Twitter Is A Game of Follow the Leader(s)

[twitter]A debate is raging on the twitternets about people who don’t automatically re-follow followers.

Some believe there is an unwritten rule that mandates when someone chooses to follow your tweets, you should automatically follow their tweets.

Twitter can be a great way to develop a community, get your news, and generate traffic for your blog. … It just seems like common courtesy to follow those who follow you, but does this result in information overload?
[Michael Kwan]

First off, is mutual or reciprocal following the predominant behaviour? I think so, though I haven’t seen any empirical data or surveys on the subject. I receive an occasional coolly-worded tweet from somebody on Twitter that implies that I should be following them presumably because they’re following me.
[Darren Barefoot]

I take a decidedly lightweight approach to social media. If I haven’t met you or don’t know you personally, I’m not likely to add you as a friend or follow you. I currently follow about 200 people on Twitter and it’s still too much.
[Lee Lefever]

Follower count doesn’t matter. What matters is who you follow.
[Chris Brogan]

Robert Scoble has called Twitter the World Wide Talk Show, and while he may find it effective to auto-follow each and every person who adds him to their feeds, there are those of us who appreciate some signal in their noise.

I treat Twitter as a news source. I follow influencers, be they local or international. The people I follow on Twitter add value to my feed and give me information I can use. I would hope people add me based on that reason as well.

To paraphrase what Brogan says – it’s not about me, it’s about you. If I think you’re valuable, I’ll follow you – if you think I’m valuable, you’ll follow me. The two are mutually exclusive.

I follow Kevin Rose because I find it interesting to read about the adventures of a dot com entrepreneur. He probably wouldn’t find it interesting to follow the travails of a radio dj and media junkie in Vancouver. He adds value to me, I don’t add value to him.

And there’s no harm in that.

The problem I have with Facebook is the moment I allow someone to follow me, Facebook reciprocates the follow and my feed gets inundated with their information, photos, invites, groups and status updates. Being a public figure, I can’t really lock down the Facebook profile for fear of missing an opportunity to reach and out and communicate with my audience.

Twitter, however, lets me lock down the messages I read while allowing me to broadcast and communicate to as large an audience as possible.

Facebook is a wide community with everyone yelling and screaming at the same time and becomes difficult to follow. Twitter lets you manage the noise in your signal for a much more useful experience.

Twitter has leaders and followers. We all follow leaders, but leaders don’t necessarily need to follow the followers.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.



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  1. January 1, 2009

    I follow a whole bunch of people that probably don’t follow me back.

    Firstly, I don’t keep track of it – that will likely just make me feel badly. Every so often I @someone and then I see “Someone is following you” in my email. No biggie. I followed them, they didn’t follow me; I said something that caught their eye and now they’re following. Doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind at some point if I become annoying or boring.

    Secondly, when someone follows me, I go to their profile, have a read through their bio… do you have one? No bio, no follow, unless your tweets are super interesting. I take a gander through their 1st page of tweets. Have you looked at your own profile lately? Is it interesting? Would you follow you? If it’s protected I’m not following back unless you have an AWESOME bio. Seriously. But if I look at your profile and it’s just not interesting to me, I’m sorry… we just wouldn’t likely have anything much to talk about. I’m not offended if you don’t like the look of my profile either. I’ll keep following you as long as you’re interesting to me.

  2. January 1, 2009

    It’s not snobbery for me, or feeling like I’m some sort of “leader” on the Twitter. I just can’t spend the kind of time it would take to process the words of thousands of people. Who DOES have that kind of time?

    Most people who follow on that level have private accounts for their must-have feeds, and then reply to @’s for the most part from there. A thousand people produce several pages a minute. If you’re really taking it all in, you aren’t doing anything else.

  3. Gary Jones ::
    January 1, 2009

    I think it depends on your objectives when using twitter.

    If your using it to market only then deffinately follow.

    Like you I use it for quality information instead of quantity.

    You should look at @Xmasradio for how your own show could get more listeners.

  4. January 1, 2009

    Nicely put.

    I’d say it goes a step farther for some of us. I wouldn’t call myself a “leader”. I’m not an influencer in the Social Media space.

    I treat Twitter as a microblogging and storytelling community as well as a place to read news and get interesting links. If I’m interested in the stories you tell and the stories you like, I’ll follow you.

    The way I put it in my Twitter “Follow policy” is: If I don’t follow you, that doesn’t mean you’re not an interesting person. It just means your way of using Twitter doesn’t match mine.

  5. February 13, 2009

    I didn’t read your post because just like real life, my internet life is mine alone, I dictate who/what/when I communicate with, there should never be any written rules or expectations for/from anyone else.

    I find that those who complain about who follows who and for what reason are typically the people that are trying way too hard.

    If you’re not getting the followers you feel you deserve you’re probably just not that interesting.

  6. March 23, 2009

    What I do when someone follows me is check out their Twitter page showing their latest posts. If it looks like they are making interesting tweets, I will follow them. Otherwise, there’s no obligation.

    Lately it seems that 90% of new followers on Twitter are spammers anyway.

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  9. December 29, 2010

    I think it depends on your objectives when using twitter.

    If your using it to market only then deffinately follow.

    Like you I use it for quality information instead of quantity.

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  11. June 18, 2011

    I totally get it!! Thanks Buzz.

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