It annoys many people when they follow you on Twitter and you do not follow them back. Too bad. Don't do it.
The only people you should follow on Twitter are people who are immediately interesting to you or people who might become interesting to you. Ignore the rest. I know, this doesn't sound very "social media," but it's true and it's a needed commodity in a cluttered world (you can read more about why you should be a Twitter Snob right here: The Trouble With Twitter - Confessions Of A Twitter Snob and, if that doesn't get you re-thinking your Twitter strategy, read this: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Twitter Elite). You may think that this reasoning is anti-Social Media or that by not following someone back, you will be insulting them, but if you read the Blog post, The Dirty Little Secret Of The Twitter Elite, you'll understand that even though they may be following you back, they're probably filtering you and/or ignoring you.
But, there's a better reason to not follow back everyone who is following you on Twitter.
Here's a real-life example: the other day, Alistair Croll recommended I check out Tim Carmody on Twitter. Tim has a cool Blog called, Snarkmarket, and is a contributor to Wired. He has 2,221 followers but only follows 414 people. I wasn't immediately struck by Tim's Twitter feed, so I looked at some of the people he was following and I could not believe the quality of people he is connected to. What really shocked me is how few of those people I was following. I hit the Twitter equivalent of pay-dirt.
Who you follow adds to your credibility.
One of the better ways to understand the type of person you are considering to follow is to see who they are following. What interests them? Who piques their curiosity? It's an amazingly powerful barometer to learn and understand more about the person you are about to connect to. In this instance, Carmody gained instant credibility with me. He was following people that I wanted to follow... and these were people that I hoped would find me interesting enough to follow me back as well.
What does following everybody back actually say about you?
If you follow everybody back on Twitter does that mean that you'll accept to connect to everybody? Or, does that mean that you have your Twitter feed automated to accept everybody? Does it mean that you don't care who you follow back? Does it mean that you care so deeply about people that you must follow everybody back? It's hard to tell... and because it's hard to tell, it doesn't ever feel like it matters, or that you care all that much, in the end.
Those who are more selective add value for the new people coming along.
Curating, editing and pruning who you follow is an important step. It helps those new connections sort the wheat from the chaff. It helps quantify that you're in this to really connect. It also sets a standard that you're not going to accept the smart people and the spammers as the same. It says that you're going to take the time (at least a second) to ensure that you're following someone of value. That sounds better than following everyone and giving off the allure of being social, when in reality you're probably filtering them out and not helping the next person who connects with you to better understand what interested you (granted, if you're a brand - or a corporate account - none of this applies: why not follow back everybody who is following you?).
So, what's your take on being a Twitter snob?