Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 24, 2010 2:07 PM

Being A Twitter Snob Is A Good Thing

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? 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Darren Hanser
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch I can't agree more. When someone immediately follows me back, I always question their intent. Usually after looking at their profile, either they follow thousands of people, and the ratio of followers to following is near 1:1 (this likely means they filter most). I can only handle following a reasonable number of people, while still getting value, and a diverse picture of the world I'm immediately interested in.

    I could be one of thousands of people someone follows, but I would rather be one of a hundred, and be someone they value. In this case, I may follow back, so I can see who they RT, which may be someone in my circle.

    Keep up the awesome work.

    Reply
    • I've recently became less snobby and have started adding more and more people. The result? Not great. Sure, more people follow me (cool), but I'm getting less out of Twitter and find myself relying on private lists (very counter Social Media) or searches related to my own name (way too narcissistic).

      I'm going to be more shrewd in who I follow back. I'm thankful (very thankful) that people find my tweets interesting and I really do want to meet more and more interesting people, but it's hard to meet those people in my current situation. Ahh, the classic "filter failure"!

      Reply
      • Posted by Paul Gailey
        Mitch Joel

        So Mitch, did you go back and unfollow a load then? I think not only is there not enough "snobbery", but there is perhaps a fear of "unfollowing" for some sort of misplaced guilt.

        Reply
        • I haven't been all that ruthless at all. I tend to just ignore the noise. Sometimes that means unfollowing people as I go... and sometimes it just means that I ignore them.

          Reply
          • Posted by Ari Herzog
            Mitch Joel

            I know what you mean, as my twitter profile (currently) says I follow 6 -- when in actuality I follow a few hundred more via several public and private lists. I'm using lists more... and am putting people there before following them by stream to ensure each tweet of theirs, on average, will enrich me.

            Reply
    • Posted by bonnie irving
      Mitch Joel

      Yep! I love this post!! This has been my twitter philsophy all along! I was lucky to learn this early! Speaking of which, I haven't culled my followers list in a while... its due!

      Reply
  • Posted by Ian M Rountree
    Mitch Joel

    Oh, Mitch. Wow. Combating the FOMO gnomes (Fear of Missing Out) in social media is really difficult for a lot of people, but your point here is really important, isn't it? We all want the best news, and worry that if we don't have ALL the news, we won't know whether our news is THE best.

    There's real gold in segmentation - in the last six months, I went from 300 to 1800 followers, and I'm still sitting at about 1900 followed - which I need to winnow quite badly. But I hate the idea of unfollowing people - so the only way I've managed to keep the people I actively want to pay attention to close is ruthless use of private lists in twitter clients.

    My active reading list on TweetDeck is less than 50 people - and that's really been my entire Twitter experience. I add about one new person every 2 weeks to this list - and make sure that everyone on that list remains people I want to stay in touch with.

    There is absolutely power in being a Twitter Snob - but what about closet snobs? Hypocrisy? :)

    Reply
    • See my comment above... private lists is definitely a Twitter Elite/Twitter Snob tactic (and that's not a bad thing... or is it?). What we're saying is (and yes, I do this too), is "sure, I'll follow you," but what we really mean is, "No... No, I won't."

      Reply
      • Posted by Ian M Rountree
        Mitch Joel

        The idea of lists being a snob tactic makes me wonder about the gaps between accepted behaviours, and expected behaviours. We accept - and expect - people to be clear about the follow/not thing, but lists are so diverse...

        It feels like one of those "if you have to explain the joke, the joke sucked" situations. Yes/no?

        Reply
      • Posted by Andrea J. Phillips
        Mitch Joel

        For me (and I'm a Twitter newbie), using Twitter lists isn't about saying "I'll follow you...but not really."

        When I follow someone, I'm saying, "I'll follow you--you look like you have interesting things to say...but like a newly single divorcee, I'm playing the field and I don't yet know if you're going to be someone I end up spending a lot of time with."

        [Note to self: Draft "Being a Twitter Slut Can Be A Good Thing" blog post.]

        Reply
  • Posted by Octavian Mihai
    Mitch Joel

    Here are my rules:
    - be generous
    - only those who are somebody can act snobbish (somebody is hard to define, Tom Peters, etc)
    - understand and take responsibility that the act of not following breaks the social graph
    - only follow businesses I'm interested in and those I want to endorse (my friends, or companies who go out of their ways to ask me questions, etc) - very often I try to support the community manager and not necessarily the brand itself
    - always follow those who look genuine, especially my close facebook network, foursquare, etc)
    - always remove those who for any reason bother me (too many tweets, too boring, too pushy)
    - always vet those who call themselves social media experts, etc.
    - cash, money, quick, free, solution, best keywords - never get followed
    - always unfollow those who don't follow back unless they're somebody and I already respect them


    I agree that certain public personalities might have a more complex vetting process that takes into account the implications of following someone. For the rest the message I get is clear : "I don't care about that you think. And you are right to follow me since I am such an important person (di*k)."

    In terms of vetting from high to low (Foursquare, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter).

    Reply
    • Fair rules too, but I'm not buying the "if you don't follow back" you're a mean person thing. That's like saying that every girl you buy a drink for at the bar must be interested in you because you're interested in them. I don't buy it and I don't think it breaks the social graph. In fact, I think it makes the integrity of it stronger.

      Reply
      • Posted by Octavian Mihai
        Mitch Joel

        Well it depends on what our definition of Twitter is:).
        It's been a while since Twitter is no longer an one-to-one connection animal.

        I think Twitter is about the trends.

        We agree to invest into the connection (follow) with the understanding that we are building something bigger and good that is beyond us.

        I strictly use lists to follow those who I'm interested in. To follow is not to read, it is a token of respect and an expression of a generous personality. There are only 24hrs in a day and one cannot physically read more than a couple hundred twitter accounts. This does not make liars out of all those who follow more than 300 accounts. They make the rule.

        Twitter became what it is now because people did not treat it like a dating site but like an open and futile platform. Civilizations are built by volatile single actions. It is refreshing not to know where we go and still to continue to make small and futile gestures of generosity.

        On a blog post '@Tom_Peters Talking The Walk Or About The Courage Of Generosity' I tried to explain my emotional point better.

        Reply
        • I'll check out the post... maybe it will change my mind ;)

          Reply
        • Posted by Tim Baran
          Mitch Joel

          I don't usually click on headlines with the word "snob" in it, but the subject matter was too tempting. Then my heart sunk as I saw it was by someone I admire and respect (Mitch). Then I realized as I read, that it mirrored my thoughts on the subject. Then I read your comment, Octavian. Wow, I've never quite heard it put that way before. Thanks for causing me great confusion :-) I'll def check out your post. Great post, Mitch and provocative discussion!

          Reply
        • Posted by Shalini Bahl
          Mitch Joel

          I really liked your perspective Octavian. I can really identify with the ideas of generosity and respect. That being said, I follow people back if I like their tweets and once I have some interaction I add people to relevant lists. But I do treat my cyber journey as open to endless possibilities rather than a careful strategy.

          Reply
          • Never lose the serendipity... it's key to finding the magic and the gold.

            Reply
          • Posted by Roy Sinai
            Mitch Joel

            Shalini - I too used to think of the 'endless possibilities' angle - but have recently pruned those whom I follow from 500 to approx 350. Endless possibilities and serendipity, I find, happen more often than not, when one is actually thinking about or looking for something. Connections strike at random. The experience of really 'valuing' who one follows leads, in my experience, to more effective seredipity. Its a reiteration of a strategy very similar to yours, that has made my Twitter experience more useful and less overwhelming.

            Lists are a great way also to continue to keep tabs on people one has unfollowed from the main timeline.

