying that I have more important things to say than they do.  That’s not the vibe I want to give out. Don’t get me wrong, certainly there are instances where I don’t follow someone because they are simply not relevant at all, so not everyone applies here.  However I work hard to ensure that I follow users that are relevant to me either socially or professionally so that the chances are better that they would in fact have useful information to share. Does this mean that I pile up quite a bit of follows that share information that isn’t relevant to me? Of course, but I don’t use Twitter to browse. When I need information, I use targeted searches that allow me to pull up the relevant information I need.  What’s more important to me, is building up a large, relevant network of individuals that are interested in what I have to say.  Since using Twitter more strategically, traffic to my blog from Twitter has increased to 14% (up 10%), and continues to grow.  So this method works for me.

Some individuals use Twitter differently.  They count on a clean, relevant stream of Twitter updates that don’t require searching through, which means not following all those that follow them.  These users then either have to grow their followers through frequent, useful tweets and re-tweets, or they simply do not care very much about the size of their following.

So what do you think?  Is it more valuable to return the favor for all that follow you, or to be more selective in who you follow?

16 comments

  • To me, Twitter is as much about engaging with people who interest you and intrigue you, as much as offer insight and information. If you follow ALL who follow you, you lose that connection, because there are many who only go for the “numbers” and not the content. I always look at my new followers and pick and choose who I want to follow.

  • Good point Roberta. I think it comes down to how people use Twitter. In your case, you're using it as an engagement tool thus it's more important for you to ensure the updates you receive are very relevant to you. In my case, I only use Twitter for information from a search standpoint and value the larger (yet still relevant) following to increase my reach when sharing blog articles.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • What you're saying is really interesting. From my point of view, i tried the HummingBird soft, which follow back everybody, but also allows you to automaticly follow someone's followers. It resulted in a bunch of crap in my following database, and i will never experience this kind of behavior on twitter again.
    I vote for quality and have a concrete exemple as i have very few followers on my company french twitter account and they generate much more than the english account which was build with autofollow.

  • I'm not the expert Tweeter. Matter of fact, I joined for more obligatory reasons with a focus of social usage. So, my account has dust and cob webs. However, with more professionals utilizing Twitter, I am giving more thought to turning Twitter into a more professional perspective. With a professional outlook there is a fine line with how many people you connect with for purposes of networking and gathering info., however you also have to keep into account the reputation you may be gaining by following others that may not have 'shining' connections. With more professionals conducting research on employees/candidates, there's obviously a level of discretion that needs to come into play with whom you are associated with. So, I guess I am the neutral party and give the advice of ensuring you choose your 'tweeters' wisely.

  • Interesting take. I don't know that I worry too much about other companies looking at who I follow to gauge my credibility or character. While I'm sure as your following base grows, you're bound to have a few sketchy characters in there, but if someone is going to measure my reputation heavily on my Twitter account following, I would question their assessment strategy as there are many more avenues to do so.

  • The Twitter software approach is an interesting development. I'm on the fence. I think it can be useful if used respectfully and strategically, but certainly can be abused. I haven't seen any software yet that can help manage unfollowing very well. One that helps identify weaker Twitter accounts that don't use the tool often, or appear to be automated.

  • I started out following everyone that followed me, then my twitter stream became just noise and i started using a 2nd account to follow the people whom i didn't want to miss updates from. Eventually I got tired of switching between 2 accounts and cut back who I was following on the main account. I like having a stream of only what interests me.

    I'm not really promoting anything on twitter right now, so perhaps my approach will change as i get more commercial with my account. I have unfollowed people that I used to follow when they did a mass unfolllowing, because it does give the impression that “my ideas are important and yours aren't”. It seems to me that if you're not famous from the media, or already an established blogger, adding targetted people and hoping they follow you back is about the only way to grow your twitter audience if you have ideas you want to spread.

  • I've had to block people because they follow me then drop me, follow me then drop me – they do this over and over in an attempt to get me to follow them.

    I guess this fits into your spammer category, but this type of action is very prevalent. I don't follow people just because they follow me. Too many people follow others just to get followed back – that seems to defeat the purpose to me.

    I follow people that I actually care what they have to say – those are the kind of people I would want to follow me.

  • True, these people are out there. I think the fundamental difference is if you are someone that has something to promote vs. using Twitter for information and collaboration. If you are promoting products, services or a website/blog, I believe that it makes sense to grow your following as large as you can (of course in a strategic, relevant way).

  • Don't agree. Too many follow you to sell stuff you don't want. If you have a focus and goal for a particular Twitter account and the person following you does not tweet with that goal in mind why would you follow them? I do have exceptions to the rule though – my husband follows me and I follow him for example and some friends I follow back. That said I do follow a lot of people – over 800 of them – but they are mainly to serve the goals I set for myself. I do go into those who follow me to see if there is someone I would want to follow back, again, if they might tweet in line with what I need to hear and can engage with. Some times I make mistakes and Unfollow and let's face it 800 people can tweet a lot. I am always honing that list.
    Now if you are a celebrity – I would say you must follow back anyone who follows you. After all you are there to gather and entertain fans. It wouldl work against your fame to NOT follow those who follow you.

  • Dorothy, while I agree there are tons of spammers and salesy folk out there in the Twitterverse, some people (including myself), do value as large of a following as possible. Of course I try to ensure that those I follow and who follow me are as relevant to me as possible. Laurel Papworth couldn't have said it better in her comment on this same story re-posted at Social Media Today (http://socialmediatoday.com/blog/JasonYormark/s…). There are plenty of tools that allow me to sift through the garbage and focus on those I care to actually glean information from. I personally use Tweetdeck which fits the job perfectly.

  • I definitely do NOT follow every person who follows me. Of course it is obvious that you don't want to follow someone who appears to be a spammer or a pornographic twitter-er but at the same time, you have to follow those you want to learn from. If you find someone who follows you to be interesting and relevant to you, then by all means give them some love. However, be weary and smart. Like all things on the internet you never know who is good and who is bad 🙂

  • I follow back a good portion of people who follow me. My problem is with those who either wish to sell me something or are simply trying to collect followers like one might collect stamps–I do not follow these people. Both of these categories of twitter users are getting worse, not better. I miss the old twitter days where banter flew back between members and there were less “ads” to distract our attention. As a person who works to help others build community, do you find that the “collectors” and the simple “sellers” are polluting social networks? How can we work to have a stronger community outside of selling ourselves or products?

  • Great post – and I still don't know what to do.

    Is there a service that allows you to follow hundreds of people, but sifts out the tweets of the people you REALLY want to follow?

    Thanks,

    Tom

  • Great post – and I still don't know what to do.

    Is there a service that allows you to follow hundreds of people, but sifts out the tweets of the people you REALLY want to follow?

    Thanks,

    Tom

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