Scores of books and blogs explain the value of following people on Twitter. But does there come a point when you are following one too many?
How do you manage the relationships between the people you follow and the tweets they write? Do you feel guilty that you won't see everyone's tweets? What tools do you use to manage your relationships; and does the tool matter?
I asked these questions to seven Twitter users who collectively follow 1.9 million people and are followed by over 3 million.
These are influencers. Some of them tweet nonstop, including automated tweets while they sleep; and others tweet when the mood strikes. While their patterns and frequencies differ, they are united by following tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
I thought you'd enjoy reading their responses...
Britt Michaelian (@BrittMichaelian)
follows 38,800, followed by 102,000
The conversations that I have on Twitter usually arise out of attending chats, reading blog posts, or if I happen to check in on a stream to see what someone is sharing.
I am pretty good at responding to tweets, but if I am not able to, I at least try to go back and click 'favorite' so that followers know that I saw their tweet. I am also a big believer in a retweet for a retweet so when someone RTs my tweets, I like to check out their stream to see if there is anything interesting to share with my followers.
Twitter lists are like Google+ circles. The list feature is a great way to categorize people by interest. I have lists for specific groups or people in my network. So, when I am looking to connect with literary agents (like I was this morning) I will check in with that list to see what they are talking about and if there is anything that I would like to share.
I like to follow people who follow me who are writers, artists, journalists, people who share common interests. I check out just about everyone who follows me if I have time. I unfollow if they send spam or inappropriate DMs or if they promote their own content too much in the stream. I unfollow if they promote weight loss or get rich quick schemes. I also use Manage Flitter to unfollow people who are not active.
Because I use Twitter as a way to meet and connect with new people, why not follow a lot of people? I don't understand celebrities and people who only follow a few hundred people. That just feels so rude and elitist. How can you tweet with people on Twitter and not check out their profile to see who they are and follow a few of them?
Twitter is a big party and, as long as you play by the rules and use good manners, you deserve to be included!
Tools used: Twitter.com, Manage Flitter
Jessica Northey (@JessicaNorthey)
follows 87,500, followed by 586,000
I treat Twitter like TV and radio stations. Depending on my mood depends what I watch and listen. Having ADHD, I've trained myself over the years to look through stuff fast and hyper focus. I see through spam and just regular shouts. Hashtags help me discern.
Sometimes I play Twitter roulette and look at everything to determine whether to observe or respond.
In the beginning I followed everybody back and tried to just follow people who were following things I was interested in. I would do it a little differently now. Over on Google+, where I have 1.4 million followers, I only follow 500. On Instagram, I have 124,000 followers and I follow 1,200.
I use lists and hashtags to listen. I have nearly 100 lists -- and most are private.
I try to respond and talk to as many people as possible. I am sure there are other ways to make it all work. I use platforms differently and they fit into my lifestyle. As you can tell from my 150,000+ tweets, 80% are conversational, 15% are about the #CMchat hashtag, and 5% express my tomfoolery.
Tools used: Twitter.com, TweetDeck
Calvin Lee (@MayhemStudios)
follows 94,500; followed by 89,000
I don't feel bad that I don't get to see everyone's tweet. That the nature of Twitter. I try to reply to everyone but can't always. I don't follow everyone back. I go through nightly to see who has followed me and, if I want to follow them back, I check out their profile and stream.
I love Twitter lists. I have a couple lists that I look at. I don't look at my regular Twitter stream. I have people on the list that I usually talk to, admire, and assorted news channels.
Tools used: Twitter.com
Aaron Lee (@AskAaronLee)
follows 127,000, followed by 473,000
Back in 2009 no one knew who I was and I knew no one other than a bunch of my college friends. I had to start following a large group of people and engage with them. I didn't want to limit myself. People started following back and engaging back with me.
That is where it really took off for me and I've continued to engage with many and built closer relationships with them on Facebook too.
I try my best to respond to everyone. Most of the time I'll respond to tweets at the moment, but I also use Social Engage to only show me tweets that need responses. Social Engage has a feature that will show only replies. That way I won't feel bad for missing people's tweets. I think I see 90% of all the tweets sent to me and I'll respond to most of them.
I would tweet if there wasn't a list feature but I'd probably be more of a promoter than engaging with my followers.
On following many: You can either wait to be followed or start following relevant people first.
Tools used: Twitter.com, Social Engage
Ted Coine (@TedCoine)
follows 316,000, followed by 342,000
I follow just about everyone who follows me, so I miss a TON - even mentions, unfortunately (that started at about 200k people). I don't look at my phone when with a client or at meals, so hours will pass when everything just slips by. It's the ephemeral nature of social, and I just have to hope it doesn't alienate people.
I love working off lists to manage the volume. I keep making new ones! My most general is called The Circle. It has over a thousand people which is why it's my favorite.
I don't comprehend people who find some folks more important or worthwhile than others because of fame. Didn't we all get over that in high school? People fascinate me - all sorts of people. My Mom isn't famous but she's more interesting than most of Hollywood or the faculty of Harvard.
Tools used: HootSuite, Echofon
Martin Zwilling (@StartupPro)
follows 467,000, followed by 726,000
The reason for following people is to let them know that you exist, you care, and that following them allows them to send you a direct message.
Every business and every consultant should try to follow all their customers, to get feedback, and follow all prospective customers, to stay a step ahead of competitors.
It's just another way that businesses foster other businesses, and everyone wins.
Tools used: TweetDeck
Jonah Lupton (@JonahLupton)
follows 809,000, followed by 738,000
For the first five years I tweeted, I didn't use lists -- which meant it was basically a 1-way outgoing conversation. It was very hard for me to engage with anyone since my feed was full of people I didn't know.
I follow about 500 new accounts every day. I prefer following people interested in fitness but I'm quickly running out of ways to find more.
Lists enable me to curate my timeline with people to respond. Lists allow me to see tweets from the people I truly care about the most and want to interact with more.
I follow lots of people because it's a way to get noticed. People are more likely to follow me if I follow them first. At the end of the day, Twitter is a marketing tool so having more followers does create a more valuable resource for me.
Tools used: Twitter.com
As for me, tweeting at @AriHerzog, I used to auto-follow everyone and it was so noisy I unfollowed everyone. Looking back over my years of tweeting, I flip-flopped every year because I wanted to follow more but I knew that following more meant I would see less.
I used to be the person scoffed by Britt. Last year, I followed about 15% of everyone who followed me. I had lists (both my own that I curated and others' that I subscribed to) but I never correlated following someone to listing someone. It was always this or that.
I started 2014 with a desire to embrace chaos and to find order. Martin's and Jonah's perspectives changed me -- and in recent weeks, I began following more and more.
Do you think you follow too many? Or might you follow too little?
Follow Ari Herzog on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ariherzog