            Reply
          • Posted by Octavian Mihai
            Mitch Joel

            Thank you Shalini. Very kind of you. Thanks for connecting on Twitter.

            Reply
  • Posted by Darren Hanser
    Mitch Joel

    I actually get a lot of joy from unfollowing, unfriending and unconnecting with people. I usually give them a chance based on some recent posts, but if they send too many updates, or just topics that I have no further interest in, I unfollow. I do this on facebook with complainers (i.e. every post is about how bad their life is...)

    It's like a cleanse... rather than ignore or muting, I just cut! Never used to, but what a feeling.

    Reply
    • The new "thing" is to unfollow those who tweet their Foursquare check-ins. I admit that I do not do that... I'm also pretty lame at unfollowing just because I don't have the time/can't make the effort.

      That may change.

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        I have friends that do that... remove people who tweet their location. Here's the real question... would you unfollow a person who tweeted their location if they were providing value by doing so... i.e. leaving gifts behind at the venue, etc...? Very curious as to your answer on this one... as it lies close to home...

        Reply
        • Both Tara Hunt and Julien Smith tweet their Foursquare and I would never unfollow them. They are - simply put - way too smart. It depends on the frequency, balance and pulse of the content. It's not an absolute.

          Reply
  • Posted by Warren Whitlock
    Mitch Joel

    I've never followed people just because they follow me, but I follow thousands who "might be interesting"

    This started as a way to survey users back in 2008 when "Twitter Revolution" was written. These same discussion were going on then, which led us to our NO RULES philosophy. It just doesn't feel right that we tell someone else who they should or shouldn't follow.

    I long ago stopped trying to keep up with the thousands of tweets that flow through my stream each day. I use lists, searches, and outside connections to find interesting tweets and people every day. Of course I read every tweet with my handle.

    About a month ago, I started thinking how I was missing the serendipity of Twitter. I was ruminating on what new search I could use and hit HOME.. I had missed how spam prevention, dropping a few with constant bad language and time had affected my home page stream... Even with 65,000 followed, I could scan through the nonsense and find a gem on almost every page.

    I use Google Reader, and links from my private list to get to smart friends like Mitch. I use Twitter to crowd source and the serendipity it brings. Can't get to them all, but I am able to reach out, engage or retweet a person and make a new connection.

    I don't propose it's for everyone. I'm still a snob by not following the all and not talking to most who follow me, but I do learn by not limiting my Twitter interactions.

    Reply
  • Posted by Albert Maruggi
    Mitch Joel

    This is one of those issues that's almost link bait. It elicits an immediate reaction and then upon reflection isn't much of an issue at all. First, why is it snobby to not follow someone that follows you. If your perspective is to use Twitter as a focused network promotion and research tool, who is it to say that following a limited few is being a snob.

    Contrary, if someone wants to use Twitter as a wide discovery tool, who too is to say that is correct. Twitter is there for the using.

    What happens is when business wants to piggyback on the "influence" of others, it dictates the way people should behave online. If they want more influence. But hey, influence is what made this country great so who's to say nudging your way into a small group of people that enjoy each other's work, follow and RT each other in a mutual admiration society isn't social media.

    When others don't have the ability to prevent you from entering their world, it's easy to jump into any party you want. Me, for the most part I'll follow people back after reviewing their recent tweets, their profile and a link if they have one. Yes, I do enjoy Twitter for the discovery of others. To each their own. Mitch perhaps you should give people that you don't follow this link to help ease their rejection. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhlWddAXSRA

    Reply
  • Posted by CDNJones
    CDNJones

    I fall in to this category, I suppose. My theory: Follow me if you find me interesting. If you don't, then don't. I'll give you the same respect.

    Personally, I'd find it a bit insulting if you ONLY follow me because I've followed you.

    Twitter isn't supposed to be a charity, right?

    Reply
    • I don't care much for the "should you follow those who follow you" in as much as I use the people that someone is following as a brometer for how interesting they may be, and following everybody and anybody doesn't tell me all that much.

      Reply
  • Posted by rfindlay
    Mitch Joel

    First - the fact you are picky, and chose to follow me give me the warm fuzzies.
    My only complaint with using lists or not following back, is you miss out. I recently dumped a dozed or so, but for a while I followed-back a few WAY out tea party types. Though I really hated 99% of what they posted - they sometimes challenged me. Simply following a bunch of people JUST like yourself defeats the purpose.
    I like to see post from all sides.
    My 2 cents

    Reply
  • Posted by Michael Taggart
    Mitch Joel

    I can see some merit in the argument that it's plain and simply polite to return a follow but maybe that's because I'm British and we're obsessed with manners. I certainly see a lot of merit in being selective about whom you follow - but more because it will give you a better experience of Twitter than because of anything it says about you.

    I can't find the specific blog, but your old debating adversary Mark Schaefer recently wrote a blog which took this idea further further and advocated blocking people who follow you and might not fit your personal brand. He said (something like) he wouldn't want people, including his family, looking through his followers and seeing some porn actress or some such. I commented that, while people might rightly draw conclusions about a person based on whom he or she followed, no-one would expect anyone to police who follows them. Just as if you are giving a public talk, you don't have much say in or control over who stops by to listen.

    Wondered, Mitch, if you had any thoughts on 'policing' who follows you?

    Reply
    • I don't have any additional thoughts. I'm honoured that anybody would want to follow me. I am also careful about who I follow. Less because of how I might be seen by others, but more about creating a network of true value.

      Reply
  • Posted by Ilana Rabinowitz
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I agree with the idea that it is silly to auto follow people. How you handle the follow question, though, depends on how you use Twitter. I use it to discover information that is fascinating, eye-opening and educational. I don't take a lot of time to analyze whether I should follow someone back and there are lots of people on my feed that end up disappointing. When I have time, I unfollow. But I've had a lot of surprises as a result of being open to people outside the circle of those who seem to fit the bill.

    Reply
  • Posted by @mdl914
    @mdl914

    LUV this post! I could not agree more! I don't feel bad anymore for not following back my new followers. If they follow 1,500 people and they are actually being followed by 100 people I don't even check their feed anymore! To me, following someone is all about the quality and the substance of their posts/tweets in addition to the type of relationship we have. But, I guess it all depends on what type of social networking experience you are interested in achieving. Most of the time when I tweet, I try to share valuable info and knowledge with my followers.. and I expect to receive the same from the people I follow... I look at it this way: If someone decides to follow me and finds me interesting they will keep on following me and try to engage with me even though I don't follow them back... If they unfollow me... it's their loss. :-) I can't believe I posted this comment... but I really like Twitter and I thought I'd share some of my personal strategy :-)
    xo

    Reply
    • I think we all learn from how each individual uses Twitter. I happen to find it increasingly interesting to see who a certain individual is following. It's usually a good leading indicator of the content they are interested in.

      Reply
  • Posted by James
    Mitch Joel

    I don't see anything wrong with following someone back, I think if someone follows you, knowing what they might be saying could be worth your time, if they indeed have an interest in you.

    I think it can be a little overwhelming if you read the home timeline. I put the people who follow me on a list if I am unaware of who they are so my main timeline is a little more reliable or at the very least a little more predictable.

    That's how I feel about it anyways. And to be honest, there are so few options on Twitter, but so many possibilities to the way can present your lists or yourself, private, followback, listback, who you follow, ect...

    It flexible and really open, jmo...

    Reply
  • Posted by Angela Dunn
    Mitch Joel

    Hello Mitch,

    We discussed this issue of the Twitter Velvet Rope in depth at last Wednesday's #smchat http://bit.ly/velvetrope and the transcript shares many viewpoints. Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own way of managing.

