My Twitter Follower Philosophy…what is yours?

I have a great friend (in real life) who is an internet guru. So, about 7 months ago she called and mentioned to me that the people I follow here are “all over the map”: horoscope folks, quoting people, housewives.

I agreed. “Why? She asked, do you follow all of those people back?” I told her I do because I learn from them all. Well, she said, I wouldn’t. I only follow a select few, and those are the people I can learn from and are “quality”.

Pondering her words for a while, I had to reflect on real life. If I only associated with marketers my whole life..I would have been a total bore. More important is that my life (up to now) would have lost its luster. I wouldn’t have met some of my wonderful artist friends, my speaker friend, the friend who nursed my Mom for years. My client from Marshalls became a lifelong buddy, though she’s a housewife…I always learn great life lessons from her (Patti Mae).

In fact, I would have missed out on having this diverse, maybe weird group of amazing friends who have been there for me, and taught me all kinds of things.

So, “yes” I do follow back all the authentic people who follow me. There are lots of them. Some become quite special to me, like @DiannaHuff (Dianna Huff) (who said she’s been reading my Creative Corner column for years), @wilsonellis (Wilson Ellis) who always remembers what i’m doing, and asks me about it, @theBeanCast who has an online radio show an a great little grean brand, @relevance who always points out when I say something good, and remains silent when I don’t. @kansasauthor gives me a morning chuckle on the state of the world, and @AlFerretti (Al Ferretti) who always says “thank you” for whatever I yak about at the moment. @skeeterhansen (Skeeter Hansen) is always sending out great new ideas, that I actually use.

Narrow my focus? Look for prospects? Nah…I’ll keep doing what I’m doing on Twitter, making friends. My advertising agency will do fine and thrive. It always does.

Well, that’s my Twitter philosophy. Maybe I’m not focused on business, or have great clarity of goals…but I’ve always been rich and blessed with many wonderful friends…like you!

You can follow me Lois Geller on Twitter

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24 Responses to “My Twitter Follower Philosophy…what is yours?”

  • I try to front-load the my list with a broad spectrum of marketing/advertising/writing folks, but then the rest is all serendipity. I may learn more from my front list, but have way more fun with my back list. Together, it’s all good.

  • avatar Debra Ellis says:

    Hi Lois,

    My philosophy is similar, but it is evolving. I used to follow everyone who followed me, but now I vet my followers more. The dm’s promoting everything from increasing followers to mafia families were too much to manage. I follow everyone who has a conversation with me.

    The challenge in building a community is to have enough diversity to promote creative dissent, but not so much that it creates chaos.

  • avatar Tee Morris says:

    Hi, Lois. I’m Tee Morris, the writer behind ALL A TWITTER and SAMS TEACH YOURSELF TWITTER IN TEWN MINUTES, and the host of Bird House Rules, the companion podcast for both books. In All a Twitter, I am allowed to deep dive into “My Follower Philosophy”; and being a long time user of Twitter (defined here as Spring 2007 when I first started tweeting) I have extremely strong opinions and high standards towards Twitters I follow, Twitters I don’t, and (yes) Twitters I block.

    I believe that Twitter (and Social Media on a whole) is about engagement. You need to talk to your network, and that engagement goes far beyond inspirational quotes, pimping your product, links to sites far and wide, and throwing out the rhetorical question of the hour. When was the last time you asked people in your network how they are doing? Held conversations? Answered questions asked of you? And how do you cultivate your numbers? I know of people that have followed me on Twitter, only to follow me again days later or sending me DM asking me to validate my ID or tell me to follow them on Facebook. How sincere is that? (Many times this kind of behavior is traced back to auto-follow services. Two words for those sites: Security risks.)

    I am currently writing up an essay for the Bird House about how I will never reach the massive, 10K+ followers on Twitter because I do not blindly follow people that follow me. I follow those that add to my signal as opposed to my noise. I believe true success in Twitter is more about the quality of your followers, how well you converse with them, and how clearly you connect with them. How clear is your signal, or is all your producing noise? Are you in Twitter to connect with people or to simply collect numbers for bragging rights?

    I find a Follow Philosophy essential with all Social Media initiatives, and when it comes to Twitter I believe the best follower is one who engages.

    Great post, Lois. Thank you.

  • avatar Al Gates says:

    I have an issue with the concept that “Twitter is more about the quality of your followers, how well you converse with them, and how clearly you connect with them”. Please. I would suggest that anytime you have over 20/30 that you follow and they follow you, that having a ‘quality” 140 character conversation or dialogue with them would take up a lot of your time. Unless, of course, you are telling them all the same thing. Twitter is a way of keeping in touch with some people…not hundreds. Sure it’s nice to keep in touch with people that have similar interests….there must be thousands of people in the global community with similar interest as you. Quality of your followers has a ring of elitism or ‘my followers are better than your followers….Duh……
    Twitter is still growing and people are still trying to figure out how best to use this 140 character thing.
    It’s still a personal preference on how to use Twitter. It’s technology folks. Have fun with it. It does not replace the human touch. Never did. Never will.

