Go Ahead, Call Me A Twitter Snob!

by on 05/21/2010 • 113 Comments | Social Media

Here’s a collection of the comments I find in my Twitter replies on any given day:

  • You’re a snob.
  • What an elitist bitch!
  • You obviously have a HUGE ego.
  • You think you’re better than everyone.
  • I hate your face.

“Wow”, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Lisa must have done something horrible to deserve that!” And I did. I made the deliberate decision to keep my Twitter follows as small as possible, thereby breaking every social media “rule” known to man. I should be hung by my toes. Here, I’ll get the nails for you. Actually, I won’t.

I’m too elitist to gather my own supplies. You go. I’ll wait here.

I’m not going to tell anyone that there’s a right or wrong [coughGuyKawasakicough] way to use social media, but there are legitimate reasons for keeping a small Twitter/Facebook/whatever network. And they hold true regardless of whether you’re an individual or a business. Because I get so many folks disagreeing with how I run my account, I thought I’d give some clarification as to why I run it that way. Maybe it will give you some insight into how I view social media. Or, if anything, I now have somewhere to direct the next person who calls me a Twitter bitch. W00t!

Following Everyone = Following No One

The biggest reason I don’t follow thousands of people on Twitter is because I can’t handle the noise. I view following everyone as following no one because when your stream is being updated lightening fast, there’s no way to keep up. If I followed a thousand people, I may miss the everyday, human tweets from my followers. I’d miss the tweets about how much they love their dog, what book their reading, where they’re going on vacation, etc. And, as the great Aerosmith once said, I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to be actively engaged with the people that I choose to invite into my network. I think that’s sort of the point of following something. That may mean I follow less, but I’m guaranteed to interact more with those that I do choose to follow.

Also worth noting is that I don’t use any tools to manage my personal Twitter account – not Tweetdeck, not Seesmic, nothing. I get everything from the Web version. That means that following a thousand people would turn my Twitter feed into a complete mess. It also means that I am as adorable and outdated as a typewriter.

I Don’t Like Relying On Twitter Lists

I think there are a lot of great uses for Twitter Lists, especially private Twitter Lists. But I don’t like the idea of creating a large network that I have to segregate and banish to a separate part of my Twitter life. This may sound all types of rainbows and bunnies, but I like my community together. I like the stream of constant information, not having to check in with various lists throughout the day to see what my different friend groups are saying. For me, it feels awkward, cumbersome and a lot more impersonal. Again, I like to be really engaged with the people that I do choose to follow. It’s hard for me to do that when they’re banished to my sidebar. Again, that’s just how I work.

It Encourages Me To Switch People Out

Though I try to keep my Following list under 500 people, that doesn’t mean it’s always the same 500 people. I follow/unfollow people like it’s my job, constantly looking for the right mix of voices, information and humor. If I followed more people, I probably wouldn’t have to do this because I wouldn’t see what anyone was saying anyway. By keeping a smaller core, it makes me more engaged and aware of who I am following.  It keeps me on the hunt to track down the best of the best of my network.

Small Groups = Better Learning

Everyone learns differently. Some like to be one of many, some are visual learners, some need to be locked away with a book and highlighter. For me, it’s all about small groups.

Something you may not know about me is that I received a BA in Print and Multimedia Journalism from Emerson College. The typical class size at Emerson? About 25 students. My Journalism classes often had as few as 12. That provided a very intimate learning environment where you knew the folks you were talking with and you could easily observe and learn from others interactions. That’s how I learn. That’s how I take in information. And it’s a reason that I purposely keep my social networks as intimate as I can. Not because I’m a giant bitch (which I may be, but it’s not a result of Twitter), but because that’s how they provide value to me and how I can provide value to others. I understand that some of my friends thrived off the lecture hall college experience. Some of those people also drank in college. I didn’t do that either. I know, as cute as a typewriter, right?

A Follow Begins To Mean Something

When someone with a low Following count follows me on Twitter, I feel a closer relationship to that person. I know they didn’t just follow me because they were hoping I’d follow back or because they’re not discerning enough. It tells me that I did or said something to get myself on their radar. And as a brand, I think that’s something you want to strive for. You want to be relevant and interesting to your audience, not to the masses. A follow from someone in your niche, and who doesn’t follow often, means you’re on the right path.

I Don’t Have To Follow You To Talk With You

One of my favorite things to do with folks who call me a Twitter snob for not keeping my Following/Followers numbers more closely aligned is to chat with them. Because I think it proves an important point – while I may not choose to follow everyone and their five step-brothers, I do my best to chat and converse with the folks who choose to chat and converse with me. And that doesn’t require that we’re immediately following one another. That’s how you FIND people to follow on Twitter – you start chatting with them through someone else. And then suddenly you get to meet them, share a few conversations, stalk their blog, and you become friends and followers. It’s that whole building relationships thing.  We can chat, share information and have great conversations without immediately attaching ourselves. It’s like Twitter dating.

You can call me a Twitter snob, but I’m just using Twitter in a way that provides me the most value.  And that means keeping a small network and actively manning my replies tab. What are your standards for following someone on Twitter? Do you think it’s important to keep your numbers close or are you gosh darn tired of people calling you a Twitter elitist?

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

113 thoughts on “Go Ahead, Call Me A Twitter Snob!

  1. I used to believe in the reciprocal following thing. I had 4,000+ people I was trying to interact with and one day just said “that’s it” after I noticed I kept missing tweets from people in my local community. Now I follow a smaller number of people and Twitter is a more useful tool again.