    Personally, I like following a lot of people on many diverse subjects, and love to connect seemingly divergent ideas and people! Admittedly, this is not everyone's cup of tea. Some people have narrow interests, others broad.

    Many conversations are also conducted through DMs and I like to give people that option. If I would not have followed certain people, I would not have had some wonderful opportunities come my way via DM. I also use private lists to check on my various conversations by topic.

    Having many spheres of interest was beneficial to launching the first #ideachat described by Neil Crump as a "creative + eclectic crowd" and "not the usual suspects" according to June Holley. #Ideachat, a Salon for Twitter Thinkers, attracted more than 100 artists, scientists, biz folks, etc. from 6 continents for our very first chat. It doesn't hurt that I used to own a nightclub. It really is about how you prefer your conversations IRL. Some people would never think of talking to the stranger on the train, I do. :)

    There is a lot of serendipity in random "weak links." I invite you to join our next #ideachat discussion, on November 13th, when we discuss weak links and the spread of ideas based on Richard Koch's new book "Superconnect."

    Cheers!
    Angela Dunn
    @blogbrevity

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Timely post since I just unfollowed somebody for the first time.
    I was thinking about it for a few weeks and it took some effort to finally "execute" that person.
    Very little value in his posts. Also I do not automatically follow back if 1) they do not operate in my fields of interests, 2) I realize it is really a 'bot doing a blitz.

    Those that I do follow do not always say interesting stuff but you look at the batting average and take it from there.
    Maybe I should look for a twitter client that can filter out all tweets that have the Foursquare word in it or do not have an embedded link. Is there such a thing?

    I started to have the impression that it was bad etiquette to NOT follow back, so I am glad you are nipping this thing in the bud.

    Reply
  • Posted by Patrick Allmond
    Mitch Joel

    It still baffles me to as to why people holds followers/followees in such awe. Why do we thing there has to be so many rules? People hold twitter in way too high of a regard. This is a poorly implemented chat room. You are not going to find true love on twitter. You are not going to make amazing business deals because you 'engaged' the right people. I just can't get this reverence people give to an internet chat room. What is so world-changing, awe-inspiring about it that people just trip over themselves tell others the right and wrong way to follow.

    Reply
    • I disagree. I have met many fascinating people though Twitter. I have learned a ton. I have connected. It has pushed new thinking. Maybe you need to be looking at who the people you follow are following (as this posts suggests).

      Reply
    • Posted by Lucretia Pruitt
      Mitch Joel

      Actually, Patrick - I know more than one couple who found true love on Twitter. It's not the platform, it's the people.

      Just ask @megfowler & @gradontripp or @duncanriley & @frezzi

      But they found each other by just being themselves.

      Reply
  • Posted by Joe Sorge
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, one of the rare times that I disagree with your standpoint. And to make things worse, I'm going to use your own thinking against you: Your twitter is not my twitter. Funny how different approaches can get you to the same goal: Meaningful engagement.

    Either way, I appreciate you making me consider my actions.

    joe

    Reply
    • Joe, Joe, Joe... we'll always have Hair Nation.

      But seriously, I said in my post: following everybody back is a strategy for some. The point of the post was that you can tell a lot from a person you are about to follow based on the people that that person is following. Nothing more. Nothing less. I'm quite certain you would agree with that?

      Reply
  • Posted by Gael McCarte
    Mitch Joel

    The article and discussion were enlightening, being new to Twitter this gives me a bread trail on the dirt map of Twitter life.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tom Catalini
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch:

    Using this decidedly fleeting platform to build relationships carefully and over time may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but it was the only way that it seemed worthwhile to me. And it works (for me).

    The whole follow/follow back thing seems like it's being "that guy" at an event who runs around handing out business cards and doesn't really want to hear what you have to say. I don't want to be that guy. I'd rather have just a few conversations with some really interesting people.

    Great post.

    Tom

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Twitter is what you make of it. I wholeheartedly agree that following everyone is BS> and then when people do it, you hear them whine about how many DMs and communiques they get. I also agree the size of account does not = engagement and we've seen studies that prove it.


    Generally, my rule of thumb on following people is if I have met you in RL, I'll give it a whirl. There are others I generally find interesting, but that is less than 100 pure follows, the rest resembles a patchwork of my real life trail meeting digital citizens.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kate Brodock
    Mitch Joel

    Again, I agree with you Mitch. One of the biggest reasons I am "picky" with Twitter is because it doesn't do ME any good to *just* follow everyone back. I use Twitter as another source of content consumption, and frankly I want to have value out of pretty much everyone I follow (and value can come in different forms). It really has nothing to do with numbers for me....it means that there's a more limited number of resources from which I chose to gather content from..... with limited time, I want go stuff on my doorstep so i get choosy. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

    Reply
    • ... there's also nothing wrong with following everybody (it's a very social act). That being said, it makes it hard for me (and others) to quantify the type of content you create when it's hard to figure out who you're following (and why).

      Reply
  • Posted by Margaret
    Mitch Joel

    I agree 100%. I do not care who follows me, really, although I did at first. I'm more concerned with who I follow, because that's who I'm reading. I don't follow people who talk about things I'm not interested in, or people who are just selling things. I sometimes block people, usually those who have no tweets and maybe 6 followers; something fishy.

    I follow people from certain areas, such as the city I live in, or places I'm interested in. Pretty much anyone from this area I will follow, unless they're rude.

    So thanks for this article. I'm weeding things out now, and sticking to those who can enrich my life, and educate me.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kayla Block
    Kayla Block

    This entire article seems to be based on, "what will the neighbors think", rather than on figuring out what you're interested in, or what your twitter goals are.

    Most of the buzz around this article is assuming that you mean "don't follow those you're not interested in", but I don't see a hint of that in the article.

    "What does following everybody back actually say about you?"
    "Those who are more selective add value for the new people coming along."
    "What does following everybody back actually say about you?"

    This reads like a diatribe from an 8th grade high school kid.

    The real answer to who you should follow, has to take into consideration your goals in using Twitter.
    If you're promoting a product or your personal brand, you need to engage with your followers, not ignore them.
    If you're using Twitter to socialize or learn new things, then you should follow friends and people you think are interesting.

    But basing decisions on "coolness" factor or having a notion that you're "curating" for other people, is nonsensical.

    I'd love to see what @guykawasaki says about this article.

    Reply
    • Let's make an assumption that if you're already on Twitter, you're there for a reason/purpose, otherwise... Why be there in the first place? I'm all about leading with strategy, in case this is your first time here.

      As for the rest of your comment, it's very confusing. You'll have to explain your whole, "what will the neighbors think" analogy, because I don't get it. In fact, this Blog post is expressing exactly what you're saying: a great way to get to know if the person you are about to follow makes sense for you is to see who they are following and how engaged they are with those individuals. If all they're doing is following anybody and everybody, how well are you going to be able to engage with them?

      Reply
      • Posted by Kayla Block
        Mitch Joel

        Your article is all about creating the right impression to someone who might be new to your profile. It's all about how to appear hip to newcomers.

        You don't ever once mention following what you're interested in, or following whoever serves your purpose.

        There are three primary reasons to use Twitter:
        1) promoting your products or services
        2) socializing
        3) developing or reinforcing your brand

        If you are in it for 1), who you follow isn't about looking cool to newcomers. It's about engaging with real life human beings on the other side of the keyboard. Sales in the real world are about establishing relationships, and Twitter is no different.

        If you're in it for 2) socializing, you should follow who you're interested in, without regard to "Who you follow adds to your credibility." or any of the other "what will the neighbors think" reasons in your post.

        And if you're in it for 3) promoting a brand, or building yourself as a brand, you still need to engage with people. Though perhaps this is the one area where "what other people think" actually matters.