  • avatar Ann Evanston says:

    I think Lois has missed the point of quality over quantity – there can be diversity in quality. and if you study Twitterology, you know that your clients can come from different walks of life!

    Ann Evanston
    The Warrior is Within You

  • avatar Lois Geller says:

    Thank you Tee for responding to my post. With all your credentials, I am honored you have taken the time to respond to me.

    I hope I didn’t imply that you should follow everyone who follows you. I follow real people. I check out their last few posts and make sure they’re authentic. Then I follow them.

    It’s funny that my core friends that I started with on Twitter are not always the ones I engage in conversations with here now.For instance I chat often with @nhwebdesign who turns out to be Matt Nelson, someone I gave a scholarship to a few years back, when I was on the Board of the Direct Marketing Idea Exchange in NY. He found me here, and visited my offices recently. He gives me great web advice.

    Other people like @tabaka (Karen) always gives me grief because I only wear black shoes. I’m from NY originally and we wear black everything. She’s encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone when I speak, and try red. She’s also a Scrabble person.

    Maybe my philosophy comes from the fact that I’ve spent my career in direct marketing. I use those skills now of communicating and engaging to build our clients relationships with their customers and prospects.

    Of course in direct marketing, we speak to lists of people who have an affinity for our product. Here, we’re talking to all kinds of people. That’s what makes it fun for me…when someone comes out of the woodwork and takes the time to teach me how to use Google Wave. Or, @amyafrica who helped me to re-think my blog, or the person from New Zealand, who told me so much about his country..I want to go there.

    So, thank you again for telling us about your philosophy. Mine’s a little different. That’s what makes horse races.

  • avatar larry says:

    this only follow a niche group of folks or “quality” followers is a crock that people just keep repeating with nothing to back it up. It would be like telling someone to only let “quality” people read their ad in the newspaper. You never know which follower will turn into a friend or a connection (i have made many through twitter) but if i spent all my time trying to vet who i followed i would be spending way too much time on twitter and probably would have missed the folks that have come to be more than mere twitter followers.

    here is a simple tweet i post occasionally to explain another reason for wanting a very WIDE range of followers: “i don’t follow people to hear an echo of my own thoughts i follow to hear new voices and ideas
    and to learn and grow beyond where i am today”

  • avatar Tula Alcocer says:

    Hi Tee, I absolutely agree with you! I do not blindly follow people that follow me. I first try to connect with them and if they connect with me, so then I follow them. I think twitter is not numbers, is all about real connection with people. If they don’t connect with you and you don’t connect with them, so it doesn’t make sense to follow… And of course, you can connect with anyone that responds to you! whatever area they are.

    Tula Alcocer.

  • My philosophy when it comes to Twitter is to review each and every connection that comes into me. It can be kind of a pain sometimes when I don’t check it for a few days but it’s the only sure fire way I have found to make sure the only people I follow back are ones that I think I might get something interesting from or might actually want to respond to. Then I also try to classify them and add them to the proper list groupings I have set up and also to the TweetDeck group that they best fit into. This way I am always dividing my conversation by context and it allows me to continue to be efficient with my time on a day to day basis when managing my Twitter streams. I guess my motto would be “Slow and Steady Growth”

    Great post Lois. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • avatar Chuck Flagg says:

    I try to follow back everyone who follows me. At first I was following people I would like to do business with, then my suppliers, then others in my field. I am finding that I have been able to make connections with people I would have never met because of Twitter. I may do business with some in the future, but I will learn far more than I ever had anticipated.

    One of my mentors is Nolan Burris with and he calls Twitter the Tupperware and Avon parties his mom was doing in the 60’s of the 2000’s. We have the ability to talk about the new light down the street, the happenings in our community and Fred’s operation before ever selling. It is all about trust and relationships and I am greatful I have the ability to learn from so many.

    Wonderful post.

    My best,


  • avatar Yvonne says:

    GREAT!! I love your philosophy and I feel that same way!!! It is indeed to have relationships that are a blessing and adds value to your life!! I sincerely felt your heart in your blog and you a rare jewel indeed!!


  • I am completely new to the Twitter game. If you don’t give things in life a try you’ll never know what you are missing out on. I do like to engage with people who put in a photograph and have something interesting to say which appeals to me. I like to have a laugh and Stephen Fry certainly does that. I am learning a lot as I find people certainly help if you ask. I have actually had an order which is a bonus.

