Some big names in the blogosphere have been trying something new the last few weeks. They’ve been dropping everyone they follow on Twitter and starting out new. Chris Brogan, Michael Hyatt, Spence Smith and other high-profile bloggers have completely erased their lists of, in some cases, more than 100,000 people they each follow to start over.
According to Chris Brogan, one of the more popular folks on Twitter, he stopped following everyone on his list to stop direct message spam. In other words, he was following so much garbage that his Direct Message inbox was too full of spam to be useful. While this isn’t hard to believe considering he was following over 100,000 people, it does pose a bigger question. How did he get here in the first place?
Most people aren’t concerned with who they follow. Some will go as far as to post in their bio that they will follow back regardless of who you are. Others will bulk follow people in hopes to get them to follow them back and therefore build their own follower count, and still others follow back just to try to be nice. While following to get followers may work initially (there are in fact entire services built around the concept) over time it will only serve to dilute your network.
Following 100,000 people may seem cool, but how can you possibly read that many people? How many of those people do you even care about? For these folks their main Twitter feed has become nothing but background noise as they must now search for useful information using terms, hashtags, and other assorted techniques. Techniques designed as a supplement to their network have become both primary and vital as the only way to cut through the spam.
In a nutshell, following to many people has made the service useless without modification. They can’t easily find those that matter to them and many who see their Tweets probably don’t care much either. Their network quality has been sacrificed for quantity.
How many people should you follow?
The answer to this question will vary depending on what you use Twitter for. For some, in particular bot accounts that are just displaying information the answer might be no one. For someone trying to make a name for themselves however the answer is they should follow those who will add the most value to their network and should not worry about the number of folks they follow. If you can keep track of who you’re following you’re probably doing OK. If not, or if you are getting a too much DM spam you may want to clean it up a bit.
How do you know if any given account is worth following?
While I could easily write a collection of articles on this topic there are 3 things I check for each and every person I follow.
- I receive emails whenever someone follows me. Before I follow them back I look at their follower/following ratio as well as their bio and picture (all of which can be done right in the email from Twitter. If they’re following many more people than are following them back, if they have no picture, and if their bio is missing or irrelevant to my network I delete the email without ever looking back.
- If they get past this step and for those I think of following by other means (clicking on their links, finding them in searching, etc) I look for the same info on their actual Twitter page plus I scan their first page of Tweets. If they haven’t sent a Tweet in the last week, if their Tweets are unprofessional or irrelevant to my network, or if they don’t have anything but retweets from others I move on.
- Finally I look at their Klout score. Are their topics in line with my interests and is their score somewhat close to my own
(for more information on what a Klout score means check out my post on what a Klout score means to you)? Once again if they don’t stack up I don’t follow them.
In the end the idea of following someone is that they will add value to your network and the time you spend on Twitter. If the account in question meets those goals then go ahead and follow them until they no longer do. Don’t however worry about not following someone back or trying to build your own follower list by following others. Over time your content will be your greatest advertisement, not the list of those your follow.