        I don't look at your followers to figure out if you're cool, hip, or have meaningful things to say. I don't check your followers to smoke out your credibility.

        I might look at your followers if I'm interested in people who are similar to you. But that's about it.

        Your post seems to have caused a wildfire on Twitter. And yet, most seem to be reading you as, "follow who's interesting and don't feel obligated to follow back everyone who follows you."

        But I read your post differently. The word "snob" sets the tone. And the rest of what follows is all about shallow appearances ie. "what will the neighbors think?"

        I may do a counterpoint post elsewhere.

        I'm amazed at what a stir this post has caused. I guess you're now a Twitter celebrity. ;-0

        Reply
        • I use Twitter as a simple way to share. I think there are many ways to use Twitter. One of those ways (in terms of figuring out who is interesting to follow) may be to look at who they follow and how they connect. I do use this as a barometer for who I would like to be connected to. I'm less interested in those who sport big numbers in terms of followers and following. I also realize that this will probably limit how people like that will measure my success on Twitter (based on their definition).

          I'm less interested in how many people I am following (and who is following me) and much more interested in who those people are. I am also more interested in people who spend the time to curate their followers and followings. It's an indication that they really care.

          Reply
  • Posted by Jeremy Pepper
    Mitch Joel

    Hmm, not sure if I'd call myself a Twitter snob, but I do selectively follow people back, and always have done that.

    But I do make sure I follow back most PR people, especially the students and try to stay engaged with them. So snob with an altruistic side?

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Great post. I wonder what you think about brands/companies/product accounts on Twitter.

    Reply
    • Brand and companies are not individuals. There's no harm in a brand following everyone who is following them. If anything, it's a nice little pat on the back or thumb's up to someone who cares about you.

      Reply
  • Posted by Michael Q Todd
    Mitch Joel

    I am sorry but I think you are worrying waaay to much about a tiny thing. Following and unfollowing is irrelevant. Its lists that are important. Over half my retweets come from people that are not following me but are following lists that I am on. Twitter would be no different for me if I had 1 follower and was say following 3 people.But I am on 2,350 lists and that is where the important people see my stuff.If I were you I would be focused on getting on as many highly followed lists as you can

    Reply
    • I don't spend much time worrying about this at all. I like seeing who people are following and I like knowing that they spend the time to figure out if somebody they're going to follow makes sense to them.

      I'm all for lists... I'm just morbidly lazy about getting them organized on Twitter at this point. That doesn't mean it's not the best tactic (it probably is).

      Reply
  • Posted by Weltbrand
    Mitch Joel

    When I first started using Twitter, I was under the impression that you should follow everyone. I still stand by that philosophy, so long as you are starting out. Once you get a good base, it's time to clean up the follows. There are just too many spammers out there and those who don't participate to follow everyone. Right now I'm hovering around 500 followers while following around 150. Even now, there is room to clean up my lists for the @weltbrand account. Thanks for the post, it's refreshing to see someone else with the same twittequette.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I'm so glad you posted this article. I have had some very interesting conversations around this very topic. When I first started using Twitter, I noticed that many users had quite a few more followers than people they were following. Then... I noticed that many of the people I admired had quite the opposite. It became clear rather quickly that the more valuable tweeters were the ones with the higher follower value. Why? Because in the cut-throat world of Twitter... if people were following them, even though they weren't being followed back... that Tweeter must have something valuable to say.

    For myself... I follow back people who seem interesting, or who are in my local area. I find it's a great way to connect with locals. I put my friends and favorite tweeters on a private list so I don't miss much.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rich Nadworny
    Mitch Joel

    This is a topic that will never end. We see it regularly when people purge their Twitter following and start over (Scobelizer did this, but Chris Brogan doesn't).

    Mitch I think you're right on when you say you should only follow someone back who you think can add value to your stream. That means not accepting everyone. But you can take a generous view or a more narrow one. I swing back and forth on that one.

    But I think looking at this as a one time option misses the point. If someone follows me and I don't follow them back doesn't mean I'll NEVER follow them back (or when I follow someone who doesn't follow me). There are lots of chances to get me more interested: RT my tweets, engage me in a Twitter conversation, comment on my blog and point out interesting things I may have missed.

    Again, it's like dating. If you go away in a huff everytime someone doesn't show a lot of interest in your opening line, then you'll be in trouble. Instead, stick around and engage. If it stays one sided, then give up. But you may be surprised at what happens.

    Remember, snobs LOVE attention. It's what makes them snobs.

    Rich

    Reply
    • I'm with you, Rich. There have been many, many times where I have not followed someone back, but they stayed on my radar (or kept popping back into my stream) and I wound up following them at some point later... which is very similar to how we network face to face.

      Reply
  • Posted by Kevin Dubrosky
    Mitch Joel

    I also agree, Mitch.

    I have a 4-to-1 ratio on my twitter account, too: http://twitter.com/wcbusinesscoach

    Small potatoes, but the principle holds true. That being said, I haven't tweeted in 3 months! I am not a believer in the revenue-producing value of Twitter just yet, and I've been around it for a long time.

    But yes, I agree with you in principle 100%.

    Nice post.

    Reply
  • Posted by Srinivas Rao
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I have what I call my "inner circle" on twitter. I decided to put Malcom Gladwell's rule of 150 to the test to see if it would make my content spread and it has. The people I follow back are the ones who make a point to have a conversation with me. I don't even know who follows me unless they start a conversation since twitter is truly a conversation tool. If they share or tweet my content I"ll also put them into my list because it's clear they're interested in engaging with me and I want to help them as well.

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Braaten
    Mitch Joel

    I can see pro's and con's of each. Yeah, only following a bunch of super elite Twitter folks will increase the value of who you follow in general. But it seems to be so counter-social media.

    Chris and Julien talked about making friends with those who haven't "made it" yet in Trust Agents, the theory being that we're all potentially tomorrow's new Chris Brogan (or Mitch Joel) and that we have a much better chance building strong networks with those that are about to make it rather than those who already have.

    That said, I think there's a fine line between being a snob and cultivating your list.

    Reply
  • Posted by Derek Barney
    Mitch Joel

    Great post Mitch and it looks like you have sparked a lot of chatter. I was wondering the other day why my people of "influence" on twitter don't #FF. At what stage do you stop? I don't do it every week, but if I feel the need to let others know about someone I tell them. Someone told me that they feel obligated to FF....I told them to do it when it feels right.

    The last time I commented you said you want to reply more. Well, great job!

    Reply
  • Posted by Keith
    Mitch Joel

    I totally agree and even extend this philosophy to all my social media. I never understood how people can have 400-600 friends on Facebook. I have less than 80. Most are family and the rest are those people who are actually my friends and not merely just and acquaintance. These are the people that I care about either on an emotional level or on a professional level where their guidance and insight I find valuable. Who has time to pay attention to the random musings of over 400 people? And I will never, ever friend a friends pet.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tarah Feinberg
    Mitch Joel

    While I agree that it is important to diligently consider each connection you follow on Twitter, or any social network, I believe that it is essential to use filters to allow yourself to connect with a greater number of quality people that are posting about a wider range of topics that interest you, without becoming overwhelmed. I add almost every connection I make, on Twitter and Facebook, to at least one of the over 20+ lists I curate. This allows me to focus on the content and conversations that are the most relevant to me throughout the day, depending on my priorities at any given moment. I also have created several different Twitter accounts, each of which focuses on a different group of affinities and content types, which has helped me greatly in focusing my connection and posting strategies.

    Check out my Twitter lists here: http://twitter.com/TarahFO/lists

    Reply
  • Posted by Amanda O'Brien
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for another honest and smart post.
    I think I am a Twitter snob with a major guilty conscious.

