After my recent Twitter etiquette guide, the question came in: what about following people? How does one do that properly?
Well, I've talked about this on my podcast a bit, but let me explain my theories a bit further here. Mind you, they are only my theories. Everyone does Twitter the way it works best for them.
I really think it's different, depending on which form of social media you are using. For example, on Facebook, which I use mostly for friends and family and business colleagues, I don't just add people helter-skelter (1,268 friends). Remember, Facebook has a max cap of 5000 friends, but this includes friends AND things you are fans of. So if you have a lot of fan pages, those add into your 5000 total.
So on Facebook, I evaluate each new Friend Request carefully. Is this person friends with people I know? Someone I do business with? What are their interests? Similar to mine? Politics? Etc. What compels me to add this person? I can promise you that someone with no profile (barely a profile) and/or no picture in their avatar is someone I will Ignore. I've also taken to ignoring people from India and the Phillippines because for awhile, it seemed like the spammy stuff was coming from these kinds of profiles.
I take nearly the opposite approach on my MySpace profile (20,000+ friends). I pretty much add anyone that asks (http://www.myspace.com/michebel). I don't add people who don't even take the time to put a picture in to represent themselves. Nor do I add obvious advertisements, instead marking them as Spam. I don't add people who look crazy or have violent avatars. Other than that, you're pretty much in with me, no matter who you are. That said, I would say that 90% of the people who request friendship are bands, asking me to listen to their music. I don't. I'll add them, but that's it.
Blocking is my friend. If bands take the proper approach and send their music to me through the MySpace email, wonderful. If they spam my comments with it (and people do this a lot when you have 20,000 friends), they get ONE chance to do that, and then I block them. I have more people on my block list on MySpace than many people have friends (2000+).
The dealbreakers for me in comments are: people who post self-playing music players, anything at all that looks like an ad, people who post every other day to your comments section (Happy Thursday!). Other than that, they can post as they like. If you check my comments section, there is some pretty trippy stuff. You should see the stuff I delete! Man!
But as a social media site, I spend the least amount of time on MySpace. I never check my mail there (since it is all bands). I never devote any serious time there anymore. It's been usurped by Facebook and Twitter.
Which brings us to Twitter. Twitter is somewhere in the middle. Initially, I added everyone (a MySpace approach), and quickly reached the (unmarked anywhere) limit of 2000 people followed (http://www.twitter.com/michebel). If you follow 2000, you can't follow anymore. Period. That proved very counterproductive. Since I hadn't known this when I started, my only option was to start another Twitter account (http://www.twitter.com/michebella). I wouldn't recommend this. I learned the hard way. It's much better to have one account and use it well.
So hopefully you can use my hard-learned advice in building your Twitter profile.
For me, a good Twitter following list is well-crafted. Add people you know you want to follow (friends, family, colleagues). From that point, you want to build up a good strong list (at least 100 people, IMHO). On my Michebel account, I'm following 2,667 (I had over 3000 before they instituted the cap on followers.) On Michebella, I hover right around my max: 2,001. Can't add any past that.
Here's the situation with that. You can add up to 2000, basically, with no problems. You can add more when others start following you. For example, someone like Ashton Kutcher, who has 5,149,830 followers as I write this, COULD add that many that he is following. That would be a bit crazy, but would sure make for a lively Twitter stream.
Someone like Conan O'Brien, who famously is following ONE person, is an idiot who doesn't know how to use Twitter properly. No ONE person is fascinating enough that all you want to read is their Tweets. No one.
So you want a mix. What I look for in my stream is a combination of things I'm interested in (entertainment, music, comedy), people who are funny, people who are inspirational, political people, people up on current events, people who get Twitter.
Most of all, I think it's important that YOU not be bored with your Twitter stream. If you are sitting there, following only 10 of your closest friends and family, and no one's Tweeting anything, you're just staring at a blank screen, saying, I sure don't get this Twitter thing, you might wanna add some more folks.