    That of course has no bearing on whether or not Lisa is a snob. ;-)

  2. I honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with only following a small amount of people. You are very right about it giving more power and meaning to the people that you follow. I mean, c’mon, look at the one gal that Conan O’Brien is following…

    • Ha, that poor girl had her entire life changed by being the Girl Conan O’Brien Is Following. I think smaller is the way to go, though maybe more than just one person. :)

  3. I mentioned it on your last post, but I do the same thing you do (although I use tweetdeck instead of the web version). I couldn’t imagine following that many people. The noise would be deafening. Not to mention, folks follow me all the time that I don’t see a common interest in. And if they never engage with me, how would I know different?

    • And if you don’t get the email notification for the follow, you’re right, you’d have no way to know someone new hops on. I follow what I can handle and drop and add when I need. That’s about all I can do.

  4. Great points Lisa! I’ve heard other people talk about why they don’t follow everyone back and it’s the same reasoning that you have — following everyone = following nothing.

    My number of followers is small in comparison but I still lose the “human tweets.” But I think when you get to a certain point, it’s impossible to speak to everyone — without a Twitter mute button and a megaphone. It doesn’t make you elitist, it makes you human, and isn’t that what we should all be?

  5. I’m right there with you. This is why though I have nearly 7000 followers I only follow about 50 people. Who cares if this annoys some people. I follow those who I find interesting.. not those who find ME interesting. Great article.

  6. This is exactly how I’ve managed my Twitter account, although I’ve let my following numbers creep up to over 1,000. Like you, I still like to read on the Web and it gets very, very noisy. However, I do use Twitter lists for the people whose every word (or most of them) I want to hang on to. That list is at 250 people — and it includes you, even though you don’t follow me back.

    No problem with that, because as you said, if I have something I really want you to hear, I’ll @ ya. And if you don’t respond to that, well then I might resort to calling you a snob. Or I might reckon you were super busy when my 140 characters went sailing your way. The lifetime of a tweet is fleeting, and even with best intentions you can’t catch them all.

    • I do my best to catch all my Replies, but I’m sure I miss plenty of them. Sometimes life just gets busy and you can’t check in as often as you’d like. I appreciate the folks who get that and apologize to the ones that don’t. :)

  7. I’m getting tired of arguments like “You can just use Tweetdeck (etc.) to manage your groups, so there’s no excuse for not following everyone!” – I use Tweetdeck, and I do have a “Can’t Miss” group of about 50 people, but if I follow everyone else and then filter them out, how is that anything but a cop out? That’s just passive-aggressive non-following – “Hey, look at me – I followed you back, but I don’t really give a shit and I ignore everything you say”.

    To each their own. I’m currently trying to keep the people I follow to under 600 (about 1/3 of my followers right now), because beyond that, I can’t keep up with the stream. Like you, that list gets adjusted every week. If I get to know people and they talk with me, they’ll probably end up on it. If I realize I have no idea who someone is and can’t remember why I followed them, I stop following them.

    • haha awesome. I agree, following everyone and then using Lists to actually READ the people you care about is a total cop out. I don’t want to offend you by not following, but, um, yeah, I don’t really care either. At least own who you care about.

      And just because we have Tweetdeck or Lists doesn’t mean I want to use them.

    • That’s not passive aggressive. We all have real-life friends who we don’t hear from much, or keep track of too closely, yet catch up with every few months or so. Tweetdeck et al facilitate that kind of relationship.

      • I’m really ranting more at the personality than the tactic. I use Tweetdeck and have lists – we all manage things our own way. What I hate are the people who make a big show of following everyone back, but then use a filter to only really listen to 5 of those people, while acting high-and-mighty about it. Whether you pre-filter or post-filter, it’s still a filter.

        We all have our own philosophies, but to me a follow-back is a sort of commitment. It means I’m going to at least make an effort to listen to you and interact. I don’t follow anyone back without at least checking their profile and having some idea who they are.

  8. Very refreshing article. I don’t know how people can follow more than a couple hundred people and still make relationships and really hear what people are saying. I’ve seen a stream from someone who’s following thousands and it’s chaos! Even with lists it seems impossible to manage.

    What I think this shows is that you do actually care about those who you choose to interact with.

  9. ♫ You thought you’d
    follow my tweets
    cuz it’s gonna get me to
    think you’re neat
    ‘But I ain’t no Followback Girl
    I ain’t no Followback Girl ♪

    I feel the same way Lisa. No good can come from blindly following people…. twitter or no twitter.

  10. To each their own. We all have our own guidelines to how we manage our social presence. Personally, for me, the larger my community, the better. If something is valuable, chances are I’ll find it. With RT and groups within TweetDeck, it something is good it’ll get talk. Are there valuable information that I miss, absolutely. But my goal isn’t to “catch” everything. Twitter isn’t my sole resource for information.

    The thing that matters is that you stay true to what works for you. You make your own guidelines and aren’t conforming to the norm. If something works for you, stick with it.

    • Agreed. I know there are lots of people who get value from having larger networks. For me, i tend to lose a lot of stuff. But if it works, keep on it.

  11. I Don’t Have To Follow You To Talk With You

    So, what do you do where people with locked accounts are concerned?

    • I guess I miss what they’re saying. but they made that choice to block me and the world off from reading them without following. Twitter used to have it so if someone @’d you from a private account, you could read it but sadly, they don’t do that anymore. I’m not sure how I’d even find those people anyway if I can never see they’re trying to talk with me.

  12. I found this cause IttyBiz tweeted it. lol

    Thanks for clearing up a mystery for me. I’m new-ish to twitter and social media. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people I don’t know started following me and put me on lists. It’s weird. I noticed some of my followers and folks I’m following have thousands of followers. That blows my mind. How in heck do they even read all the twits and retweets?! I don’t know how they keep up and, after watching a while, realized they don’t. It’s more like a popularity contest or something. I thought the purpose of twitter was to hang out with folks who talk to and help each other out. I’m finding that’s not really the case…it’s kind of a pyramid scheme/I’ll scratch your twit if you retwit mine thing. I get the business of it. But if I were using twitter to offset my business you can bet I’d limit the following to a manageable level.