    One day not that long ago, I was so frustrated with Twitter. My Twitter stream was full of noise and no value. I kicked and screamed for a bit and then realized it was my own fault. By following everyone local, or anyone I thought I 'should', I was the one who subscribed to sub-par content.

    Now I follow back less, I look for smart people to follow more and I routinely go through my Twitter followers and unsubscribe to people that I don't think are providing enough value. Sometimes I follow right away because we have found ourselves in a conversation, or met in person but I go back through my most recently followed list a lot to just to make sure I was duped by a flash in the pan conversation.

    Thanks again for the post and to your readers for the smart follow up comments!


    Reply
  • Posted by Keith Gayhart
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,
    You've obviously touched a nerve. I have followed an approach similar to yours in deciding who to follow, but I've never thought of myself as a snob for not following someone back. I recently subscribed to a service that was supposed to alert me when someone stopped following me, but I quickly was bombarded with new followers from another service run by the same company that aims to help people build followers wholesale. I was offended by that. It was obvious that none of my new "followers" had any real interest in me, other than to increase their followers tally by one. I saw no value in adding them to my Twitter feed...and as a result everyone of them disappeared from my followers list in a few days.

    Reply
  • Posted by Susan Knight
    Mitch Joel

    I tend to always follow back, until you don't really offer me anything to follow, at that point I unfollow. If I went on who that person was following or who was following them I might miss out on some very cool newbies. If I follow someone for awhile and they don't follow me back.. generally I ditch them, unless they are simply a news service or the content is stellar, and I can only think of a few that fall into that category.

    I like "communication" so why not be open to it from both sides?

    Susan

    Reply
  • Posted by Alexandre
    Mitch Joel

    "So, what's your take on being a Twitter snob?"
    That it might suit some people, including some members of your target readership.
    Part of the strength of social media is in the fact that cookiecutter advice rarely brings people very far.
    Eschewing reciprocity in the Twitter "follower/followee" exchange was a relatively hot topic two years ago, when the "confession" was posted. And those who still need to think about the effects of reciprocity might do well to read that older post.
    However, the social media landscape is maturing rather rapidly and the importance of such things as one's Twitter "following" has been at least recontextualized or directly challenged a number of times in the intervening years.
    In other words, the wisdom of such a piece of advice, by itself, seems to me to weigh less than it did in 2008.

    There are multiple reasons to "follow" a Twitter account. Some of these reasons make a "please follow me" approach sound somewhat logical. From many people (like the crowd of self-labeled "social media experts"), it sounds more like posturing and an avoidance of reputation management. But, in other cases, it's part of a broader social media strategy which, in the end, might be sound.

    By itself, a nonreciprocal "policy" would in fact "go against the grain" of expected behaviour in social media. It's part of what gives social marketing a negative connotation, in some circles. It might even cause some tricky problems down the road. Not because you hurt someone's feelings but because the logic of sharing gives more to people who play the game with others than to those who "march to their own drumbeat."
    But, again, as part of a much broader strategy (which might including being much more responsive on Quora, Buzz, or even email), it could make some sense.

    Still, I wish there were less imperative statements in discussions of social media and more careful observation. Maybe we need more than one @BiellaColeman..

    Reply
    • You're right. It's not a zero-sum game. I'm less concerned with the follow-back-reciprocity debate as I am in figuring out how to find more people of substance. I thought that was where this Blog post was going, but the comments proved me wrong.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Just stumbled across this article and found it, and especially all the comments, very entertaining.
    Yes, your point was that it pays to check out whom other people follow to help you assess if they might be of interest to yourself, and to discover new talent out there. It's obvious that a lot of your readers got the wrong message.
    Myself, I often check out other people's follows and have discovered some very interesting folks that way.
    I read a couple of your blog posts and have decided that I must now follow you because I enjoyed reading what you have to say.
    And thanks to the commenter who made me wise to the fact that some follows are generated by bots. Did not know that! But it explains some mysterious follows I got. Your post made me clean up my follow list. So much rubbish there!
    Count me in as one of the snobs.

    Reply
    • To further than, when the person has 15,000 people they are following, I can't even begin to make heads or tails of what they're about. A person's followers are as valuable as their mini-bio, picture and the link they provide.

      Reply
  • Posted by Roy Sinai
    Mitch Joel

    Some great tools to manage ones follower base are: www.twerpscan.com , www.twitcleaner.com , www.managetwitter.com and www.twiangulate.com. I also have used twittergrader.com which has a little query form on its page to check if someone is also following you, if and when ( and it does happen) my ego is bruised by someone not following me.

    Engagement and information flow enabled by twitter are both valuable. Authenticity is also key. For that, managing ones stream is important and its better to be a snob and derive true value from the engagement rather than be swamped in a torrent of information that could one day be useful.

    An engaged snob is far more useful on twitter when exploring the connect between ones own value proposition in the network, and the value of the network one puts together. I routinely find people to follow from the streams of those whom I am following.

    I have found usefulness to be most heightened when one can act upon, engage with, and do something meaningful, useful and helpful with what one finds on twitter, in the present now. Focus helps. The torrent of information should add value to ones own contribution, in the present NOW.

    All this said, I have tried both, and understand that strategies will keep changing as ones objectives change, & hopefully crystallize.

    Reply
  • Posted by Lucretia Pruitt
    Mitch Joel

    You clearly hit a nerve with this post Mitch.
    Guilt & Twitter go hand in hand.
    It's rather nice to hear someone saying "it's okay if you approach it this way, I do too" instead of "here's the right way - I know because it's how I do it."

    I'm less of a Twitter Snob and more of a Twitter Flake. Somewhere awhile back I just gave up on the 'checking to see if someone who followed me is worth following back' and switched over to 'checking to see if I'm following someone who engages me by @ing and if not, seeing if I should be.'

    It sometimes takes me awhile to follow someone who is following me simply because I don't get notifications any more. But if someone starts a conversation with me, or comments on something with a RT, or I see we've engaged elsewhere? That's the sort of action that makes me check to see if I'm following them.

    I still think we get hung up on "follow" as a verb - just like we do "friend".

    I don't use lists or groups - but I do narrow down my stream every so often. Still, it's nice to see such diversity go by. But it is at the expense of catching every post from every person. So from time to time I will go find someone's individual page and "get caught up."

    Our twitter behavior is ever evolving, isn't it?

    Reply
  • Posted by Mo
    Mitch Joel

    "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."
    Interesting take you have there, Mitch. However, I think one of the best things to happen to twitter is twitter lists. I have a diverse following on twitter, and the lists that I am on would tell a visitor to my profile what interests people in following me. Similarly, my twitter lists enable me to sift and sort the people I follow according to different interests for which I follow them.

    I think the real question here is: how well do we use the tools provided by twitter to customise the experience for our preferences?

    Reply
  • Posted by Will Reichard
    Mitch Joel

    I love that I decided to read this post via a wonderful reaction to it (http://www.businessesgrow.com/2010/10/26/bringing-down-the-twitter-snobs/) that I found because I follow people widely and liberally on Twitter. I even made a couple of cool new connections in the process.

    A big part of what we miss in the online "friend" equation is the binary nature of it. When you reject a link (though it's more true on networks like Facebook and LinkedIn), you're essentially saying to the other person, "I don't see any potential value in our connection, ever." To me, following back isn't saying anything other than "I'd like to explore. I don't want to block our connection outright." I will follow back anyone who isn't spewing obvious spam or gross hatred.

    I do use filters, lists and standing searches. However, I challenge anyone to say they don't do the same in real life. That's what professional associations, churches or any other social group are...real-life lists. We have a huge number of ways of surfacing the connections and information that matter most to us, and social media have only brought us the means to do it on a much bigger scale.