Here's what I suggest. Take someone that you respect, whose Tweets are interesting/topical/funny to you, someone with a lot of friends, but someone who TWEETS. Don't use Oprah as an example. Love her, love her show, but she's terrible as a Twitter user. She still doesn't get it. Take, for example, someone who, when you look at their profile, you like or find funny or are interested in nearly every one of the things they Tweet. Use THAT person. Go to their list of people they are following, and cull from there.
And yes, it is more time-consuming, but I would suggest, especially initially, going through and reading, or at least glancing at, every profile of everyone you add. Look at that first page, and see if you are amused, then add them.
My former roommate was really struggling with Twitter, and she pretty much found everyone boring. I worry about her, and she's probably still not on Twitter. Twitter is an engagement medium, though. You give and others give back to you. If you're not interested in that, don't waste your time there.
But if you stay, you are looking for people you'd want to be friends with, hang out with, date, get to know socially, get a job from, just like in real life. If someone is a sports fanatic, and you loathe sports, you probably don't want them in your stream. No harm, no foul. It's your place, you craft it.
Personally, I banish Republicans and mommy bloggers from my stream. I'm sure they are wonderful people. I'm sure they have nice things to say, I just don't wanna hear "Joey just threw up" one more time. Some people take it very personally if you don't add them, or worse, unfollow them. Too bad.
It's your stream, you're reading it, it's gotta be vital to you. VITAL. And you're the one who makes it so. Today I rely on Twitter for my most current news, my sports scores, earthquake stats, news about celebrity deaths, all sorts of things I get there first before anywhere else.
I also make it a practice not to add companies that you know are going to spew ads at you, radio stations that just spew their playlist, things that in general are annoying. In fact, if you add someone that you think is fine, then they start spewing a bunch of crap, unfollow them. Without hesitation. Or if you read a bunch of Tweets from someone and they bore the crap out of you, unfollow them.
I cull my Twitter list now every day. Since I'm at my max of 2001, I add and delete people constantly, and keep a list of those I hear about that I want to follow, when I'm able to. It used to be proper Twitter etiquette that anyone who followed you, you could automatically follow, but that's fallen out of fashion (in my case, only because of the Twitter limits). There was talk of Twitter possibly adding a feature where you could automatically add those who followed you, but it hasn't happened so far.
People sometimes ask if it's difficult to read the stream of 2001 people. No, because not everyone's every Tweet shows up. I wish they had the Facebook feature where you could highlight those you REALLY want to read every Tweet from, and let others fall where they may.
I will say this, with 2001 people, there is always an interesting mix of stuff coming over Twitter. I have people on my list from all over the world, so my Twitter never sleeps (if you only add people in your area, your Twitter will be dead for eight hours a night). I personally think you need to be following at least 1000 people to have a good mix, but everyone's view on this is different.
Would I follow 25,000 people if I was able to? Certainly.
Also, if you are tired of culling through profiles one by one, and just want a bunch of suggestions of who to follow, try these things.
Good Twitter users have developed lists for the people on their stream. This is really good for job hunters, as many people have lists about job possibilities. But while you are culling through people's profiles, if you see that they have lists, check them out. Add people from them that you find interesting. Especially if there are people who have the same interests you do.
2. Follow Fridays
You'll hear about this a lot. Here's what I know. People who participate in Follow Friday are good Twitterers, period. In short, it's people on Twitter recommending a group of people for others to follow. In my case, I recommend people who either have made that week fun for me, or people who I know always have good Tweets that I think others would benefit from. I don't do it every week anymore (depends how busy I am), but it's an important part of Twitter culture. Look to those who do it, and do it yourself. I also do a "Celeb Follow Friday" occasionally. (By and large, celebs on Twitter are a waste of time, but there are those worth following sometimes.)
The people who are good Twitterers are those who are active and engaged. Who thank you for RTing them, for FollowFridaying them, for responding. Good citizens, good netizens, people with good hearts. That's why I love Twitter. To find so many like that all over the world. You have 2000. Choose them wisely.