How I choose to who to follow on Twitter

Yes, no doubt I love Twitter. I have TweetDeck open almost all the time (I have to close it when I want to focus on writing in a serious way) so I can keep up news, tips, and what my friends are doing. Connecting, learning, and chatting with people on Twitter is one of the ways I stay connected, while still working from home (which is pretty solitary). I think because I talk with people, thank people for mentions and RTs, and all that sort of thing, people follow me. I don’t, however, follow everyone back

Honestly, I can’t do it. I tried for a while, following back everyone who followed me (spammers excepted of course), but I found that I just couldn’t sift out the noise. Sure, this was just before TweetDeck came into the world, but still, as it is I “follow” some 5800 people. So I have to pick and choose who I follow. I follow all work colleagues. I tend to follow people I meet in person at conferences and such. If I don’t know you, I follow people back (or just in general) when the information they are sending out holds some value to me. Really it’s as simple as that. I track information in four columns in TweetDeck. These columns are made up of Twitter lists. I use Twitter lists because I can go switch to any Twitter client that supports lists (I think they all do now) and have my primary info sources right there. The thing is that there is a real and finite limit to this strategy. The limit is 500.

Any given list on Twitter can follow up to 500 people. That’s it. I hit that limit with my News list this week. My private lists, Friends, Colleagues, and Colleagues 2 can, in total, follow only 329 more people. Oh sure I know that is a lot. However, what this means is that at some point, when all the lists hit their max point, I’m going to have to cull the lists. I always want to find and follow new people, new sources, get new ideas. It’s that flow that helps me cover news and events well. And while I don’t see following anyone a waste, I do have to make sure that I can manage my time and attention well.

There is no magic. There is no “I always follow people from Vancouver” or “I never follow someone who does this or that” (spam excepted), it’s purely…when I read what you’ve said, am I interested.

That’s it. That’s how I follow people. I just read what people write. Same way I follow RSS feeds, if it’s interesting, I’ll read it. And most often, I don’t unfollow or unsubscribe so once you’ve got my attention, you keep it. By the way, the “trick” of following and unfollowing me (or anyone else) just isn’t going to work to get me to follow you. In fact, eventually I will block you.


  1. says

    The fact you follow 5800 people is amazing in it’s own right – I have trouble keeping up with the 500 I follow and I thought I was picky. Now true, my numbers are about 10% of yours.. but I can’t begin to think how’d I’d be able to pick and choose effectively enough to see anything through the noise.

  2. says

    Part of it is time. I’ve had this account since 2007 (I think). The other is just trying to make sure that I follow people who I interact with (like you). I look at the people who follow me and just go with my gut.

  3. says

    I try to use my instincts as well (and ususally make sure the person is conversational), but again.. I’m also at 10% of your numbers and I find it tough. I think I’d be quite a bit more strict as to who I might follow if I had to sift through that many.


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