The debate over whether or not to return-follow all of one’s Twitter followers has been hotly contested for some time. Today, this debate should come to an end. Effective immediately, you should follow every single Twitter user that follows you.
First, some background. On Twitter, when another user follows you, he or she receives your tweets in their timeline. Something you did or said piqued curiosity, and this user wants to read more from you. Whether or not you follow them back is completely up to you.
Personally, I follow everyone back. Why? To me, it is a matter of respect. I liken a new Twitter follower to a cocktail party attendee who walks up to me while I am already speaking. Not following them back is the equivalent of turning to walk away as they begin to add their thoughts to the conversation. You wouldn’t be this rude in person, would you? Why should Twitter be any different?
Those who disagree with me have their reasons, and have voiced them publicly (most notably, Robert Scoble). A few of these reasons:
- Some followers are spammers and bots.
- Following too many users clutters the timeline.
- It is impossible to keep up with x # of users.
I will admit, these were all valid points – until Twitter introduced lists.
Twitter lists are a way to individually segment and categorize users based on any criteria you wish. Lists can be public or private. If you want to create a private list of your top 25 Tweeters, the only person that will know about the list or its members is you. See where I am going with this?
With Twitter lists, you can devote your undivided attention to a small group of Twitter users – all while respectfully return following everyone who has followed you. Brilliant!
Essentially, now you can have your Twitter cake and eat it too. If you are Ashton Kutcher or Shaq, you can return follow all 3 million of your followers, while still listening to only a small, specific list of users. (Imagine the excitement some would feel upon receiving an email notifying them that Shaq was following them on Twitter – wow.)
When building your digital personal brand it is easy to lose focus of just how important the human element can be. Take a millisecond to click a button* and show each follower that you care what they have to say too – whether or not you actually give them your full attention is up to you. (*Or, use an auto-follower tool, like this one)
Do you still disagree with me? Or, if you’ve been following a select group, have I convinced you to change your tune and bulk-follow everyone right back? Let me know!
Update: Lots of counter opinions in the comments below, loving the healthy debate! One quick point I want to add:
Many of my favorite tweeters today I found because they originally followed me (and I followed back). While sometimes tedious, I sort through my list of “all friends” every day, looking for interesting tweets and the people who write them – hoping to learn from and connect with these folks. I likely never would have found them otherwise. There is nothing fake or insincere about this. Just the opposite, I want to open the lines of communication to anyone and everyone.
Update # 2: You have to appreciate when someone comes along and sums up your argument better than you can – in 140 characters or less! @TreyPennington follows all his followers, and chimed in by saying, “Just seemed like paying attention to folks paying attention to me was only honorable thing to do.” And now, Twitter lists allow you to do so, while still keeping most of your attention on the specific tweeters you know and love.