Today, July 4, 2009, Robert Jones became the 100th person to follow me on Twitter. Dave Zatz was the first non-automated follower to follow me. Thanks Robert & Dave. Joining Twitter on June 4, 2008, it took exactly 13 months to go garner my first 100 followers.
Having reached the 100-follower milestone, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on my experience to date.
On Followers and Following
Who I Follow: For the most part, the only people I follow on Twitter are those that I have an ongoing relationship with (about 15 to 20 people) and thought leaders (about 35 people). In order for me to continue following someone they must have a high wheat-to-chaff ratio. Meaning, most of their tweets must be about topics I am interested in – not what they ate for lunch.
Loyalty: I am a rather loyal sort. If I follow someone, I follow them. The reason the list of people I follow is short (by Twitter standards) is because I read/scan most every tweet that comes in.
The Kawasaki Exception: Early on I followed Guy Kawasaki. He was/is an interesting Twitter user. But this guy (pun intended) doesn’t know when to stop! He sends out torrents of tweets each day. I couldn’t take it any more. He is the only person I unfollowed because of too many interesting tweets. FYI his post: “How to Pick Up Followers on Twitter” is pretty good except for his advice to follow everyone that follows you – ugh!
How I Found those I Follow: The best way of finding interesting people is to mine the following list of the people that I already follow.
Who I do Not Follow: Anyone else. I know, this makes me an anomaly on Twitter. I don’t have the time to follow many more people. If I follow someone new and stick with them, I’ll usually remove someone else.
I Do Not Follow to be Followed: Most people that have huge follower lists also follow a huge number of people. How can someone follow 10,000 people? 1,000 people? Really!? I can barely keep up with the 50 people I follow.
I Do Not Use Filters: Yesterday Mashable posted: ‘20 Ways to Filter your Tweets’. I’ve said, from the first time TweetDeck (pictured to the right) became popular, that the only reason someone needs it, is to filter out people they shouldn’t be following. To me, following people for the purpose of obtaining followers in return (most people seem to follow-back anyone that follows them) smacks of mutual fraud. There is no way anyone can realistically follow more than 100 or 200 people. For me 50 is about right. Filtering software, it seems to me, is only needed to filter out those that a person follows but has no intention of actually following. To users of TweetDeck (and similar filtering software) I say, the only people you should be following are those that you add to your ‘favourites’ filter list. You are misleading everyone else. Am I missing something here?
Crowd Sourcing Exception: I do acknowledge that people like Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble and Paul Thurrott follow tens of thousands of people to use them for crowd sourcing. They say as much on their podcasts. They can ask a question on Twitter and have hundreds answer it in seconds. But these same people are the first to use Twitter filtering software the second their questions are answered. Most who are followed by these tech celebrities are fooling themselves if they think their tweets are being read in return.
Few Real World Friend Followers: None of my family (close or extended) use Twitter. Virtually none of my real-world friends use Twitter. My nephew’s good friend Jarel Villarroya follows me. On my suggestion, two close friends set up twitter accounts, followed me, but were never heard from again. Some clients and former clients follow me. A squad of people I have never met but have become virtual friends with over the years follow me. Beyond those 20 or so people, I do not know the remaining 80 or so people who follow me.
Friendfeed: As you can read here, I joined friendfeed in early January 2009. I dabbled there for awhile. It is a compelling service – better than Twitter in most ways. I have had an ongoing dialogue with Davis Freeberg about this. Davis has largely abandoned Twitter for friendfeed and makes compelling arguments about why I should do the same. But, most of the world uses Twitter. Most importantly, most of the people I follow use only Twitter. If most of the people I follow used friendfeed, I might make that leap. But for now, Twitter remains my primary streamed social network feed.
Found Others through Mr Tweet: On the advice of Mashable, I used Mr Tweet in December 2008 to source some of the people I followed at that point. Taking a look at Mr Tweet today, it seems to be a very different service. It now requires that you disclose your twitter ID and password to use it. It didn’t back then. I refuse to use any service that makes this demand.
