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?


  1. You inspired me to weed through my Following list, something I should do much more rigorously. Because you’re so right, it just becomes noise if you’re following too many. And like Facebook, certain people can take up your whole feed—usually NOT the people worth hearing from that often! You’re always so wise on this stuff. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the comments, Cliff and Marla. I used to arbitrarily limit my follows to 300… then it became 400, and now a bit over 500. I do go through and prune periodically, and removed a bunch of them to lists at one point.

    One thing I forgot to add is that it’s easy to spot someone who only followed you in hopes of adding to their own list: they unfollow you a day or two later if you fail to reciprocate. I use NutShell Mail to track follows and unfollows, which makes it even easier.

  3. Well said!

    As the Twitter community grows and grows AND grows daily, the twitter stream has become so dilute that newbies don’t always get the etiquette of Twitter down by “listening” to others as I and others were able to do not so long ago.

    It is important for you and others, to put forth some reasoning that is clear, concise and is something for others to use, revise, or ignore as they see fit!

    Like you, I enjoy conversations that enlighten, entertain and enrich my professional and personal life, and sometimes it’s nice to even cheer up someone in need of a cyber-hug!

  4. Nice post. I can’t follow more than 100 people, although the ones I do follow are for much the same reasons as you.

    I kind of feel bad when people follow me because there is an expectation that I should follow them back, but I find more than 100 is too much static.

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