The Twitterers Dilemma

When I signed up for Twitter, I had just about no meatspace friends that were also on. I relied on people like Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, Merlin Mann and John Gruber to be the people that would define how useful Twitter would be as a tool for me. I noticed that people would begin to follow me because I was following one of these high profile early adopters. I began following people that followed me because I was flattered that people wanted to follow me.

My list of people I was following was full of bloat because there were people who were just updating Twitter with their blog posts. I’m sure there are people that appreciate that, but I have an RSS reader for that purpose. (But I’d love MTA service alerts through Twitter) I thinned out who I was following when I got tired of looking at Tweets of links. Eventually, meatspace friends came along like Tape, Rob, Shawn and Sharilyn. I made other friends through Twitter like Alec Peden, and convinved others like Amanda Gordon that Twitter is useful. Then I discovered that people I knew as acquaintances like Jason, Melanie, Ariel, Doug, Chad and Mark had Twitter accounts and that’s how we stay updated on what is going on with each other.

The dilemma emerges where people are following thousands of Twitter accounts with (in my opinion) the hope that thousands of people will follow them too. While I can admire the work it takes to sit and navigate to the “follow” button thousands of times in a day/week, it can also get a little frustrating looking at a profile and seeing that less than 10% of the people who someone is following is following them back.

Is this spam? Twitterspam? Is it the dreaded buzzword BACN? I’m not sure, but I know that I’m now speaking to people that I know can’t speak back. The past few days I’ve seen about 10 requests from people doing this inflation tactic to get friends. So there’s a question that needs to be answered here.

Is your Twitter account going to personal or social?

There are people that accept anyone who follow them like Robert Scoble, who follows just about all of his 15,000 followers. Thousands of people follow his tweets, and he follows thousands of people. But then there are people like Merlin Mann who is following only about 1% of his 10,000 followers. My issue exists on a much smaller scale, but the question still remains for me. For those of you on Twitter, how do you handle this question?

Twitter Role Call:

3 thoughts on “The Twitterers Dilemma”

  1. I don’t see the point of having thousands, or even hundreds of friends. I use Twitter to keep track of personal friends and people I find interesting. I usually get two types of Followers: All you can eat twitterers and people who add me based on a recent tweet. I think the latter are from people who track keyword and the former are people who add anyone as they show up on the public timeline.

    I tend you check out anyone who follows me and see if I find them interesting. Usually anyone that is following 1000+ people, I just block them.

    I’m not sure where this is going but I do agree with you.

  2. I only follow people I know or that I find interesting (rstevens, Wil Wheaton, etc.). There are a couple of random BS twitterers who are following me but I really don’t give a crap who they are. They just seem to be trying to drum up views for themselves somehow.

    On the other hand, I don’t really use twitter very much because I just haven’t found a Great Need for it, or haven’t found the “it” for me.

  3. This is a great topic Rob. The main reason I joined twitter was because out of all the various web apps I’ve seen over the years, twitter is the one that most makes me think to myself “damn, now why didn’t I think of that?!?”. Excluding the twitter folks with mass followings like Scoble, Arrington & Sarah Meyers, the other folks I follow are people I just happen to have met online (usually through Flickr) and find interesting.

    I’ve tried to encourage other friends to use it, but they tell me they have enough trouble remembering to update their Facebook status.

    Anyway, let’s consider 2 approaches of people with high follower counts:

    1. The Robert “I follow everyone who follows me” Scoble approach
    2. The Michael” “I’ll only follow people who are worthy of my following” Arrington approach

    Personally I prefer #1. Scoble seems like more of a man of the people to me, while Arrington is living up to his “Michael Arrogant” nickname. Even though I’m confident Scoble couldn’t care less about my tweets, I still respect that he tries. I’d apply this same logic to anyone else who takes approach #1.

    And as for the people trying to inflate their follower counts… I definitely consider that Twitterspam.

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