Twitter: To Follow or Not to Follow, that is the Question

Should you follow everyone who follows you on Twitter? Is there validity in following thousands of others? Can you actively monitor updates from that many people? How do you do it, stay engaged, not waste precious time and maximize Twitter as a resource so that it’s helpful and not a time-bandit?

Those are the questions I’m addressing with this post.

They are questions I see raised a lot, not just by people unfamiliar with how Twitter works but even with some who have given it a try and have not yet found the “secret sauce” of making it work.

In almost every case I find that the answer boils down to tools and knowing how to use them. Just like creating fire without a match takes a tremendous amount of energy (think rubbing two sticks together), if you don’t use the proper tools with social media then you’ll likely feel the same drain.

I’ve found a good balance in creating lists on Twitter and in using 3rd party Twitter applications such as Tweetdeck. There are a number of programs like Tweetdeck (Hoot Suite, Twhirl, Twitterrific, etc) but basically they enable you to maximize the use of lists by having columns that you can sort people by, search, etc… making it easier to listen and interact with groups and individuals.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to how you use Twitter. If it works for you to only follow a few people then do it. If you want to follow everyone who follows you, do that too. Should you auto-follow? Again find what works for you… but for me, I’ve found multiple advantages in following almost all who follow me, in fact I actively follow more and more each day.

I look at in this way… Twitter is like a party. I can either stand around in a circle and just talk to those I know or I can step out of the circle and meet new people. I’m at the party to make new friends, new business acquaintances and more (it’s like virtual networking). You can’t do that unless you’re creating conversations and creating conversations is what social media is all about. If you don’t follow others then you’re limiting the number of conversations you can have. BUT… there does reach a point when you can’t actively monitor all the conversations without it becoming just noise… unless you’re using the right tools. Tools make the difference.

I have multiple lists setup. They include FRIENDS (people I have an online + offline relationship with), KEY CONTACTS (people I want to closely monitor), and then multiple other lists that are sorted by topics or profiles such as Marketing, Social Media, Pastors, Leaders, Book Marketing, etc. As I follow someone new I add them to these lists. I actively monitor the FRIENDS and KEY CONTACTS lists and look at the updates on those lists several times throughout the day.

For the other lists I glance, dip in and dip out. I periodically look at them and scan but do so more in the margins of my time. I interact there but not as closely as my two main lists, however as I scan I take notice and if someone is regularly Tweeting good stuff then I move them into my KEY CONTACTS list so that I can interact more. It’s like a filter that enables me to engage at multiple levels strategically and in a way that works for me and my use of Twitter. You see, my use of Twitter has a strategy behind it. I’m not just aimlessly Tweeting. : )

Sure, there are times when I need to segment my lists and break them apart into new groups as they grow but I’m glad to do so when needed. Sometimes I remove people from lists. Something to remember too is that only a very small portion of Twitter users actively Tweet. Many just lurk. So if I am following 1000 people, only 200 of them may be making regular updates throughout the day. The rest might post an occasional update so it’s not nearly as overwhelming as it might appear.

Doing it this way has proven extremely helpful for me. I’ve met a ton of people through Twitter. I’ve connected with new friends and met several of them offline. I’ve structured business deals by meeting people first on Twitter. I’ve recruited volunteers. I’ve connected with new freelancers, graphic artists, web developers and many more. All people that I would not have met had I not expanded my horizons, networked and followed.

Ultimately it’s about rhythm and finding yours. Collectively I spend about 30-45 minutes on Twitter a day. I consider that an investment into relationships, even if many of them are virtual. It’s worth it to me and it’s worth it to my business.

And by the way, if you are on Twitter, feel free to follow @danieldecker and I’ll follow you in return.

How much time do you spend on Twitter each day? Do you follow those who follow you? How have you maximized the use of Twitter on your end? What is your Twitter name so we can follow you? Share Here.

UPDATE: Chris Brogan posted a really informative post on how he uses Twitter (mentality, tools he uses, etc). Swing over to his post and you might pick up a few ideas as well.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • I spend maybe an hour total on twitter everday. I don't follow nearly as many people as you, so I don't make the best use of lists. I use Tweetie as my twitter client, and it works pretty well. But I have found myself spending a good amount of time going through tweets from the people I am following. It is like catching up on the day.
    Great post. I love reading about how other people maximize social media.
    I also write about this topic over on my blog (shameless plug)
    and my twitter handle is @jburno

    • Twitter is a good tool when you learn now to leverage it and balance it out. Takes a bit to figure out and you have to find the flow that works best for you and what you want to get out of it. If nothing more, creating new friendships that can lead to knowledge and business is certainly a good thing. 🙂