Everyone has his or her own policy about following people on Twitter. Here’s mine: I follow accounts that speak to my personal and/or professional interests. They can be news feeds; fellow entertainment and media types; punsters; those who share my hobbies and passions; public figures I admire; friends of friends. But there’s always a specific reason and intent that I follow. I don’t automatically follow back everyone who follows me, for a number of reasons:
Interests are asynchronous. Just because I’m interested in what you have to tweet doesn’t mean you’re interested in what I tweet. The reverse holds true. We’re all grownups (or should be). I do generally reply to people who @ me even if I’m not following them. The reverse often holds true. It’s not a matter of hurting feelings. It’s just life.
Many of the accounts that (attempt to) follow me are spammers or bots. It’s easy enough to determine this; on the email notification about the follow, they have few to no followers, few to no tweets, and are following hundreds of people. Not only don’t they get a follow back, they get an automatic block.
The best tools in the world won’t help you sip from a fire hose. Unless you’re spending all day on Twitter (and I know some do), it’s just not possible to follow the tweets of several thousand – or tens of thousands – of people. You could decide to pay attention only to the ones who mention you, of course, but you can do that without following them. You can separate them into groups in a 3rd-party app like TweetDeck- but you could do the same thing by creating a list and checking it periodically. And you don’t need to be following someone to add them to a list.
Indiscriminate following leads to spams and auto-DMs. Most of the people I see complaining about spams and DMs are people who follow everyone who follows them, or who follow accounts without regard to the “quality” of the account.
Privacy. Anyone you follow can send you a DM. My preference is to limit that channel of communication to the extent possible.
Should everyone practice this philosophy? Not necessarily. Anyone using Twitter as a customer service tool shouldn’t, for example. Many customers prefer to communicate via direct message – and many companies would prefer that grievances be aired through private channels.
However, this is the way I currently manage my twitter feed with respect to follows. What’s yours?