Hash Tags: At the advice of Kevin Rose (Ten Ways to Increase Your Twitter Followers) I started using hash tags on February 9, 2009 (see how hash tags work here). Using hash tags really does generate followers. I would say that most of my followers have found me through my use of hash tags. I know this because most new followers follow me within minutes of my posting a tweet with a hash tag on a topic that interested them.
Twitter Chicklet: I added a twitter chicklet link into the top right of all my web properties. I don’t know if this resulted in followers or not. It can’t hurt. Of course I also added the Twitter Widget to the middle/right column of this blog.
Bio & Customized Profile Page: I also took Kevin Rose’s advice and filled in the bio pages on Twitter and added a customized profile page. Why not? I want people to know who I am. It ads to my overall Internet ‘brand’. I made my Twitter profile page look similar to the Daleisphere branding and the branding on my primary DaleDietrich.com website.
Quitter: In March 2009, I joined Quitter. Quitter emails you when someone stops following you on Twitter. It tells you what tweet you wrote just before you were dropped. I soon quit, Quitter. It was kind of a downer. I’m not about to arbitrarily tailor my tweets to maximize followers. If people aren’t interested in my tweets, I understand why they would stop following me. After all, I stop following people for lots of reasons. I’d guess 30 or so people have stopped following me so far.
Blocking Spam/Fake Followers: Part of the reason my follower numbers are low is that I actively block followers that seem to be spamming. I look at the profile of each person that follows me and block them if they appear to be following me for some nefarious reason. I can’t understand ‘followers’ that follow 50,000 people and are being followed by 50,000 others. When I see those kinds of ridiculous numbers I block them (I’ve blocked dozens like this). Other times you find followers with a single tweet that is some kind of marketing scam or sales pitch. Alternatively, these folks have an unending stream of sales pitch tweets and nothing else. They get blocked. Those with no image (ie: the brown image with blue circles pictured above) tend to get blocked. Most of these folks have no tweets. I’m not sure what to make of them.
Update: The fakefollowers service uses interesting criteria to determine what percentage of twitter followers are fake. A follower is considered ‘fake’ if:
- they have less than 2 followers
- they follow more than 1,000 others and don’t use TweetDeck
- they follow less than 2 others
- over 99% of their tweets contain hyperlinks
- they have never tweeted; or
- they have no real name
Sounds like a pretty good list. As of June 6, 2009 it says that 20% of my followers are fake, and 80% are true. Check your (or someone else’s) followers out here.
What Twitter Means to Me
Twitter Changed How I Use the Internet: When I joined Twitter, I simply didn’t ‘get it’. I had low expectations. Today it is an indispensible service. Much of the blog surfing and RSS-feed subscribing I did a year ago has been replaced by my Twitter feed. Those I follow are so good that news and blog posts on most every topic I care about now flow in to me effortlessly.
Tweeting Comes Naturally: Like blogging, tweeting comes naturally to me. If it felt like work, I wouldn’t do it. I am the kind of person that sends links in emails to friends and family if I find something on a topic that I know a friend or family member is interested in. Twitter is an efficient means of doing the same thing, with the added advantage that every recipient has chosen to receive my tweets – unlike friends and family members that may have felt spammed when receiving more of such emails than they would have liked.
A Means of Connecting with Like-Minded People: Virtual friendships have started and old one’s have become stronger because I tweet on topics my followers are interested in and I follow the tweets of those that have common interests with me. The symbiotic relationships that flow out of Twitter are terrific.
A Constant Companion: Thanks to my iPhone, PC and laptop, no matter where I am, I can check in and see ‘what’s happening’. I am rarely bored. Twitter provides a never ending stream of thought provoking information on the topics I care about.
Thought Leader: I want to be a thought leader. I work hard at providing interesting, relevant and original tweets to those that follow me. Thought leaders rightly earn high follower to following ratios. If they haven’t, they are not thought leaders.
The Next 100 Followers: I’m hoping it takes less than 13 months to garner my next 100 followers. To those that follow me, I’ll continue to try to post interesting and thought provoking tweets with links to articles on the topics I am, and hopefully you are, passionate about. Thanks so much!