    Yay for twitter snobs. You go girl!

    • it’s kind of a pyramid scheme/I’ll scratch your twit if you retwit mine thing.

      Ha! That was awesome. i think the number of people you follow definitely depends on how you use Twitter. I really do use it to build relationships and learn from other people, so it makes sense that I keep a smallish network. other people use it as a numbers game and to broadcast their content to as many people as possible, regardless if they’re interested. To each their own.

      Welcome the twitterverse! :)

  13. OMG I could hug you for Guy Kawasaki slam. Its my mission to let everyone know that Business Week exposed him as a paid tweeter ($900 per tweet). But one who doesn’t state which tweets are paid for! Bad bad man.

    I agree with your post here 100%. I consider myself an adland-medialand subversive. How can I be subversive if I joined in with everyone in the industry? I pick and choose value and quality and alignment of views more than anything else so I feel like I have true community.

    And btw I started on twitter to prove your point. How many people does one have to follow before you see only a small fraction of the tweets in the stream. At following 200 your getting 800-1600 tweets per day. So while I proved the tweet stream is a harsh place to advertise, doesn’t mean twitter didn’t turn into an exemplary networking tool for me.

  14. Lisa,

    My stalking talent must be rusty since I only found out about this post today thanks to you having that dialogue with @IttyBiz. Then again, it does confirm how challenging it is to really pay attention to a twit-stream even with a few hundred people in it. (beside the fact that I have a little bit of a life not involving Twitter).

    As for the BS “snob/elitist” nonsense, it’s one of the prices you’re going to have to pay now that you’re famous Lisa – jealous, ego-centric wanna-be’s…

    • The convo with Ittybiz came about 20 seconds after I tweeted this post so you weren’t that late.

      But OMG, SHE SPOKE TO ME! Did you see her speak to me? Ahhhh.

      :)

      • Well, I don’t follow her – because I’m a twitter snob, I guess. And I didn’t see your original post tweet either. it was lost in the sea of tweets from my already limited tweet-stream. but uh, talk about peeing in pants, now THAT caught my attention!

  15. Your logic is sound, with or without the use of a tool. I use Tweetdeck lists to narrow down the people I want to pay close attention to even further than keeping my total follow count relatively clean.

    I’m actually kinda interested in knowing why you (and Rae) choose to use the web interface instead of apps, but that’s probably another post all together.

    I think the true Twitter snobs are the ones that NEVER reply to @ replies from people they don’t follow . . . what’s up with that?

    • i’ve tried Tweetdeck and (older versions of) Seesmic, I just couldn’t get into them. I like using the Web version + Twitter Search. Maybe I’m just a creature of habit. I can’t adopt anything else and stick with it.

      Yeah, I don’t get the people who never respond to @s. I know i miss a bunch during the day when I get busy, but I do make an attempt. I know the other ladies do, too. If you’re not going to respond, why even play?

      • “I use Tweetdeck lists to narrow down the people I want to pay close attention to even further than keeping my total follow count relatively clean.”

        Basically, I don’t want to humor people and have them think I’m following them when I’m really not. I think that’s ruder than not following them at all, personally.

  16. Of all people out there in the twittersphere, you would probably be one of the *least* likely to make any bitch-list; your posts are always interesting, insightful, sweet, and filled with an honest humility that most folks don’t put out there as part of their public persona.

    I’m new to this whole blue birdie thing, I’m having tons of fun (just got my first snarky comment yesterday! re. the hideous London Olympics mascots I tweeted were “terrifying” I got back: “Do you know what is truly terrifying? Someone who puts “Harvardian” in their Twitter bio.” Ouch).

    But if there is one thing twitter teaches us, it’s that age-old lesson that “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
    So, if you do manage to please yourself, and make a lot of us out there smile at the guile-less adventures of Lisa in twitterland, then I think you’re doing OK.

    • Dunbarfying twitter is a pragmatic approach that I empathise with. But it may be applicable to your conversing friends not necessarily your public friend count. So by that I mean that a subset of my friends that I follow who together produce a tolerable frequencey of updates become my network that I engage with where we gain mutual value.

      I may not need to publically or privately list them because my timeline naturally produces a useful stream for me. Non discriminatory following for the sake of some kind of solidarity social cause is just…bullshit.

  17. Wow, I can’t believe you’ve been called all those rotten names. I’ve replied to your Tweets before and you ignored me, but I don’t take it personally.

    I don’t follow back automatically, but I do try to follow anyone with relevant interests. But even that’s getting to be too much! I might have to pare down my list a tad. It’s impossible to keep up with so many people. I think 200-ish is a healthy, realistic number.

  18. It’s hard to find fault with this argument. Really. You make some fantastic points that are valid for many Twitter users.

    That said, I think you’re missing out.

    You argue that people can still interact with you even if you’re not following them–but you can’t do the same. You put the onus on others to engage your interest. Plenty of people are like that, but if Lisa Barone is a brand–and I think that it is–then shouldn’t that brand take an active interest in people are are interested in it? A follow back could turn a casual connection into a blog reader and then into a brand ambassador.

    Your way makes perfect sense for a personal blogger who only has so much time to figure out new tools and techniques for managing social media. As a person who loves small business, however, I would think that you might be interested in figuring out ways to maximize impact, reach more people, and extend brand awareness.

    I hope this didn’t come across like a troll. I figure if this is an “outspoken” place then it’ s OK to have a little healthy discussion.

    • I really appreciate the discussion. Please never bite your tongue. Not here.

      I can see your point, the problem is, for me, at what point do I follow so many people that i’m missing everything? I probably should be a lot better at seeking out tools and trying to find ways to be more effective at monitoring things, I just haven’t found anything i like enough to stick with. I do have private Twitter lists that I use to help me monitor conversations around certain SMB people or topics, but that’s more for monitoring, not engaging.