  • avatar Paul Zink says:

    I look at someone’s most recent dozen or so tweets: if they’re all re-tweets, forget them. If they’re all meaningful quotes from deep thinkers, ditto. If there is more than one, maybe two, sales-oriented tweets (selling something vs. about sales and marketing), they’re history. It goes without saying that pontificating is a black mark (at least pontificating with a straight face). And I tend not to follow politically conservative tweeters unless they demonstrate intelligence, balance, restraint, and an appreciation of good cigars.

    On the other hand, if a new follower (or a recommended tweeter) makes me laugh, he’s in. If he or she points out, or points me to, at least one or two things I didn’t know or haven’t seen or heard, I’ll follow him or her gladly. And most important, if someone on Twitter looks like he or she is having a plain old good time, and/or would be a fun person to chat with at a cocktail party, then I’m interested.

    Exceptions: Animal Rights supporters and beautiful flirtatious women are exempt from the above-mentioned guidelines.

  • I like your Twitter philosophy and it’s obviously working for you, so don’t change a thing. People have wondered how you can connect with so many people, but if you think about all of the people you connect with offline (family, friends, if you have kids then add in their friends & families, sports, work, school, etc.) that’s a lot of people, too. So why can’t you have different types of Twitter (or other social media) friends as well? My online social media friends include work people from all aspects of my career (past & present), plus authors that I love to read, friends from my schooling & parents of my kids’ friends, as well as some Twitter people who just make me laugh.

    I make every effort to follow people who communicate with me and I’ve been known to block people who send auto-DMs…but it’s a personal preference, just like making friends in the offline world.

  • avatar Are Morch says:

    Hi Lois.

    Great article, and you brought up some interesting points here. Plus there are several great responses here.

    I had one account (this account is still active) where I did mostly auto follow. Plus got myself into some follow programs of various kind. I learned a lot from this.

    Discovered that a large amount of the followers I had was very unresponsive. Plus most of the contact from them in my Twitter Stream was spams. And there was a lot of follower trains that picked up my account. Most of these accounts followed me just to unfollow.

    My DMs I had to take off, just got way to much spam.

    Today I have new Twitter account where I now just do manual follow. And I follow a little the same philosophy as you to follow back authentic people.

    Quantity or Quality? Hmm.. Well I find both quantity and quality to be fairly wage. It is hard to define what really is ‘To much’ or ‘To little’.. I have seen people with large amount of followers and people with lower amount of followers talk about these issues. To me it is just a different perspective of the same issue.

    Do I believe that Mashable’s soon 2 million followers is all quality? No, of course not. Mashable follow a low number of these back themselves. But I can’t imagine that they will go out public criticize some of their followers not being quality followers. Guy Kawasaki have a different approach where he follow all of his followers back. Again many of these followers is not quality followers. But his message still gets through.

    So I am bit unsure who defines the lines between Quantity and Quality on a Social Media Channel like Twitter.

    I am not supporting either Mashable or Guy Kawasakis approach, but these are just examples of why I find hard to define Quantity vs Quality.. As said in the start I try as best I can to follow authentic people. Still have a lot to learn here.

    With Twitters extensive growth this is really interesting topic to follow. So look forward to see more comments here…

    Cheers.. Are

  • avatar Lois Geller says:

    Dear Are,
    It is so nice to hear from you about your Twitter Philosophy.

    I’m glad you abandoned your auto follow. You’re right about the quality vs. quantity issue..but when was quantity important, if it has little value?

    For my long career I’ve worked in the direct marketing field and a list was great if it pulled better than a 2% response rate for a real offer. So, maybe that is true here too. If 2% of the people you meet have value (you learn from them, they become friends, they refer you somewhere)…then I think that’s a home run.

    Then you have to look at your universe of people. If you have 1,000 followers and 2% are going to become friends, then that’s only 20. If you have 200 followers, you might find 4 people of value.

    So, in some ways the higher the quantity…the more value you’ll have in the long run.

    Anyway, that’s my thought once again…on this subject.

  • avatar Robert Medak says:

    My philosophy of following is to follow those with something I have in common, and post a bio. I am not out to see how many people I can follow, or get to follow me. I believe in quality, and posting things that may be of use to others, or answer a question if I can.

    I use social networks for relationships, not just numbers.

  • avatar Lois Geller says:

    Thank you Robert. I like the fact that you follow your won style on Twitter. You look for people with whom you have something in common. You probably are the same way with your friends. That’s a good thing.
    I can’t stand the folks here who buy followers, and don’t know them either.
    So, cheers to you, and a happy 2010!
    Nice meeting you too.