    Finally, if the argument were about being "strategic" on Twitter, I'd be a lot more likely to accept it. To even joke about being a "snob," IMO, scuttles your own argument. By definition, being a snob means making judgments on feelings of self-superiority and social exclusionism. Perhaps I am a snob. Perhaps we all are. But let's at least try not to be.

    In any case, I'm always glad when people verbalize what they're thinking about something like this, and I love seeing the discussion it has provoked, so I do thank you.

    Reply
    • I don't see it as a finite action. There are countless instances where I am not following someone, but we start connecting over time and then the "follow" happens. I've also had instances where someone recommends someone else and it turns out they are following me, but I was not following them (until that moment). We don't all fall in love at first sight... I also don't see anything wrong with that.

      Reply
  • Posted by Danny Johnson
    Mitch Joel

    My theory is that if I follow someone and after about six months they don't follow me back or I don't recognize their avatar, I unfollow.

    Reply
  • Posted by John Piercy
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch , Ive heard your named mention many times . I know your a smart individual , but I know smart individuals too .. so when you put up a wall around yourself , your suddenly now limited to those around you ..

    I fight fires for a living , fulltime 30yrs .. does that make me any less valuable as a person on twitter , I know many of the Social Media types that dont give me the time of day . Some of my best friends are Social Media types .

    Who decides the "A" list ..

    All i know is , Take the blinders off and look around , you will be surprised who you run into .

    John Piercy

    Reply
    • You're making an assumption that I don't follow diverse people. Take a look at my follower list. Do I follow everybody? No. If that were my strategy, I'd just go to Twitter's homepage every day and watch everyone's tweets. I find tons of fascinating people from all different walks of life and that's why I love Twitter. The point of this post actually reinforces that: I find interesting and new people by seeing who others are following.

      Reply
  • Posted by Joyce Cherrier
    Mitch Joel

    When I see the word snob, for me, I tend to think it oozes self importance. For that reason, I probably won't follow someone I perceive as a snob~ as I won't follow someone for displaying their *bleeep* in their profile pic and a handful of cash. Like all things twitter, you do what works for you. When someone doesn't follow me back, I respect that and move on. Sometimes I've connected with that person later. I love that about Twitter.

    Being a fitness person, I tend to follow many back and use tweetdeck and lists to handle the load. I like the crazy pace of lots of tweets. That's just me.

    One experience I can share is I had an account follow me that was not very interesting, an incomplete bio, and some odd profile pic. For whatever reason I followed back. Turned out to be a large company observing a few fitness accounts and led to great connections and an awesome opportunity. Sometimes you never know where a follow will lead.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rafael Cantu
    Mitch Joel

    Your approach on Twitter is really based on what you are trying to accomplish. I have worked with organizations that use twitter as a communcation platform to update existe customers on news and events, I have seen folks use it to network and collaborate on ideas via hashtags. And unforturnately I see way too much spam......

    I think it makes a lot of sense to evaluate who you follow but the objective will be different for everyone.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    Until the whole world hears,

    Rafael

    Reply
  • Posted by Kim Feraday
    Mitch Joel

    I think there's an important idea that you're missing here. Following alot of people is difficult but by ignoring some followers you may be missing out on some interesting people and ideas. Take your Tim Carmody example. If you hadn't had the reference and gone to the bother of reading his stream and who follows him you would have missed a significant opportunity to connect.

    I view this as not a personal failure on your part but the tools you (an we) use. If they were better at allowing us to create personas and matching those to followers they could make better recommendations. They would also allow us to better focus conversations.

    And if they were better at evaluating context - what someone is saying right now - we'd also be able to pick up on interesting folks in real time. Better yet - allow us to aggregate our interests into communities of interests and filter information around those concepts.

    Reply
    • Who said anything about ignoring people? Twitter is an open platform. If I'm not following you but we're having back and forth on Twitter, I'll add you (obviously). Its about the engagement... isn't it?

      Reply
      • Posted by Kim Feraday
        Mitch Joel

        Umm, well you did.
        "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 agree that if we have a back and forth on twitter maybe you'll follow me. We've had an exchange of ideas and (maybe) it will be worthwhile pursuing the relationship further. My point was that it's often difficult to know if someone is worth following unless you put some elbow grease into it. Not very efficient and likely it's preventing you from discovering some interesting conversations and people.

        Given the number of people and volume of information being created though, it's not reasonable to expect anyone to be able to discover this on their own. Twitter is fine but it's a blunt force instrument. That's why it's increasingly become a broadcast medium rather than a conversation medium. Better tools would help here - and in particular semantic search across metadata, profiles, streams etc.

        Reply
        • ... and that was the point of my column. To me, a great form of elbow grease comes from looking at who that person if following and following some of those people. For me, it's much more about the quality over the quantity.

          Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch, Came here via Mark Schaefer's post.. so that's something for following more people. I'll tell you the same thing I told him: I think you're both right. I am a Twitter snob, which works for me and MY social media strategy. I don't follow anyone and everyone; I try to find people outside the PR and social media ecosystem to get some new, different points of view. I'm always happy to follow more when I think they'll add value to my Twitter stream, and I theirs. A little discretion improves the quality of my connections, and I agree those networks do say something about who I am as a professional (also why I'm not LinkedIn with just anyone who asks). FWIW.

    Reply
  • I don't know, Mitch. I guess it depends on what your objectives are and where you are in the Social Media stream.

    For me, I don't worry about how other people perceive the quality of my community. I follow you, I follow Jay Baer, I follow Chris Brogan, I follow Jason Falls. I also follow a lot of people you never would have heard of. The ones that I get to talk to every day are in the latter crowd, because folks like you have so many demands on your time it's just hard to network.

    I think for someone in your shoes, being a snob is probably critical. You don't have much time, and it does take a concerted effort and a lot of time to sift through followers to see if you want to follow back.

    However, for folks like me, and for those newer than me, I think your philosophy could be detrimental. If I tried to build the kind of A-list you are talking about, I would have probably quit Twitter months ago. There are so many "A-listers" that feel as you do that for new people, it's literally impossible to build that quality list. I could list many people whom I have followed for months now who have never followed me back.

    Including you, in fact :)

    But I think for this new generation of Twitter users that I am part of, that kind of thing just can't be worrisome, or you'll never make forward progress. I am building a community of people based on my own criteria, and I hope that I can connect them with the more experienced A-listers who are in my community. I hope I can help them get to where I am now and where I hope to be in the future. It's a matter of taking a chance on folks, showing them that you get that they are trying, and helping to lift them up.

    That is what Social Media means to me, at any rate. I have never gone to Klout.com. I don't monitor how many times my tweets are retweeted. I look at my blog traffic about once a week. The numbers and other peoples' perception just doesn't weigh in for me. I know in my heart what I am trying to do, and approaching Social Media the way you describe would not get me there. But, as I noted before, I am in a very different place than you.

    Reply
    • This has nothing to do with following A-listers. This had to do with you building up your own A-list of interesting people. If you want to follow anybody and everybody, just go to the Twitter homepage and watch the stream of all tweets go by. A great community is not about how many people you are following, it's about who you are following and how engaged everybody is.

      Reply
      • Posted by Margie Clayman
        Mitch Joel

        That I agree with!

        However, if you restrict the number of people you follow so that you can be more in demand, how do you know who you are missing? I certainly don't follow back everybody, but I also don't make my "follow" decisions based on how many followers they have. In fact, sometimes I wonder how interested people are in truly engaging if they have 20,000 followers but are only following 400. Only 400 of those people are interesting enough to see in your Twitter stream?