      For me, I try to reach people through blogging about small business and other topics, not so much through Twitter. I blog on Outspoken, SmallBizTrends, and do a bunch of guestblogging in between there. I try to reach people through those channels. Twitter is used to extend those relationships.

      I definitely see your point. I follow as many people as I can keep up with, until I can find a tool i like to help me create sense of the chaos.

      Thanks for the comment (and spurring the post!). :)

  19. Definitely some good food for thought. I remember the days when Twitter wasn’t so mainstream and I got to regularly engage with people and see what they were up to. Now, I am up to following about 2,500 people and I do have to manage it with Tweetdeck and columns, which makes me worry that I’m missing out on what people have to say. So to combat that, I use Tweetdeck on my iPhone at night and look through my entire list of friends – that way, I get the chance to connect with people I may have forgotten to put on a list or who aren’t daily in my thought process. I try to keep it from being too clique-y.

    I also don’t follow everyone who follows me. I really believe social networking is about engaging and not developing some crazy huge list of followers and then talking at them. I try to engage with people, both by responding to anyone who messages me (if it’s not spam) and by checking through my list four or five times a day to see what other people are talking/worrying/thinking about. Professionally, I’ve grown SO much by connecting with them, seeing what they’re reading, learning about the trends, and having valuable conversations with very smart people – something I’ve been missing out on since I graduated from a small college with intimate classes!

    I think it’s a toss-up, and whatever works best for you. As you mentioned, you’re regularly weeding people out and adding people in, so it’s not as if you have the same conversations over and over. But it really is about relationships and while I may have a big group of followers, I only regularly interact with a small portion of them, and my guess would be that that’s true for most people out there.

    (And by the way, I just love all of Outspoken Media’s posts. I think they make me a better person & blogger.)

    • …while I may have a big group of followers, I only regularly interact with a small portion of them, and my guess would be that that’s true for most people out there.

      i’d agree and that’s probably a bigger problem than how many people someone follows. How many do you follow vs how many do you ENGAGE with. That’s a good question.

      And thanks for the kind words. Appreciate them. :)

  20. I’m still in shock that you get those kind of comments on a daily basis? Are you SERIOUS? Wow. I think your strategy is exactly what I believe in/want to do as well. I don’t want to follow everyone, some people just annoy the crap out of me! If you are interesting, I’ll follow but I might unfollow a few weeks later if I don’t want to hear it.

    I’m building up a new twitter account because I started a job last month and well, that’s my job! So I’m following everyone at this point in time. I have unfollowed a few people (only posting silly news links) so far but I know it will get to be more in the future.

  21. It’s really awful that people call you names for using YOUR social media resource in the way that works for you. Sorry to hear that.

    I am also selective about who I follow back because that’s what works for me. In fact when someone who “follows” 8,000 people follows me it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll follow them back because I know the chance of strong & genuine connection is slim.

    But I do have moments of second guessing if I’m “doing it wrong”. Thanks for writing this and helping me keep things in perspective.

    I use HootSuite because I like being able to easily check in on some streams of people I don’t actively follow (e.g. watching tweets about #wordpress), and I also like having a web interface so I can have the same experience no matter which computer I’m on.

  22. Late to the party, but Lisa, what about new services like Gist? That’s not TweetDeck obviously. I understand the need for real-time interaction *sometimes*. But I also know that I would rather keep up with you in bits and pieces and if we’re on at the same time, live. But I would rather see some of what you’ve said than none.

    I don’t know that I’ve done a good job with Gist yet, but I think I’m getting to the point where I say, “Hey, I haven’t caught up with so and so all week. I need to drop in on them” or “This person just wrote me and here’s a handy sidebar with everything they’ve been Tweeting & posting lately”

    What do you think it? Worth it? Or just an excuse to organize the noise?

    • To be honest, i haven’t played with Gist. I’ve read a bit about it on places like WebWorkerDaily, but I haven’t gotten my feet wet. I should add it to the list of things to try out. Maybe I’ll give that a go this weekend.

  23. First off, I LOVE your “comment policy” rules. I subscribe thru Google Reader and as you know not everything from your site manifests itself in the RSS…so when I went to leave a comment I read the “rules” first. I think humorous rules are more likely to be followed…so, Great Job there. Regarding your post…I couldn’t agree more. There’s no way you can carry on a real “relationship” with so many people, no matter how hard you try. I wrote a post today about the power of saying NO…exactly what you did. Mind if I use your decision as an example? http://getsimplifized.com/the-power-of-saying-no Thanks for your continued inspiration.

    • Thanks on the Comment Policy. I’m in the process or rewriting a bunch of site content, but that’ll probably now stay. :)

      For your comment, I’m not even sure I’d WANT to form a relationship with 10,000 people. That sounds exhausting to try and keep up!

      Feel free to use us as an example, if you’d like. :)

  24. Calling someone a Twitter Snob is like calling someone a Food Snob. I would be damn proud of that title – it just shows you know what you are talking about and moved past the “sheep” mentality of Social Media.

    At least they didnt call you a Social Media Ninja, Guru or other total DOUCHEBAG name.

  25. I think you’re absolutely right! And, I wish people would only follow me if they were actually interested in me/my stuff/what I tweet about, instead of hoping that I’ll follow them back.

    I’m sort of horrified that people would actually call you names because of your follow number…eep.

  26. Thank you for your insights. I follow you to stay on top of social media trends and perspectives. Thanks for sharing your insights as I too was concerned with the noise of following everyone who followed me. I agree it seems impersonal but was torn on the best approach for the small business I work for as I saw my competitors amass huge lists. Now I know I am on the right path; a niche list for a niche product.

    Many Thanks!

