Twitter Strategies: Random Followers and Follow Strategies

A friend of mine asked me some questions about Twitter and since I was answering one person, thought others might find this useful too! Paula wanted to know where/how/why complete strangers suddenly start following her.

Who are these random followers? People who follow you even though you don’t have anything in common fall into a couple of different groups:

1) People who have heard of you or know of you — friend of a friend types.
2) Spammers — may not immediately appear to be spammers but if they are following about 1500 people and have under 100 followers, yup, you guessed it. These people will follow and unfollow people until they get a big enough group of people who reciprocate.  (You follow me, I’ll follow you.)
3) People who are following “lists” — everyone in Boston, everyone in Massachusetts, everyone in a given directory, everyone who uses the word “monkey.”  (If you use the word “innovation” and you are located in Massachusetts, my @massinno account is probably following you.)
4) People who used some twitter tool to find you.  For example, I use TwitterGrader’s list of people by town to look for other people in Lexington to follow.

What should you do about “semi-random” followers?

If you are going to spend a lot of time on Twitter, and use it for work, you should probably have a “follow” strategy (as part of your greater Twitter strategy and persona).  You should be able to answer questions like these:

  1. Will I follow everyone who follows me?
  2. Will I only follow people I know in person?
  3. Will I “research” people before I follow them?
  4. Will I only follow people in my industry?  My location?  My specific Twitter persona’s focus?
  5. Will I follow auto-twitterers (sometimes these are news feeds from media sources.)
  6. Will I unfollow people who don’t follow me back?  (Some people will unfollow anyone who uses an auto-greeting to new followers.)

Your follow strategy is a personal thing.  I follow lots of people.  I like the serendipity of seeing what’s crossing my “Twitter Stream” at any given moment but it means that I need to visit individual people’s pages to see what they are doing because their tweets are “buried” amongst the hundreds of other tweets.  I have been considering creating a special account just to follow the 30 or so people whose pages I visit regularly.  I don’t think anyone can seriously follow more than 50 people, especially some of the more prolific twitterers, but it sure as heck is fun to try.

If you do decide to follow everyone back, there is one thing to keep in mind.  As you approach 2000 followees, and if you follow more people than follow you back, you may get “cut-off” at 2000.  There is a built-in limit of the number of people you can follow at 2000 until things balance out.  So, if you are a promiscuous follower, you may run into trouble around 2000.  If you are a real person and not a spammer, it probably won’t be an issue for long but I had a couple of frustrating weeks because I follow a batch of news services that don’t follow back.

Hope this helps!  What’s your strategy for Twitter?