        I find that kind of hard to believe, and I'm fairly cynical about human nature :)

        Reply
        • I believe, you make a "follower" decision based on if that person piques your interest. It's from their bio, photo and link to their tweets and the people they follow. The truth is that I'm a Marketer, so many people want to follow me to learn tips and tricks for their businesses... that doesn't mean that I'm interested in their tweets or their network. I get a lot of "success coaches", "healers" and others following me. If they get value out of my content, great, but I see no need to follow back if what they're tweeting isn't of relevance to me. It has to be be a mutually beneficia connection.

          That being said, I sometimes do find people like that which I do follow, because over time we develop a semblance of an online connection.

          Reply
  • Posted by Robert
    Mitch Joel

    To follow, or not to follow on Twitter - that is the question. I wax and wane when it comes to following new people on Twitter. presently, I mostly follow back each new Twitter follower - but also use the 'Twitter block user' function for any inappropriate tweets appearing in the timeline.

    It gets pretty time consuming to have a good look at each new follower - Twitter bio; link to blog or website; timeline etc. Your "The big hint: look at who the people you are about to follow are following." makes sense - thanks.

    Reply
  • Posted by Clay
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting post, Mitch. I look at it a little differently. I had this same discussion with @julien a while back via twitter.

    I'm actually a huge fan of using twitter lists to segment followers and get more value from twitter (including how twitter lists allow me to see more of YOUR tweets. :-) )

    My reasoning:

    1) Once you follow ~500 people (and definitely ~3000 as you and I do), the main twitter stream gets extremely crowded. Even following only quality people, it feels cluttered and noisy and flies by so fast that many quality tweets are missed.

    So if you buy into that...

    2) My lists allow me to see more of YOUR tweets. And CC's. And Julien's. And Brogan's. And Avinash's. You're all on a "Daily" list (that one happens to be private but it wouldn't have to be).

    3) I can setup geographic lists by city. So my NYC one is to see what my friends here in the city are up to but a "Toronto" list or "San Francisco" list would be super useful to start watching closely again prior to a visit. (Before I visit Toronto....What is Mitch up to? Is Saul Colt in town? What is Sarah Prevette launching now?)

    4) Twitter lists (public or private) are portable to any platform, so once I take the time to construct them once (and a little effort to maintain), they're accessible across TweetDeck, HootSuite, Twitter for iPhone, iPad, etc.

    5) Public lists can be really useful (especially for my clients to create for partners & B2B) but I disagree that creating private twitter lists is being super elite / private / twitter-snobby. Is it elite or snobby to have a (private) folder structure (or tags) to organize your personal email? Since private lists are private, I just see them as a useful filter, not snobby.

    6) I don't follow back everyone that follows me but I'm not super restrictive either. Julien & Chris talk a lot about reducing "friction". Following people (even if they're not in a list I view daily so I don't really see their tweets) allows them to DM me, reducing friction and keeping it out of email until it needs to go there. Often these DM's are useful (client inquiries, referrals, etc.).

    Sorry for the "blog post as comment".

    SPOS is my #1 favorite podcast. Keep leading, brother.

    Reply
    • Lots of nifty tricks... now I need to find the time to build these lists (always the biggest problem).

      Many thanks for the kind words on the Podcast... I do love recording those shows :)

      Reply
      • Posted by Clay
        Mitch Joel

        If you decide to, the easiest way I've found to quickly build twitter lists is....

        1) Open TweetDeck
        2) Click the "Plus" (Add Column) button at top
        3) Click "Groups/Lists"
        4) Click "New List"
        5) Name the List (I skip the description) and choose "Private or Public"
        6) (Make sure you're in the right account if you manage multiple in Tweetdeck)
        7) When you start typing a username in the "Filter" box on the left, it automatically pulls up accounts by username and avatar.

        It took me about 20 seconds & only a few clicks to build a "Toronto" list and add you & Saul Colt & Sarah Prevette.

        You can also then add people later by clicking on avatars in TweetDeck. User -> Add to Group/List.

        You're right. Other than this method, I've found it cumbersome & time consuming to build twitter lists.

        Reply
  • Posted by Jason Arican
    Jason Arican

    I do think that the "Twitter Elite" could perhaps be a little less judgmental and a little less inclusive (for their own benefit) but Twitter is what you make of it and I'm not here to tell anyone what he or she should be doing with an account.

    I agree in that there isn't much reason to blindly follow everyone (except for DM'ing), and a lot of reasons not to.

    The only steadfast rule that I have is to at least look at the profile of everyone who follows me. After that, I either consciously or sub-consciously look at # of followers, follower ratio, content of tweets, # of replies, etc. That all plays into my decision of whether or not to follow back.

    Outside of that, I tend to err on side of giving people a chance. I have private lists and will put new followers in "trying out". If I don't care too much for the content, I'll unfollow after a week or so.

    Reply
    • So, who is this "Twitter Elite"? Who is this A-List? Where does it exist and who gets on it?

      Like you, I make the same judgement calls (in much the same way). The only addition (and, that's what this post is about) it to also meet great people by seeing who those people follow.

      Reply
  • Posted by Rob
    Mitch Joel

    Totally agree with your reasoning here. I've never understood the logic behind "courtesy follows". It's hard enough keeping track of the people I do want to follow, even with lists, and the groups I've set up in Tweetdeck.

    I'm after quality over quantity. That isn't snobbery at all, it's just smart. If I followed back everyone who follows me it would add so much noise and clutter to my feed, and most of it I frankly wouldn't be interested in anyway. I'm sure many of the people I follow would feel the same about me... I'd rather they didn't follow me at all than follow me out of courtesy and then ignore what I have to say.

    Reply
    • It's a preference thing. While I'm with you on this, there are many who think that Twitter is one big party, and you just never know who you'll meet or how that individual might impact your life. It's a fair strategy... it's just not one I subscribe to, because I meet those varied types of people by looking and who people are following and connect to as many @ replies, etc... that I get.

      Reply
  • Posted by Devon
    Mitch Joel

    The arrogance in being a twitter snob isn't simply that one assigns value by the arbitrary means of following those who are already followed. It's the "twitter elite" mindset that anyone who follows everybody back is ignoring the vast majority of those that they follow, but surely, most of their own followers are paying close attention to them. After all, why wouldn't they--they're the most valuable players on twitter--how could they not be? Just look at those ratios!

    There are plenty of ways to intellectualize around it, but twitter--through the fame-mongering of its initially idealistic creators--rapidly degenerated into MySpace 2.0. It's not about the connections to meaningful individuals--whenever you hear people blogging or tweeting about forging connections, it's via some serendipitous accident--it's just about the metrics. I have more "friends" than you, therefore, I'm more important.

    This is exactly how we got Tila Tequila.

    Reply
    • I don't agree Devon. I think Twitter can be used to broadcast and Twitter can be used for conversation (one-to-one, many-to-many, etc...). I don't consider celebrities the "Twitter Elite" just because they have a lot of followers and don't follow back. I think they're using a channel to broadcast that allows them to circumvent traditional media and have a direct connection with their fans (which is a good thing).

      How people use Twitter is a choice. Figuring out who to follow? Well, that was the point of this Blog post.

      Reply
  • Posted by William Xifaras - Do Time
    Mitch Joel

    Great post; why follow everyone? It's tantamount to being friends with each person one meets offline everyday. That would include salesmen, the girl working at the corner cafe, friends of relatives, etc.. A waste of precious time with negligible value.

    Reply
    • It's understandable why some may want to follow everyone... it's just not an effective strategy for me. I like to pick and choose and then allow the "wisdom of the crowds" to help me find other gems.

      Reply
  • Posted by Ari
    Mitch Joel

    "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."

