Twitter LogoI’ve been using Twitter for just over a year now. My first Twitter day started on March 9th 2007. I quickly found that Twitter is addictive but I have stuck with it just the same.

Over the past year I’ve tweeted a little over 4100 times and accumulated 500+ followers. These aren’t overly impressive numbers especially when compared with someone like Robert Scoble, for example.

But how do you decide which Twitter accounts you choose to follow?

Chris Garrett asked his readers this question. The poll results are telling. Be interesting and people will follow you.

Chris is encouraging his readers to follow him on Twitter right now with a series of give aways that are only available to his Twitter follower list. But I noticed that even though he’s actively recruiting more Twitter followers he only reciprocates on a percentage of those following him. (He’s also got this snazzy “follow me on Twitter” badge on the side bar of his blog.)
Twitter Follow Me Badge

To Follow or Not To Follow

I do the same thing. I asked Chris what his criteria was for those accounts he chooses to follow. He shared with us some of his thought process in that same post with the reader poll.

But the whole thing got me thinking. Sure I follow interesting people, especially if they are the other side of a conversation with someone I’m already following. When I see someone engaged in interesting conversation I want to know what they have to say. I’ll follow them.

I like interesting folks.

But what about the other side of the coin – those people I’ve not heard of that start following me? You see, like Chris Garrett I’ve also got a bunch of followers that I’m not following. At some point I make a judgment call and decide not to follow some accounts.

Usually I make that judgment right after you follow me. I take a look at every account that follows me and either follow it or I don’t.

Here are some reasons I don’t follow Twitter accounts.

1. Only Tweeting Links
If I see nothing but a list of links I’m not going to follow the account. If I want read your blog I’ll subscribe to the RSS feed. Now that doesn’t mean I mind bloggers tweeting links to their posts. I’ll tweet about this post after I hit publish. I just want to see conversation too or I won’t follow.
2. Over Tweeting
If any one user starts dominating my Twitter stream for long I’ll unsubscribe. There was a period when Robert Scoble was tweeting like 30 times an hour. All. Day. Long. Now he’s a thought leader and I’m interested in what he has to say. But even someone as influential as Scoble got overbearing and I unfollowed him for a while. You aren’t nearly as influential as he is so if you over tweet don’t be surprised if I don’t follow you either.
3. Never Reply to Others
If there is never an @ sign from an account I may not follow that account. You obviously aren’t on Twitter for conversation. Why would I talk to you if I know you aren’t going to answer?
4. Account is Not Following Anyone
This takes #3 a step further. This person is so not into answering that they aren’t even going to bother following anyone. HillaryClinton and SethGodin are two account examples of this type. Now I realize these accounts are not run by those individuals (Seth has said on his blog he’s not associated with the account using his name.) But again, I’ve got a feed reader. If I’m interested I’ll subscribe to your blog.
5. Spoof Account
There was a time when I was being followed by several ChrisBrogan spoof accounts. Now Chris is a social media rock star so it doesn’t surprise me that some folks might want to “get in on that action” so to speak. But if I see the account following me is obviously a spoof account I’m not following.
6. I Find Your Account Offensive
I follow a Twitterer that goes by the name Foul Bastard. As you might guess with a name like that, the user pushes the envelope of good taste. He’s even had his account suspended by Twitter, apparently because so many people blocked the account. I went to his (I’m pretty sure it’s a guy) twitter page one day and I found the image he had up behind his account quite disturbing. So I unfollowed. I didn’t protest or tell him he should change. I don’t figure that’s my place. Then a while later I noticed he’d changed his background so I followed the account again. But if I find the account offensive from the get-go I’m probably not going to follow it.
7. The Account is Obviously a Bot
Event though I’ve followed the occasional bot account, I’m on Twitter to interact with people not machines. Bots can be amusing but I’ve come to the conclusion that bots aren’t my thing and I’m not interested.
8. The Account is Following WAY More than are Following It
This is sort of the flip side of #4. The way I look at it if someone is following everyone they can find they are more about the numbers than the relationships. For example the other day I was followed by osen who, at 21K+, is currently following nearly 10 times the number of accounts that are reciprocating. Some people refer to these types as “Marketing Accounts” but I’m not sure that’s a good name for it. Either way I’m not following.
9. I’ve Made a Mistake
Hey, I’m human. I try to follow all the interesting folks that are following me. However I wouldn’t be surprised if buried in the 100+ accounts that I’m not following are some fascinating people. I goon things up from time to time so if you fall into this category I apologize. Let me know & I’ll fix my mistake pronto.

Not a Long List

When you get right down to it, mine isn’t a very long list. And I don’t even hold strictly to my list. Some folks operate in what I’d consider the gray area. For example Guy Kawasaki is prolific and posts lots of links. But he’s also very influential, follows most every account that follows his, and makes an honest effort to respond to at least some of the people who address him directly on Twitter.

In short he’s earned some leeway.

Of all the reasons, #8 is probably the most common one I don’t follow accounts. I get the feeling that some people see the huge amount of traffic on Twitter and hope to funnel it all to themselves overnight. There will always be those folks who don’t understand that networking successfully takes time and effort. There aren’t any easy short cuts.

Twitter Follow Me BadgeI’d consider myself a fairly average Twitter user and it’s taken me a year to follow 400 people. That seems like a more natural pace than going in and adding thousands in a day. Not that I’d hesitate if bunches of interesting folks wanted me in their networks, mind you.

But I’m not going to go friend everyone I can find to get there. Ultimately I don’t see Twitter as some sort of virtual High School popularity contest. People are more valuable than that.

I also realize people change. Unfortunately Twitter doesn’t make it easy to review accounts down the road. I’d like to see a sort of “People who follow me that I’m not following” so that I could easily review accounts from time to time and see if people’s habits change.

How about you – how do you decide which accounts you follow?

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