It’s impossible to follow 130,000 people on Twitter, but I do it anyway.

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When I started using Twitter back in 2009, there were many strategies to manage the size of your account.

Some teaches you to not follow your followers. It seems that having many followers while following as little people as possible reflects authority.

“Twitter Gurus” were even preaching that we should follow as many people as possible and then unfollowing them once they become your followers.

But some say that to follow your followers is a form of courtesy.

In the end, I felt that the first strategy wasn’t fit for me and I had decided to go with following my followers.

As a result of that, I was often criticized for following over 130,000 people on Twitter. People are always asking me if I can follow conversations of 130,000 people. Truth is, I can’t. And I don’t.

Question is: Why do I follow so many people?

1. I don’t know anyone on twitter

I didn’t know anyone when I started back in 2009, and no one knew who I was. I was one of the first among my friends to join Twitter.

Since I didn’t know anyone, I initially followed less than 100 people, and had approximately the same amount of followers as well.

I didn’t know what to do with my account, but one fine day, someone responded to one of my tweets about posting a new blog post. He wasn’t someone I knew or someone that knew me. He was a stranger.

That conversation was what made me fall in love with Twitter since 2009. I was able to connect with someone without any boundaries. That was when I knew I had to connect with more people.

2. Accessibility

I wanted to give people access to reach me whenever they feel like. I did end up following a lot of spammers, which was damaging my Twitter stream. I had to slowly remove them and thankfully it worked.

These days, anyone can simply reach, ask questions, or talk to me through direct messages on Twitter. So although I don’t keep tabs on all 130,000 people that I follow, at the very least they can keep tabs on me at any one time.

3. It takes two to connect

I always felt a “follow” was like a business card, you should exchange it with one another. Having said so, this theory works well only when those people that you’re ‘exchanging’ with don’t use your email to spam you.

I always felt that it takes two to connect. When someone shares an interest to what I have to say and is following me, I need to follow them. Since they took the time to introduce themselves to me, I’ll introduce myself to them. It’s common courtesy.

I did try to not follow people back although they have engaged with me and they decided to unfollow because when they reach a point, they had to unfollow those who did not follow back.

4.  Random encounters 

For some reason I believe in random meetings and chance encounters.

Once, someone who was my follower, and whom I was following, sent me a DM because he saw my tweets about attending a conference. However, we haven’t even spoken to each other on Twitter before the direct message that he sent. So he was a complete stranger to me. It turns out that he was also attending the same conference.

We met up over drinks during the conference and had a great chat. We still talk till today.

5. I wanted the numbers. 

Starting and seeing how others had huge followers, I was going after the numbers too.

Believe it, people do judge the amount of followers you have. Just like how people are looking at klout score too. Scary huh?

Following my followers has helped me to know great minds in business too.

Since I follow people and people follow me back, I am lucky to have the opportunity to connect with so many of them both directly (tweets, DMs) and indirectly (RTs, Comments on my blog). This two-way connection is much more accessible for my followers and to the people that I am following.

I’ve even connected with many them further on other social networks as well.

Having said so, what might have worked for me might not work for you. You don’t really need to follow 130,000 people on Twitter. Do what you think is best for YOU and experiment with what you have in mind.

photo credits: by MShadesHoria Varlan

 

 

 

 

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  • michaelbrenner

    Aaron, this is great. I also try to follow every human face with a real profile that follows me. You have listed many good reasons here but also it just seems like the right thing to do. When I am alking down the street and someone says “hello” or “good morning,” I always reply. Same goes for Twitter. Keep it up. You are an inspiration to us all!

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  • http://shinytoyrobots.com/ Robin Cannon

    A good overview of why and how people follow each other on Twitter.

    I think it’s something that non-Twitter users tend to misinterpret. When I’m following 1,000 people (let alone 130,000), I’m not engaging in direct conversation. My Twitter feed is more of a stream of consciousness that I can dip into and out of – checking out interesting articles when I have a few minutes, or sharing other good content. There’s certainly no degree of constant engagement with individuals.

    I try to curate the list of people I follow. I always take at least a quick glance at the current Twitter feed of someone who follows me. If they haven’t made a post in several weeks, or their content just isn’t something I’m interested in, I don’t follow back. I don’t feel any obligation to follow back, but I’ll always check out someone who follows, so certainly I follow back a large percentage of the time.

  • http://aaronhoos.com/ Aaron Hoos

    Thanks for the post, Aaron! Here’s my experience with Twitter following: Until recently, I was following anything I thought was interesting but then I realized I had absolutely no relationship with them. So I stopped clicking the follow button absent-mindedly and started intentionally cultivating a relationship with them. I still intend to follow more people but I want to be way more intentional.

    Great thought-provoking points here, Aaron!

  • http://twitter.com/sbhsbh Steve Hughes

    Twitter is so unique.  I fall in the same camp as you Aaron, although over the last few months in an effort to keep my account clean I’ve started to unfollow users with no activity over 30 days.  What most don’t understand is it any given time a very small amount of your (proverbial) users are tweeting, so all the numbers are much smaller than they appear. 

  • http://furnituremelbourne.net/custom-made-furniture/ Becca

    I agree not all strategy may work on everyone. I have more than 1k of followers but i only follows those
    that also in my same niche that i promoted.

  • http://twitter.com/Yaaseen83 Yaaseen Fredericks

    Hey Aaron, how come you’re not following me ;) @yaaseen83:twitter 
    I don’t have many followers, 672 last time I checked, but I also prefer to follow mostly people in my niche as @Becca:disqus  has pointed out. It’s because I rely very much on the information that I receive on twitter in order to learn and grow. I seem to be at a follower limit though, but that’s ok for now. Even though I can’t also technically follow the conversations of 2000 people, it’s not always about that. For me I get value out of the idea that, whenever I log onto twitter and have a look at my feed, there will be some interesting piece of fresh information for me to consume, this really just adds so much value for me. #ILoveTwitter

  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

    I like it Aaron.

    And like you, I don’t attempt to read all the conversations on my wall. For me it takes planning and setting aside time just to give shout outs, thanks to people who’ve re-tweeted my stuff, and replying to people’s indirect messages. If I don’t, I never get to it.

    I’ve long neglected engaging on Twitter but I’m slowly coming around and I think it’s cool. It’s very cool to see all the awesomeness that’s come your way as a result of engaging with people there.

  • http://twitter.com/a_w_young a_w_young

    The best thing about a large following is that you can use your tools / 3rd party clients, lists and columns to manage things in such a way to always see + read the updates you want to regardless of the size of your base.

    You can organize by specific people or topic with ease. The number of people you follow doesn’t really matter when you do these things.

  • http://liveandsocial.com/ Jonnie Jensen

    The biggest thing I take from your process is the need to have a process and stick to it. Your reasons are really valid and for other people they might prefer to take a more selective route. Without a process you like and want to stick to though you cant communicate it with others and it will make your twitter activity more complicated to manage as you do one thing one day and another thing the next. 

    Nice post. First time on your blog….but I do follow you on twitter!

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  • http://vivianlyt.com/ Vivian

    I started using Twitter back in 2009 as well. Good point, it takes two to connect. To get to know people better is by following them back and interact with them via social media. You always have inspirational tweets and blog posts, Aaron. Sometimes when you make the first move to follow people, they follow you back, and you make even greater connections and learn more about the world than before. Very cool.

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  • http://www.bridgetwillard.wordpress.com bridgetwillard

    Exactly and this is why I rely upon my lists. Not to mention the fact that Twitter caps your following after 2k and 5k with a ratio.

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