    How is following someone, Mitch, evidence of being connected to that person? I follow Queen Noor of Jordan on Twitter... but I'd hardly say I'm connected to her.

    Reply
    • Just because you are connected to someone, it doesn't mean that they are connected to you... but that wasn't my point. He chose to be connected to certain people that I found interesting. I didn't follow him under the assumption that those people were following him back. I followed him because he is connecting to interesting people... people I was not connected to at all.

      Reply
  • Posted by Dori Zinn
    Mitch Joel

    I wrote a post about my thoughts on this same situation this past summer. Thanks for sharing yours!

    http://dorizinn.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/the-great-unfollow/

    Reply
  • Posted by Amber
    Amber

    I agree with you completely. After all, Twitter started as a service to allow you to connect with your friends. I don’t understand why so many people are starting the endless plight of attempting to become “Twitter famous.” Even if that is your goal, you might as well show those who stop by your profile reasons why they should be following you, not giving them a shot at gaining a follower for themselves. You want fellow “tweeters” to follow you because they find you entertaining or informative, not because they’re looking to increase their own number of followers.
    Thanks for the read,
    Amber

    Reply
  • Posted by Rusty Cawley
    Mitch Joel

    About three years ago, I created a Twitter account for a client. About eight months ago, that client went out of business, but we've left the Twitter account open. The final tweet says, basically, "We no longer tweet here."

    That account still gains roughly three new followers per week. That tells me folks are following only in hope that we will follow them back. if they bothered to actually read the Twitter feed, they would know there's no one there to follow back.

    What does that tell you about the value of reciprocal following?

    Reply
    • Are you sure they are real people and not just automated bots? Are you sure they are not real individuals or companies just looking for auto-follows?

      Some real people follow any and every company just to get a follow-back and up their numbers.

      Have you changed the bio as well and put in caps that you're out of business? Have you considered deleting the account? People may be following in hopes that you will tweet once again.

      There could be many reasons - and some of them may not be because that person has any real interest in you or connecting to a brand - as to why that happens. Most people who no longer tweet delete their account.

      Reply
  • Posted by Patricia
    Mitch Joel

    It's such a pleasure to see that someone gets it. I am in several LinkedIn groups where people flock to list their Twitter usernames and expect to follow and be followed by everyone who lists them. Sure, I'll investigate and exchange tweets with some, but not everyone automatically makes the cut. It's hard enough keeping up with the content coming from those I appreciate and that have valuable posts. Adding another couple hundred just to say I did . . . not happening.

    When I first joined Twitter it seemed so smart to autofollow everyone who followed me. I stopped that, too, because I quickly discovered who was following me because of the quality of what I write and who was following me for a short time just to see if I'd follow them back. So now, if someone takes the time to actually send me a message asking me to check out something, I will, but there's no "auto" to my follows!

    Reply
    • It's pretty easy to get people to follow you - just connect with them in a genuine way. Lately, I've been following more people than I usually do. It's been a little depressing. I get tons of auto-direct messages asking me to download their free PDF or how to follow them on LinkedIn. I'd love to say that the good outweighs the bad, but I'm not feeling a rise in quality content/new connections (yet).

      Reply
  • Posted by Alice
    Alice

    Following every single person that follows you is sooo unnecessary, especially if you're really involved in Twitter and not there to just promote your product or service. It's about quality not quantity for me and I have 2 profiles, one for my blog and one for my new business. I like growing them organically and receiving great tweets and especially information from both followers and those I follow.

    Reply
    • I read all of the bios and there are just way too many people who can help me "master sales" or make millions online... just not for me. I'm happy if they want to follow me, but I'm not all that interested in sales pitches and motivational tweets.

      Reply
  • Posted by Mika Kiviranta
    Mitch Joel

    For starter I need to say that I read your blog from time to time. But more often I listen your podcast. Mostly I like what you write and share and I get thoughts to think about. So far so good.

    But Mitch, what is this Ignore Your Customer thing?

    What, you may ask? Picture this, a person follow you on Twitter, read your blog, listen to your podcast, RT your blog post, doing WOM about you,
    buy your book and what that person get back? Yes, he get back information and knowledge for sure. So what's wrong?

    I think we don't necessarily see a whole picture here. In my view of point is that this follower is a prospect or in this case your customer not just some faceless spammer. He bought your book. Can you consider him a paying customer?

    And what is that you give back to that customer here what we call Social Media? You don't follow back because person hasn't followers good enough, you ignore every RT he makes and you don't reply at once. As I asked you on Twitter: "How long someone bother RT or praise your stuff when you ignore that guy completely?"

    Like newspapers and TV which broadcast their stuff without listening and communicating with their customers. You are preaching that they are history. Mitch, how are you different from them? Are you and other social media snobs just a new authority now? I think there is a deeper psychological aspect to consider to get that picture right.

    Reply
    • Did you read my Blog post? It doesn't sound like you did. I follow people who connect with me. I follow people who are interesting to me. I just don't follow everybody, simply because they're following me.

      I actually clicked over to your profile on more than a few occasions. Do you know why I don't follow you? The majority of your tweets are in a language I don't speak/understand. That means I'll be getting tweets I can't engage with. If there's something important that you want to chat about it or connect to me about, you can do that in a more direct way, here on the Blog (like we're doing now), on Facebook, etc...

      I also use Twitter differently than you do (obviously). I don't live on it or respond to any and every retweet. That doesn't make it "wrong" - I just use it in a different way. I'm often on the road or not gazing at Twitter, so I do miss a lot and tend to engage for the few minutes that I am "playing along." I don't stress over it because I have other platforms (like this Blog) that fall more inline with my strategy.

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        Actually I read your post and listened that podcast. I just was on Mark Schaefer side with this issue.

        Mark followed me way earlier than this twitter smack-down was out and replied to me when I tweeted him. I think it's more human way than not answering anything. Being a human touches lives, snobbish never will.

        Reply
        • So, it's not human to connect with you here? It has to happen on Twitter and it's dictated by the speed with which someone "follows" you based on when you follow them?

          That's fine if that's your pace for Twitter, it's not mine. If my way of using Twitter doesn't work for you, I'm ok if you don't follow me there (it's not for everybody). Plus, if you like staying connected to my content, I'm fine with just having you listen to a Podcast or leaving a comment on a Blog post here and there.

          My expectations of others is not defined by my own, personal usage and beliefs in these channels. They are predicated on what interests me and then how those people connect and touch me.

          Reply
          • Posted by Mika Kiviranta
            Mitch Joel

            We are human right here and now. It's sad that we can't be it on Twitter too. For me Twitter is two-way street, so is social media.

            I don't care if person is from "A-list" or something else, it has to go both way.

            So I finally unfollowed you. Lots of RTs behind. Obviously there's no more.
            I just don't see your tweets now, so I'm missing all info from you.
            You have great content here so I think I have to come back from time to time.

            Reply
  • Posted by shilpa
    Mitch Joel

    Good post. And loved ths discussion in the comments section. Following or not following people is like two sides of a coin.. when you flip it you can only see one side. When I started in twitter first.. I found people in all areas that I was interested in... the result I was overwhelmed and almost left twitter.
    What I did... cleaned the weed and started from scratch to find topics that I was the MOST INTERESTED in and then added to it. I sometimes follow people back immeditely if they are related to what I am interested in..

    Reply
    • I think that you represent the majority of users. The idea is to find the healthy balance between not getting too overwhelmed and finding enough value that there's some level of serendipity and surprise. I don't believe you have to follow everybody back to have that. Every day, I'm adding new and exciting people - just not everybody... otherwise it becomes noise.

      Reply
  • Posted by samuel welsh
    Mitch Joel

    being a snob is never good really

    Reply
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