Twitter Following Habits

I’m a big fan of the social networking tool Twitter. I check it most days however when I see how much other bloggers use it I realize I’m a lightweight user. Most regular Twitter users have sent thousands of Tweets, presently I’ve sent 53 updates to Twitter which makes me the Twitter equivalent of the radio phone in listener who never calls themselves! However, I’m still a big fan of the service and I’ve been thinking of ways in which I can get can more from it.

Getting the most out of Twitter

In my opinion Twitters greatest strength is the ability to get help from friends in certain situations. Darren Rowse in particular has talked about the help he has had from followers but with over 9,000 followers it’s easy to see why he has this view. With just 55 followers I unfortunately cannot expect this level of feedback.

There are a few ways I could gain more Twitter Followers :

  1. Update my Twitter account more often
  2. Raise my profile as a webmaster/blogger so that more people want to follow me
  3. Follow more people

The last point seems to be the quickest and easiest way to get more followers. By simply following a few hundred more people you can expect many of them will follow you in return. This is because many people think it’s rude not to return a follow. I went through my followers a few weeks ago and followed several of them and got 3 or 4 replies from them saying ‘Thanks for following me’. However, this is a route I am personally very reluctant to go down as the more people you follow, the more updates you are going to get which means that you might miss out some great links from the people you want to follow.

Of course, if your goal is just to have a lot of followers so that you can get help when you need it, following thousands of people in return will not concern you. Though one of the main reasons I use Twitter is to keep up to date with the latest internet and blogging news and the more people you are following the more the links to these stories will be pushed down to the archives. At the moment I am following 40 people and I am already thinking of unfollowing some people as they Tweet too much and rarely post anything which is relevant. 4 or 5 of these people account for about 60-70% of the updates I see in my account. So I can only imagine what it’s like for people who are following thousands of people.

Do we need a Fake Follow?

Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, wrote a post yesterday entitled ‘An Evolving Cultural Curiosity: We Need A Fake Follow‘ in which he suggests that perhaps sites like Twitter and FriendFeed need a fake follow option.

But there are a lot of people who for some reason are greatly offended when you don’t reciprocate a follow/subscribe on Twitter or FriendFeed. When this happens (and it happens a lot), you have a choice – deal with the fallout (”that guy is such a jerk”) or just friend the person and avoid the pain.

Here’s the problem, though. When you follow too many people the service just becomes unusable. On Twitter I follow just 466 people that I find interesting, but the content stream is far too much to consume. On Friendfeed the problem is even worse because it aggregates so much other content (Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, blogs, etc.).

In response, Evan Williams from Twitter has said they may “adopt different friend types to deal with the problem” and FriendFeed co-founder Paul Bucheit says they are releasing new features in the coming weeks that will “make it easier to separate the people who you really want to follow from the rest”.

I’m curious as to how this would work. I think a fake-follow option would be good as it means you don’t have to offend people who get annoyed by not following them back but what goes around comes around. You might dupe some people into believing you are following them with a fake-follow but no doubt some people will be duping you too so perhaps only 200 of your 400 followers are real. Which kind of makes the followers figure pointless in some respects.

However, by the sounds of it, Twitter and FriendFeed’s idea of separating friends into different groups is a more practical one and one which I hope they integrate into their service. This means when you follow someone their follower account increases by one but they don’t know what kind of friend you classify them ie. you could place them in a group which actively updates your account or a group where you only see the updates by manually checking that group.

Regardless, I think it’s good that Michael has raised this point and hopefully we will see it integrated in the next few months. It would be great if we lived in a world where people didn’t get annoyed when you didn’t follow in return but until that day, a fake-follow or something to that effect would be very welcome.

How choosy are you with the people you follow on Twitter? Do you always follow people who follow you or are you more picky with the updates you receive?

Written by Kevin Muldoon of Blogging TipsFollow Kevin on Twitter.

Originally posted on August 7, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

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