James Mayes

Blog: Auto follow-back. Do you? Should you? I won’t.

In Social Media, Twitter, Twitter Tips on February 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

So I follow a whole bunch of folk who provide me with great content. I appreciate it hugely – and selectively, I share some of that content with my followers. Part of the reason some people follow me (I think?!) is that I sift through a huge amount of content and sift/curate what I think they’ll enjoy or learn from.

Among those I follow are people like Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan. Thing is, they follow me too. Why? Is it a courtesy thing? Do they feel like I’ll unfollow if they don’t reciprocate? They sure as hell won’t spot individual tweets from me! From what I can tell, many people with substantial follower numbers simply auto-follow any new followers they get. I tried it briefly and came to the conclusion that it completely destroyed the quality of my TwitterStream.

Why won't you follow me?Brogan has written suggesting he spends most of his Twitter time in Search. I can understand that, it’s a great way to learn or to find opportunities – but perhaps part of the reason is that the huge follow-back effort means his own incoming TwitterStream is something upon which he places no value?

It becomes impossible to spot the useful tweets amongst the mundanity, so Search becomes the only option. Sure, you can organise those you really want to follow into accessible lists or columns on your twitter app of choice – but if you’re doing that, remind me again why you’re following all the others? If you’re following me, but only as a reciprocal follow – please, don’t feel you have to.

If you produce good output, I’ll follow you. I don’t expect anything more in return.

By the way – you SHOULD check out both Brogan and Scoble. They tweet some awesome stuff!

  1. Perfectly put James.

    Why follow anyone at all, if you’re not reading what they write?

    I already follow way too many people, and as a result, I have to scan my twitterstream, and often miss something important from someone I want to keep up with. Just this morning I unfollowed some people who were aggravating me with their puerile and sanctimonious obsequiousness. Bleurghh! I should have another big clearout.

    That said, I do refollow, if I find a person is being referred to by those I’m interested in, so I can see the full conversation, and then be better placed to join in.

    If you can’t be selective, and pick & choose your company on Twitter, then where can you?

  2. I’m not an avid Twitter user, but I really do agree with what you have stated here. I turned the auto-follow automation off on our companies and my personal twitter accounts for a few reasons.

    a) They look tacky
    b) They are clearly automated and not personal
    c) They really do clog up your twitter stream

    I feel that following users at random on Twitter leads to an incredibly unsatisfying use of the service.

  3. James, it seems like you’ve been preaching to the choir here 😉

    I think that following makes sense when somebody sends you a message or mentions you. And like Stephen said, a good spring cleaning now and then can be really helpful.

    For companies it’s a bit tricky. I mean, it’s not like they would read what the people they follow publish. But if they don’t follow anybody it makes them look arrogant. So again, I’d recommend to follow at least the ones that make the effort of mentioning your company.

  4. Update! Chris Brogan recently unfollowed 130k people, then refollowed c. 370 people he was more closely interested in. He explained the reasons on his blog somewhere – just thought I should round this one off!

  5. […] prolific output.  I take an interest in the stuff he puts out and he’s inspired me to write previously. Oft-times, I agree with him. On this one, I’m not so sure though.  It started with […]

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