Twitter Follow-Back Fail

I’ve just crossed 2,500 followers on Twitter; double the number of people who read this site. I follow roughly 680.

That means I follow roughly a quarter of the people that follow me.

I’m no A-lister (I’m many thousands of followers and a large ego short of that). I’m a communications professional, not a professional blogger. I don’t have the bandwidth to follow thousands of people while doing my job.

If you follow me I appreciate it, but don’t expect me to automatically follow you back.

So how do I decide who to follow back? Here are my five suggestions on how to go about it.

@ replies

Far and away the most common thing that causes me to follow someone is them sending me a message or engaging with me in a conversation. I’m looking for interaction and conversation when I use Twitter, so demonstrating that you’re interested in conversations about the same things that interest me raises the odds that I’ll follow exponentially.

Real name

I filter my follower-notification emails into a folder. Occasionally I’ll scan through those emails. If I see a topic or company name, unless it’s a brand I’m particularly interested in I’m unlikely to even click through to the Twitter profile to see if it’s interesting. However, this isn’t enough to guarantee a follow on its own.

Relevant bio

If I click through to someone’s profile, I immediately look at their bio information. I look for people who live near me; people who work in similar jobs and people with similar interests. If there’s no bio, it lowers the chances I’ll follow. If I find the bio compelling, I’ll either follow there and then or keep looking.


If the bio is compelling, the next thing I look at is the person’s website. I’m more likely to follow people who write about things that interest me.

Messages posted

The last thing I’ll look at is the kind of things they’re posting. You might think this would be higher-up the list, but it’s a bit more of a crap-shoot – people won’t always post on-topic. Twitter is all about conversations, and sometimes they veer off-topic. So, a person’s updates are the last thing I look at. I look at how people are posting (if updates are all fed through RSS feeds it’s a no-go), whether they broadcast or converse (the former is a no-follow) and general topics.

There you have it – my five things to look at when you’re deciding whether to follow someone back.

This is a very personal thing – different people look for different things. Some people follow everyone back; others filter. How do you approach it?

21 Responses toTwitter Follow-Back Fail

  • Excellent! Very similar to my criteria. Lately, lots of “I follow all who follow me” growth @ Twitter. My question: then who’s reading these tweets? Also, I have decided to be more generous in follow backs for *local* folks. Why? Likely to meet in RL. Peace to your day, Dave!

  • I manage my followers much the same way, Dave, though if even you aren’t an A lister I guess I’m way down the alphabet (almost 200 followers, about 150 followees). I agree that you can’t base your decisions entirely on their recent tweets but I would add that if you have only two or three tweets when you add me, unless I know you offline, I probably won’t add you. Especially if your follower/followee ratio is approaching spam-like proportions.

  • It’s interesting that you listed the kind of posts as the last criteria you look at – you’re right, I think many people would list it much higher. I agree with you though – someone could be on vacation, and then obviously the kind of posts would be much different. I like to look at people’s posts for the last few days. The quality that matters most to me is diversity. If someone says they are a social media expert that’s fine, I love to see interesting comments and discussions relating to that field. But I also want to know there is a personal there with a life and family, so I like seeing posts about restaurants and activities – and if it’s in Toronto, even better, maybe I have a recommendation for my next meal out!


  • Addy Kujawa
    ago12 years

    Great post! And I really agree with your criteria. I certainly noticed that once I added my bio, it made a big difference regarding follow backs. I do like to read recent tweets as well because it really helps me get a sense of their personality and I’m much more likely to follow some that is engaging, maybe funny, etc., versus someone with a lot of negativity. I don’t mind random tweets as long as they are not simply “good morning” and such. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed it!

  • Great post Dave.
    For me, as a relative new commer to Twitter I’ve been doing a lot of Twitter searches for keywords that interest me. This often results to following people that are twittering about topics of interest to me.

  • I follow everyone who follows me and then some. If you’re not going to follow people back, you’re likely going to end up with a lot fewer followers than you would have otherwise. What do you mean you don’t have the bandwidth? Your homepage shows the 20 most recent updates regardless of how many people you follow. Following more people won’t change that.

  • True, Wesley. Then again, I don’t judge my value based on how many people follow me. While I follow a fair number of people, I only follow the ones that write about things that are relevant to me; just as I only subscribe to blogs that are relevant to my interests.

    With that said, I don’t have a cap on how many people I will follow – if I find a thousand more people who write things I find relevant and interesting, I will follow them. I don’t have the bandwidth for “noise” though.

  • I’m relatively new to the twittersphere, but for what it’s worth as a PR student I generally follow people in the industry such as yourself. I’m always looking to learn something new about PR and communications in general. That’s why I have 329 follows and 272 followers at the moment.


  • I don’t think bandwidth is the right word here. I don’t judge my value based on how many Twitter followers I have either. I just think if someone is going to follow me, I should do the same for them.

  • Seems like your methods and ratios in the Twitter world would classify you as a Twitter snob. I don’t care how people filter and follow back though, its everyones own personal Twitter preference, your filters are interesting to read.

    My thoughts on one hand though is not restricting so much on the follow back because social media is the art of being open and social. If you are a Bot, Spammer and have useless content you post then I will not follow back, but if you do have somewhat good content and not a spammer chances are I will give you a chance in seeing your world.

    Nice topic here.

  • Hi Dave,
    Like Erin, I was surprised to see content as your last priority. I am very new to twitter, and without the # followers, but I look at bio, then website, then content on twitter. I utilize my right to not follow based more than 75% on the content of their tweets. I believe that twitter is about conversations and connections, so if people are not connecting with @ replies, or not tweeting helpful/interesting links, I will absolutely not follow them. I recognize that some people have less time for twitter than others (like me, for instance, as I’m only on a few hours each day), but I take that into account.

    The exceptions: news sites or crowdsource/compiled information sites (such as mashable.)
    Last question: do you look at WHO they @ reply to, and does that factor into your decision to follow?

  • Twitter Comment

    @chrisbrogan thanks 4 tweeting @davefleet. Dave’s reasons for following on twitter [link to post] How do you decide, or not?

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Rather than a direct link to a blog or website’s homepage I prefer they make a twitter friendly landing page that expands on their twitter bio and tells me why I should keep visiting the site.

  • I’m new to twitter and gain followers slowly. I use twitter for personal tweets and for updates about my websites and shops.

    I noticed that many people who follow me are using twitter only to advertise. If I see only links in their tweets I’m not going to follow back. I like to advertise my stuff over twitter, but I also like to chat.

    What I really dislike is if somebody send me to fake links. Like look at this great photo and I end up on a porn site. I don’t need that.

    Mainly if I start to follow people I expect them to follow me back. Not promptly but after a while. cause if they do not follow me how can we have a conversation. It’s really a downer when you try to have a conversation with somebody and don’t get an answer at all.

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