  • avatar Skeeter says:

    Hi Robert,
    You make some good points about the quality but I have talked to many people who follow people they have nothing in common with. This is like a bonus when you learn things from people that you never thought you would. I am not saying to follow people you don’t have anything in common with, I am just saying it’s possible to learn from those that we don’t have common interest with.

    Thanks for the comment,

  • avatar LoisGeller says:

    Thank you, Skeeter…for taking the time to enter the discussion. Your ideas are so valuable and we appreciate them.

  • Hey Everybody! Great info here, as always! Lois, thanks for another thought-provoking and debate-engendering article. Well done. 😉

    As for me, I’ve delved into all conflicting “how tos” regarding Twitter and dont’ really know what to think. Go after quality. Go after quantity. Hard sell. Soft sell. Don’t sell. Ugh!

    So now I’m doing my own thing. I’ve got several accounts for several different niches, and I’m taking different approaches with them all.

    One thing I’ve noted recently is that Twitter itself took action by introducing the 2000 Follows limit. For those that don’t know… once you hit 2000 Follows, you can only send new Follows (if you’re playing the Follow/Followback game) at a max of 10% of your current Followers. So, if you’ve got 500 Followers, you can add at most 50 more. While it’s still theoretically possible to build up a lot of Followers using the Follow/Followback strategy, it will now take a lot longer to do. Months instead of days. And this probably a good thing.

    Of course, there’s the ongoing debate — quantity of Followers vs. quality — so for those who are not concerned about numbers this new limit may not matter.

    Twitter introduced the 2000 limit to stop all the Follow scripts that were giving people 10K+ Followers virtually overnight. Of course, the whole notion of following that many people is absurd. At best we will actually actively follow a handful of people. So, Twitter has dealt a serious body-blow to this strategy (not to mention reducing the exponentially expanding load on it’s servers).

    And while I’m very jealous of those who managed to build huge follower bases using the Follow/Followback game, I suppose for all of us it will be better in the long run. It may not eliminate spammers entirely, but it will sure put a big dent in their activities.

    I’m still not convinced that Twitter really sells anything directly, despite all the hoopla and claims from various people trying to sell “Twit-rich” schemes.

    I seem to be getting steady growth just providing good content (though don’t tell anyone, I DO use some automation tools, too). I don’t do any “hard” selling. In fact, for the most part I’m micro-blogging and providing info. In time (theoretically) some of my Followers should eventually convert into leads and/or customers.

    I’ve only been doing the active Twitter thing for a short time now, as part of an integrated marketing strategy. It’s really too soon to draw any definitive conclusions. We all want instant gratification in our marketing, but the reality is that you only get that “instant” gratification when you’ve built up to having traction/momentum (and/or you’ve “bought” your way there with advertising). So, insofar as my “Twitter experiment” goes, time will tell and we shall see…

    One other thing….

    Twitter is beginning to “mature,” and for the first time since it’s introduction, it’s growth has begun to plane. This may be due to a variety of factors, including the novelty wearing off and some of the new rules.

    But I also think it has to do with human nature. Being effective with Twitter requires constant and steady WORK. It takes effort and dedication, not to mention thought, creativity and energy.

    Let’s be frank… how many people who got into Twitter because it was the “site de jour” are really going to do all this and stick with it? It’s pretty clear to me, unless I’m really missing something big, that just throwing up a Twitter account and putting a few tweets out there is NOT going to sell anything!

    It might irritate the hell out of your new Followers, though. 😮 So, IMHO, most will lose interest in regular Tweeting (if not Twitter entirely) and go back to whatever it was they were doing pre-Twitter…

    I think, for day to day networking, most people find Facebook easier and even “better” in many ways. It certainly doesn’t require the same degree of “maintenance.” Of course, Facebook has the most confusing interface ever invented by man… but that’s another story.

  • avatar Lois Geller says:

    Hi Karl,

    Your comments are so interesting to me, especially that Twitter is beginning to flatten, and I didn’t know about that…did you read it somewhere?

    I also like your thought that many people test things, and then abandon them as the “site de jour”..that’s a good one Karl. I agree. I speak at many large conferences and often someone will say “I’ll try that marketing idea, Lois.”

    When they say ‘try”…I know they’re never going to do anything. The beauty of any marketing program is that people who stick with it almost always succeed. They need to test, get rid of losers, roll out with winners…and keep positive about the outcome.

    I agree too about Facebook. Where do I find you on Twitter, Karl. Thanks! You made my day.

  • avatar Joe says:

    I agree with you 100 percent! If we were all the same, life would be boring. More importantly, we would accomplish little. We need all of us because we all have something different to offer the world. That’s how we progress. If we didn’t have opposing viewpoints, then things would never change for the better.

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