  27. Lisa, I’m a new follower as of today because @unmarketing says you’re awesome. He’s right and I’m thrilled to find an honest voice.
    Thanks for your perspective and facilitating this discussion. It has always seemed hypocritical to me that those who seek to engage make it virtually impossible to do so. I’ve tried to question the strategy of megafollowing on other forums and got the distinct impression it was a taboo subject. No one wanted to admit that they weren’t really listening.
    I check every person who follows me to consider whether their stream would be of value to me or not. I watch my follower numbers fluctuate as those who realize I don’t autofollow back retract. Good riddance!
    In Trust Agents, Brogan/Smith mention Robin Dunbar’s research that concluded the maximum number beyond which authentic relationships become difficult to maintain is 150. Imagine how much more real Twitter would be with a follow limit.
    I was also surprised Lisa, that you actually use Twitter and not one of the ubertools. I feel less alone now.
    One last thing. Don’t follow me. I’m listening. If I have something I think you’d be interested in hearing, I’ll let you know. Thanks.

  28. Suggestion: Take the effort that you’re spending scrolling through Twitter.com pages (many times per day, I’m guessing) and customize a single instance of Tweetdeck once?

    You’ll save a lot of time in the long run and you’ll get much better focus. You’ll be able to see the Tweets from your own ‘best of the best’ list, or friends list, or Restauranteurs at the End of the Universe list, whatever the case may be. The time you save will let you be that much more engaged, with no ‘banishment’ and that’s what you want, right?

    If you’re saying, “I like what I’ve got”, that’s fine, but there’s a disparity between what you say you want and what you’re doing to get it.

    Sorry if this sounds snarky, definitely not my intent.

    • Don’t worry about being too snarky. :)

      I have taken the time to set up Tweetdeck and Seesmic and I’ve forced myself into using them both for a week…but I can’t get used to the system. It doesn’t feel natural for me to use it that way. I always end up going back to the web interface.

      • it’s not just you, Lisa, I’ve tried it but I don’t get on with apps like Tweetdeck at all – it’s too much information & my brain just can’t parse it.

  29. You’re not alone. If not for my TweetDeck groups, I’d follow far fewer people. Even with my groups, things still get out of hand sometimes. And while I follow a greater percentage of my followers than you do, I still get called all the same names you do.

    People like to be assholes, and that’s cool with me. When they show their asses, it makes the decision to never follow them a hell of a lot easier. Because let me tell ya, calling me names is a GREAT way to get a follow back. Or not.

    Perhaps they should try engaging those from whom they’d like a reciprocal follow. Carry on a conversation via @replies. Prove you’re a real person. Make the person want to follow you. Prove you have something worthwhile to contribute. Just following someone isn’t reason enough for them to follow you back. That’s like a dude walking around a bar giving his phone number to every girl and then calling them all whores when they don’t call.

  30. I’ve found a new example to direct people to when I hear the whining, ‘You don’t follow back!’ I’ve recently begun to trim down my following list to those I get great information from in addition to some good laughter throughout the day, I believe you fall into both categories :-).

    But I did have a question, @pageoneresults aka Edward Lewis, has a strict follower policy which he doesn’t let just anyone follow him. What do you think about safeguarding who follows you without setting an account to private?

  31. when I see a twitter account with thousands and followers and few follow backs…to me that adds to the person’s credibility. It tells me they care about what they are reading but that they also distribute valuable/interesting/funny info to the public. I can’t stand the obligatory follow back when it’s so obvious they don’t care what I’m tweeting. What happened to quality over quantity?

    • Amy, I’m the opposite. If I see someone who can’t be bothered to follow more than few people, I assume they’ve stopped learning. You can get thousands of followers very quickly if you care to, but following takes commitment. If you think you’re a broadcaster, you don’t jive with how I see social media. I make exceptions to this rule of course, but not many.

  32. So those example comments you posted must be from knobs who insist you follow them because they follow you? Because they for sure aren’t from anyone who reads your tweets. Unless they don’t like #giantpawz.

  33. Confession: I checked to see if you we’re still following me, you are. I also noticed the coolest people in the upper left hand corner of your twitter landing page. So, I have to say, at least in my highly valued personal opinion, you’re not elitist or snobby. You’re a world of unicorns, cupcake and rainbows, and all that is good about twitter. :)

  34. hmm… it does make it easier if you only have friends in one time zone, or sleep normal hours, otherwise you need to consider following a decent mix of people otherwise it spirals into an innercircle…

  35. I’m surprised you get such a hard time about your policy given your job. I follow you and read your posts because I want to improve my skills so that I can better communicate online about something I care about (animal rights). I have no reason to think you’d want to follow me back and have to weed out my stuff about a topic that isn’t of interest to you (not that you’re not kind to animals of course :-)) I can’t imagine I’m alone here. You must have a lot of followers who want to learn from you so they can use what they learn to talk about what they are interested in. I am not one of the alleged thousands of social media expert/ninja/whatevers, but it seems to me that a lot of what’s social about it is that I can hear directly from you, and talk back directly to you if I actually have something to say to you, not that I expect you or anyone else to read my every word just because I might want to read yours.
    Thanks for lots of great information.

    • You’ve touched on the real reason some complain that Lisa isn’t following them back, Laura. I’d venture to say most of them are from the SEO/SEM/SMM industry. To a certain extent, it’s really not about the follow, the want for her to see their tweets or even a desire to create a relationship with her.

      It’s about creating a perceived relationship. They’re trying to bully her into following them back in order to somehow elevate their own status within industry circles. It’s a sad attempt to build an image, rather than a genuine effort to build a relationship.

