The debate over whether you should follow everyone who follows you on Twitter has raged on ever since the popular microblogging service gained traction. Some say following everyone eliminates the real value Twitter provides--connecting with others of similar interests. Others say that following everyone actually provides more value.
But if you consider some of the finer points of following everyone who follows you on Twitter, I think you might come to the realization, just as I have, that following everyone is not just a responsible move on your part, it's good of the entire community.
Nope, there aren't rules, but there is etiquette
There aren't any rules forcing you to follow your followers on Twitter, but that doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do.
If someone has found you compelling in some way, shouldn't you give them the benefit of the doubt and follow them back? It's not like you can't block them in the future if you think their tweets are inappropriate.
To me, Twitter is all about the community. And by signing up, that community has made the conscious decision to interact and share interests, ideas, and personal information. If someone follows you, they're saying, in effect, that they want to hear what you have to say and care about your ideas.
I don't see anything wrong in following them as a gesture of appreciation and confirmation that you're willing to hear what they have to say, as well. After all, if you want to become a part of the community, isn't it only right that you hold up your end of the bargain and give them the same respect they've given you?
The 'noise' argument holds little water
Whenever I discuss my reasoning for following everyone who follows me on Twitter, I invariably receive the same response from those who disagree: "following everyone is too much trouble and you can't find all the conversations you actually want to engage in."
I currently follow over 2,400 people on Twitter and I've never had an issue finding really interesting and relevant information. Sure, some of it has nothing to do with me--discussions about grilled cheese sandwiches, for one--but there's quite a bit that my followers discuss that I'm interested in. I'd say that more than 80 percent of all the updates that flow through my stream are worthy of discussion. And I don't think I'm unique.
I simply don't see how users get more value out of Twitter by following a select group of people. I've tried it and it was disastrous. More often than not, that grouping is filled with co-workers and friends that probably share many of the same interests. If you ask me, that sounds more like a big, private chat room than a social network where you can communicate and interact with people from all over the world.
Call me crazy, but Twitter, to me, is an international community where interesting tidbits of information flows constantly. It's not a big party where my friends and I can enjoy each others' company. That's what bars are for.
The stream doesn't move that fast
Similar to the noise argument, I always hear from folks that following everyone causes their stream to update too quickly and it's easy to miss things.
I've never felt that way. I've always been able to find topics that interest me and discussing those with others has never been an issue, since replies usually filter in shortly after an update is placed. And even if I miss a few replies, I can always click on the "replies" tab and check them out.
Does the stream move quicker when you follow all your followers? Sure. But that stream is also providing a lot more value, since it's detailing more events, more articles, more news, and more insight into followees. I'm willing to forgo the ability to see every single update when I can see more updates from more people. I think it provides more value than seeing the same update in my stream for three hours.
Following many people doesn't hurt your follower count
Some say that following all your followers makes you look bad to the Twitter community and your follower count will actually decrease because of it. I'm not sure where this rumor started, but there's absolutely no evidence of that being true.
In fact, online marketing firm Hubspot released a report titled "State of the Twittersphere" recently, and found that there's a "strong correlation between the number of people you follow and the number of followers you have."
It makes sense: Twitter is, by its very nature, a viral service. If you follow just one person on Twitter, you're then exposed to their entire list of followers and in turn, they're exposed to your list. Engaging each other in conversation puts you in front of more people, who then have the option of following you themselves. In the process, everyone adds followers and has the option of getting to know more people.
You shouldn't follow everyone, just your human followers
Yes, I know that I said you should follow everyone who follows you, but there is one caveat I should mention: Twitter is rife with spammers, PR junk, and companies that follow you in the hope that you will follow them back.
Don't follow them. You get nothing out of the connection with them and more often than not, they prove to be far too annoying and active to be of any value as a follower. That's why I don't believe in using automated services or scripts to add followers--I think you need to keep a watchful eye on your follow list to get the most value out of Twitter.
It's OK to let your Following list grow
As more people start following you on Twitter, it's inevitable that the number of people you follow will increase too. So what? Just because there are more updates and probably less time to see an individual message, it shouldn't matter if you believe (rightfully so) that the more people you follow on Twitter, the more value you'll get out of the service.
When Twitter first started, the comment was always made that it's nothing more than a platform where people tell us what they had for dinner last night. There's still some of that, but most of the updates I've seen over the past few months have turned the service into a viable news and communication platform. In fact, I've seen breaking news on Twitter before mainstream media outlets reported on it. And it didn't come from the CNN Twitter page, it came from a total stranger with ten followers and 2,000 updates who uses Twitter to communicate with others and share insight and knowledge.
I would have never seen it if I decided that out of all my followers, I would only follow a handful of folks I know. And that's just one example of the dozens of articles, stories, songs, and other information I'm exposed to daily by following all my followers.
It's easy to say that following all your Twitter followers is too much work and it takes away from the "good stuff," but I think that's a short-sighted view. There are over a million people using Twitter right now and about 5,000 to 10,000 new users are signing up every day, each with their own story and interests that they may want to share with you.
Why not let them?
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