Twitter: To Follow, or Not to Follow?

18 Sep 2009


As I was writing my last blog about Twitter etiquette, a question came up: What is the etiquette on following people? Should you follow everyone who follows you, or not?

I went on a quest to find out what the best practice regarding Followers vs. Following on Twitter. The answers, it seems, are largely unclear, but there are a lot of theories out there.

The Naysayers – Don’t Follow Everyone:

Bob Bly of doesn’t believe in following people just because they follow you on Twitter. Instead, he talks about a ratio that every Twitter user should employ — he calls this a Followed-to-Follow ratio. According to Bly, your F:F ratio should be 10:1, meaning 10x more people are following you than you follow. Ideally, the ratio should be as high as 100:1. His thinking is that you should be concerned about getting your ideas across, not wasting time reading what other people are posting. Read more about it here.

The Yaysayers – Follow Everyone!:

In a comment on the previous post by Bob Bly, social media extraordinaire David Meerman Scott begs to differ — here’s his reply:

Yes, social media takes time. But trying to dream up metrics like this are silly. I have 25,000 followers on Twitter. I follow back everyone who follows me who demonstrate that they are human. So my ratio sucks because I follow 22,000 people.
The key is HOW you use Twitter. I have some people who I pay close attention to. I only casually scan the full stream once or twice a day. I miss probably 98% of tweets send to me.
But I look al ALL tweets that mention me @dmscott. And I look at all my DMs … I don’t think your metric is helpful.

His point of view, then, is that social media is about being social – it’s about making as many connections with as many people as you can. It’s no wonder he thinks this too – he often writes about the boons of Twitter on his blog, like this post on how one tweet led to him spending a week in Australia.

Likewise, Robert Scoble of Scobleizer claims he follows every person that follows him (In fact, this is the post that got us wondering the best practice for following on Twitter). Why, you ask? Well, he says it’s “Cause I believe that anyone who follows me is a friend and is someone I should listen to.” Point taken.

Oh, but wait. Scoble actually has two Twitter accounts: @notsecretscoble, where he seems to follow most of his followers, and @scobleizer, which has a lot more followers. Some of his posts on @notsecretscoble seem to suggest that following EVERYONE isn’t such a great idea, like this one posted on July 28th:

“I’ve noticed something: the best Twitterers follow fewer than 2,000 people. So do I here and I’m having a lot more fun now!”

Looks like Scoble may be switching sides.


The Middle-of-the-Roaders – Follow Only Quality Twitterers:

You can do it either way you want – but if you’re more selective and only follow “quality” Twitterers (those that are interested in what you’re saying, not robots or spammers or celebrities), you’ll have much greater success.

So, did you follow all of that? I put together a chart of each blogger’s Twitter stats just to see if they practiced what they preach. Looks like everyone checks out according to their own personal philosophies:

I can see the advantages to each Twitter philosophy. My best advice? Go with whatever works best for you – be more selective if you like, or just go for the gold and follow a lot of people to get the word out about your idea/business/product!

Now I’m curious – what do you guys think? Let me know which approach you use on your own Twitter accounts and how that approach is working out for you.

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