  36. Personally, I think anyone who turns into a raving psycho when The Lisa doesn’t automatically follow them back needs to get their ego in check w/ reality. Following everyone is following no one. Absolutely. Without question. And look at us, you didn’t immediately follow me and I don’t know how many @-reply convos we had before you did. I was never offended, and now you’re like one of bestest friends IRL, EVA. <3

    I'm an online-nobody, and I STILL don't follow everyone that follows me. I still get the email notifications and will check out each new follower's stream, and a few occasionally get an immediate follow (on a trial basis). I like that you don't have to follow someone in order to add them to a list. I add anyone that follows me to Capital Region list, because those are voices I may be interested in hearing from time to time. A few of those have wound up being followed because they added value that wasn't obvious on my initial view of their stream. And like you did when we first "met" on Twitter, I follow back people who have @-replied me a few times and are obviously finding some sort of odd enjoyment out of my tweets, and they have all turned out to be super-ridiculously awesome. (You're all nuts, btw, and I love it!)

    I feel like I know many of the people I follow now. But that's how I am IRL, I value a close circle of friends, not a ton of acquaintances. I would venture to guess that an individual's Twitter follower/following ratio often reflects how they socialize IRL too.

    (gawd, I used "IRL" a lot. shutting up now.)

  37. You mean you don’t have time to respond to every single person that tweets you? Gasp! And people actually get incensed that to the point that they insult you? Grow up people! Anyone who gets upset about that has an over-inflated sense of self-importance. They likely believe that they are one of an elite few that are trying to contact you. I follow quite a few but that’s why I use tweetdeck. I have a list of a hundred or so people that I look at regularly and another column to make sure don’t miss anyone who @s me. The full list I glance at infrequently but I can’t follow 600 conversations never mind the thousands you’d have to follow if you followed everyone back.

    This does, however, explain why you’ve been ignoring my taunts tweets lately … :p

  38. Hey Lisa, I am shocked people actually name call, I must only have the nice people on my twitter lol. I tried tweetdeck for a while and I did eventually get the hang of using it, Sally :)

  39. Couldn’t agree more Lisa. I do the same thing and currently follow less than 300. My favorite is when people say “I can’t DM you because you aren’t following me :( :( :(” as a public guilt trip to get you to follow. I can’t imagine how much shit you put up with from all the tools out there who don’t think you should follow everyone but think you definitely should follow *them* (hah) but I’m glad you stick to your guns so you can engage on Twitter and not get lost in the madness.

  40. As a one-thirder myself, who actively
    (over actively, some might say)
    engages on twitter as if at a backyard BBQ
    (without being a post-pusher, link aggregator, salesman or diarist)
    where I dip in, when I can, for a nice visit, or discovery, or connection, or to match-make,
    then move on…
    I’d love to suggest some easy TweetDeck uses that I think you’ll enjoy and might make the ‘party’ even more fun.

    Imagine if you’re at a party with all those you follow… they wouldn’t be standing shoulder to shoulder in a line. Twitter-web is like that receiving line, but TweetDeck’s more like how we move at parties in life: we can pivot and engage, introduce a batch of pals to each other at once; see profile previews, DM, personalize RTs, reply-all — there’s tons more usability than the original, and that’s not even talking about the best uses of columns and all you can do with that. It’s NOT lists — (and you’ll see I don’t use lists, though I’m pleased to be included in some FAB lists by my “fritters” —
    And, since there is no blog or site connected with my twitter account
    and no obvious or influence for others to want to use me for,
    there’s no review swag or affiliate bucks or back-scratching or pimping or brown-nosing going on —
    (not that there’s anything wrong with that…!)

    Because, even though my followers, and those I follow who may have never seen a tweet from me, have no idea that we’ve met in person or not over these last 2.5 years, I like to use twitter like an open house party in real life: inviting the gang to stop by at any time, gabbing when they drop in, eavesdropping by the punch bowl, asking for and making smart introductions, and looking up a person, place or thing when I need to reach beyond the current, flexible guest list.
    It works.
    If you get the urge to try TweetDeck, lemme know and I’ll email the little tip sheet I wrote up for some newbies some time back.
    And look what a twitter mention (and a killer headline) can do: Naomi intro’d a gazillion avid fans and retweeters to you and your blog. It’s not just a platform or a megaphone or a broadcast; it’s– it’s — it’s Twitter.
    See ya ’round ~ !
    ~ TheGirlPie

  41. I certainly did not set out to amass a bunch of numbers, but I kinda woke up one day and there they were. I do use a TweetDeck column I call “Key Tweeps” for those whose voices I do not want to miss, plus other columns for tourism-related people, hashtag discussions I’m following, mentions of the other two accounts I tweet for (a business and a freelance group,) etc.

    Without that dashboard, I’d be right where you are, keeping the numbers much smaller. I do tweak the Key Tweeps folks, to keep an interesting mix. Whatever works for you is your business, and people should leave you alone about it. I first heard about you when Loren Feldman dropped a compliment about you, and his compliments are so rare that I thought I should check you out. :)

  42. I’ve wrestled with this too, and my solution has been to use a Tweetdeck group to keep up with the people I really want to interact with on a regular basis. I don’t automatically follow everyone back – I avoid people promoting stuff and use the block button liberally. I don’t follow people whose interests seem to have little or no overlap with mine. I accept the fact that some people may want to read my stuff even though they tweet about their cats and dinner plans, and hope they don’t mind me not reciprocating. But I DO follow back those folks that are clearly human, interact with other tweeps, and post some interesting stuff. I know I’ll only see a tiny fraction of their tweets, but I DO look at my fast-moving timeline and both read and interact when I can.

    Even though I can’t read most of the tweets in my timeline, by following back those tweeps I enable them to DM me if they really want to get my attention. And with my tiny “watch list” group I ensure I don’t miss @pageoneresults’ wisdom (or @netmeg’s insanity). I found this post via a tweet from Edward, BTW.

    That’s not to say your strategy is bad, Lisa, any more than @pageoneresults’ approach of limiting followers is wrong. Or even Guy’s different take. Gotta go with what works for the way you like to interact. You have inspired me to get a bit more aggressive about timeline housecleaning. I’m overdue for a purge of non-following tweeps and a bit more aggressive scan for tweeps who looked good to begin with but have slid into promotion mode. (MY pet peeve is the tweeting of stupid quotes. I tried to launch a #MotivationMonday meme by blocking anyone tweeting a motivational quote on that day, but my hashtag was usurped by life coaches tweeting, you guessed it, inane quotes. Did life coaches exist before Twitter?)

    Roger

  43. Sigh… this is my biggest regret on Twitter.

    When I started gaining traction I started auto-following people back. I thought it was a courtesy, a “nice thing” to do.

    All it did was flood my main Twitter stream. It also meant I followed back bots, porn account (not that there is anything wrong with that) and people that were just trying to game the system.

    If I could start again, I would do exactly what you’re saying here. Now all I look at are @ mentions and my custom lists, since following 30,000+ people just ain’t workin for me.

    Great post as always

  44. Looks like I am in the minority here, but I disagree. (Found your post via Scott).

    Who watches the main stream anymore? That is what the power of the lists are there for. Yes, it might take a little extra work to organize a list, but there are no shortcuts in relationship building. I have a hall-of-fame list of people I never want to miss out one, so that solved the “noise” problem.

    My philosophy is this: 1. Listen. 2. Engage in as close to real time as possible. 3. Give the people what they want. 4. Care.

    If I do not follow somebody, there could be a missed opportunity there. It is not worth it to me to possibly offend someone that could be a great connection because I am “too busy” to weed out the spammers and bot.

    ALL of my followers mean something to me, and I do not take any of them lightly.

    OK, that said, great post in the fact that I learn so much more from people I disagree with. So it is nice to understand where you are coming from. Feel free to follow me, or not to follow me, but either way, I wish you all the success in the world Lisa!

    LOVE IT!

    Harrison

  45. After re-reading my wordy comment above, I think my biggest problem with a no-follow approach is telling a peer (in essence), “You are welcome to listen to me, but frankly, I don’t really care what you are saying, and I don’t want to interact with you unless you tweet me in public.”

    I may have more experience than some folks, but that doesn’t mean my tweets are necessarily more valuable than theirs. That may not be the message you are trying to convey, Lisa, but I’m sure some will interpret one-way interaction that way.

  46. I really don’t use twitter to much. I myself don’t rely on twitter for business or leads but more for a presence and SEO. I do use facebook and twitter, but its not where I stack all my chips to get leads. The best ways are internet generated from my blog, website, local listings, referrals, retaining current clients and col calling.

  47. I think it comes down to philosohpy really. I will happily follow a million people because I view my following them and them following me as a validation process, like an informal introduction saying “hey you have something valuable to say, and so do I – so let’s open the door to the possibility of getting to know eachother”.

    That doesn’t mean that I want to marry the person. From time to time I will check my main timeline and if there are people saying something interesting enough to me then I will add them to one of my main lists. At any one time I am probably listening to what 20 or so people are saying. I use hootsuite to manage the entire process.

    Anyone that I see posting regular pitches or affiliate links I block altogether.

    If someone wants to get my attention they use the @ mention symbol, or they DM me. Simple really.

  48. Thank you for this VERY affirming post since I was starting to feel a bit alone out there with the way I engage this medium. Like you I don’t auto-follow and use only the web version. I’ve tried Tweetdeck, Seesmic and other tools but that lasts for all of a day or two. Twitter’s beauty is it’s simplicity – on the web.

    I don’t begrudge anyone that has a different philosophy but I almost never get an unsolicited DM and when I do have a question, there’s usually a response because I’m not following a bunch of bots. I’ve lost thousands of followers who unfolllowed after I didn’t reciprocate, including luminaries who preach otherwise. I’m okay with that :-)

  49. Twitter has a LOT of uses. You can restrict yourself to one method, but if you’re doing things elsewhere that Twitter is also good for, you might want to give it a chance.

    So, reasons you might want to reconsider using Twitter Lists could include:
    - You like getting some news from aggregators
    - You’re already listening to more than one network (blog, FB, etc)

  50. Attended a local networking event and the speaker mentioned the same principal you shared here. You need to focus on those that support or feed what you are doing.

    After reading this post and attending the networking event, i feel more compelled to find my support group within the 379 i have and not shoot for the big numbers.

    And yes, i agree with you on no right or wrong way to do social media but I use Tweet Deck ti hel me organize those i feel I want in my social circle. To each their own. Great advice and insight look forward to more usefull tweets.

    Charles Duggan, owner
    HBnC Design

    Find me on
    Twitter…. http://twitter.com/HBnC_Design
    Facebook….. http://bit.ly/8x88q4
    Linked In…. http://www.linkedin.com/in/hbncdesign

    Thanks, look forward to future networking

  51. Love this article! It’s nice to see someone who thinks as I do and have from day 1 of my Twitter account. I’d far rather follow quality than quantity; I’ll get more from it AND give more to it.

  52. Hi Lisa.
    Thanks for sharing your views on the whole Twitter thing. I have one question though – did you have 1000′s of followers and then cut-back or was it always your policy just to follow a low(ish) number i.e. the sub-500? I am just wondering do you have to have the masses in the first place to enable you to do a constructive appraisal of those who bring meaning.

    I know I have to many and I know I need to cull alot of them – many are reciprocal follows most of whom I don’t communicate with because I simply can’t digest everything that I see.
    Thanks for sharing.

  53. Word! And reading people who are complaining about “I followed this persona and they didn’t follow me back! I’m unfollowing!”

    WHO. CARES. I follow a lot of people who don’t follow me back. There are some people following me who I have no intention of following back. The reciprocal thing is ridiculous, and if that’s snobbery then I’ll be a snob. I don’t follow you if I don’t know you or I’m not interested in what you’re saying or you’re boring as all hell or you only follow celebrities, or… or… or… ugh.

    These ridiculous “rules” are what make twitter ‘not fun’.

  54. I have my Twitter philosophy posted on my background (@kregobiz). It’s kind of a disclosure as to how I use it. I mention how much I read Twitter so that people can figure out that I am paying attention but I simply can’t keep up with everyone. A nice way of saying, “I’m keeping my #s low unless there is a great reason for me to follow you.”

  55. Not sure I get a lot out of twittering in terms of marketing my business, but I do like to listen to the tweets and have come across many interesting snippets that way. And I agree….. following too many people gets just too hectic to follow what is going on.

  56. Definitely not a snob. I totally agree with you: following everyone is following no one. I believe in quality. It would be like going to a networking event and talking with ALL networkers in one night. Not possible and your conversation with them wouldn’t mean a thing. Stick to your regime and just don’t care what other people think.

  57. Hmmmm. Ian at Portent recently published a somewhat similar piece. And, weirdly enough, I just posted a response (not visible yet) in which I agreed that quality trumps quantity (I protect my tweets for that very reason), but that I wished Lisa Barone and Jill Whalen would follow me so I could pick their brains, LOL. (Besides, as a corporate slave, not a self-employed businessperson, I am not trying to peddle anything to anyone; I am just trying to learn stuff.)

    So, I just posted that at Ian’s blog, and now I come across this. Boo-hoo, I still wish you would follow me. :-( But I would never dream of calling you icky names just because you don’t. Heavens!! People take this stuff waaaaay too seriously.

    dianeski
    mild-mannered ecommerce copywriter for a great metropolitan apparel company

    P.S. I’m also half-Italian, if that carries any weight with you :-D

    P.P.S. And did I mention that Ian follows me? And also that cute guy from Unbounce?

  58. I totally agree with you. I’ve been following people to gain followers on Twitter, but I don’t really think I want to do that anymore. I want people to follow me because they are interested in my blog and in me, not just because I followed them. I also think it’s better to keep your following list small so you don’t get swamped with too much chatter.

    I actually admire those that are not following very many people, yet they have a large group of followers. I think it means that many of the people following them actually are doing it sincerely, and that they really are popular, and they didn’t just follow a ton of people to get all those followers

    Like you said, you can still have a conversation with people who you are not directly following.

    What I call a Twitter snob though, is someone who I am following that will not respond to @ replies. Not once, but after several @replies and they just won’t respond and they don’t even have that big of a follower list to keep up with.
    That’s what irritates me.
    I don’t expect people that I follow to follow me, though that would be nice, I totally understand if they don’t.

  59. I found this link via a Google search to post onto Twitter and it is so apt for what I want to get across: I recently started unfollowing people on Twitter because they’re boring or don’t interact, etc. Then I get messages saying “I can’t believe you don’t follow me back” when people follow me – as though it’s their God given right I follow them back. I don’t get in a hump when people don’t return a follow or stop following me: it’s their choice. Your blog says everything I want to be able to say in one tweet!!

  60. Hi there:) Well, this is an interesting subject, and I feel like a Twitter snob sometimes, because I don’t follow everyone back. I try to check out every follower’s profile, but I don’t follow all of my followers. I won’t follow someone who hasn’t tweeted a darn thing, or someone who posts a lovely profile pic of the sign of satan, or a flip of the bird. Sorry, I just can’t follow someone who thinks it’s funny to do that. Then you read their posts, and you realize you have nothing to learn from them. Sometimes I’ll follow religious people posting about God, even if I disagree with their beliefs. Or, anyone I find interesting in general. Posts that make me want to take a nap, or gag, not so much. So, there you have it….who I choose to follow is as unique as I am. And who you choose to follow, unfollow, or never follow is your choice. And that is the beauty of social networking:) CC

  61. I’m totally blind, and i try to keep a small to medium following, 326 friends. I will occasionally follow an auto-service like TweetSmarter, but for the most part, it’s friends that i know or am just starting to know.
    My main thing on Twitter is to either write a random question or thought and see what propogates back to me, or reply to something i know a lot about, having a good feeling the person on the other end will learn something they did not already know.
    As i’m sitting here writing this, i use a program called Qwitter which acts as an intermediary between Twitter and a local screen reader called Jaws for Windows.
    Qwitter allows me to manage the Twitter jungle without physically being on the Twitter web site itself.
    From tweets to replies to DM’s to custom sound packs, Qwitter lets me handle Twitter the way i want;
    Remember to tweet others as you would have them tweet you!
    Jaws takes the computer text written on my screen and changes it to speech.
    From documents to dialog boxes to full-on web pages, Jaws, for the most part, reads it.
    You can read about Qwitter by going to:
    http://qwitter-client.net.
    You can read about Jaws at:
    http://www.freedomscientific.com.
    I hope i’ve enlightened someone or two out here to chat with me on Twitter.
    BTW, my Twitter id is spelled blindhedgehog, but spoken as BlindHedgehog.
    Hope to hear from anyone who finds my post curious…

  62. Thank you for an insightful post Lisa. I’m still trying to figure out if Twitter is a good fit-color me naive, but what is it about people who ‘follow’ you..just to get a follow? Never would have known if I hadn’t dm’d to thank them. Silly me.
    At first, I did not see how 140 characters could lead to meaningful conversation, however one of my favorite quotes is: “Brevity is the soul of wit” (Shakespeare)-not that I embody it. However, I am seeing uses for this medium…and thanks for sharing your philosophy, as I think it’s a much better strategy for what I am interested in than the bed-notch approach that most seem to use. Kudos.

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