Why I’m not following you back on Twitter

twitterI’ve been using Twitter for a few months now(*), and I can’t imagine life without it. But I’m still not sure how I’ll want to use it in the long run. I see many people trying to get as many followers as possible and then using it as a glorified marketing tool (similar to RSS or email newsletters). I know ‘me marketing’ is hot, but the longer I think about it I believe these people will eventually kill Twitter. And I’m way too fond of it to let it die without a fight.

The way I see it there are three basic ways to use Twitter.

1. Inner circle only.

This is how I’m doing it right now. I follow a limited number of people, most of whom are either personal friends or Dutch WordPress experts. This keeps the number of incoming messages manageable, and I enjoy reading (and replying to) most of them. I can handle a few more, but I’ll probably never reach triple digits.

2. Broadcasting.

Other people put up a “follow me on Twitter” badge on their blog. And in their email signature. And on a bumper sticker. They have thousands of followers and mostly send out mostly uninteresting messages about their professional efforts. I’m sure there are benefits to being in the spotlight like this, but I’d feel really silly tweeting about what I had for lunch to thousands of total strangers. Getting a large following works best if you’re a celebrity or a well-known expert in your field. If you’re not, there’s options 3.

3. Total mayhem.

Most of the follow email notifications I get now are from users who not only have a huge following, but who also follow thousands of others. Probably because following someone back on Twitter is considered good karma. They expect me to follow them simply because them follow me. And they’ve done this to all their other followers too.

I can only imagine what their update list must look like. How can they possibly keep track of it all? My guess is most of them don’t. They probably don’t read most incoming tweets. They broadcast to their following and probably only read direct replies. And so do most of their ‘friends’. This totally bypasses the social element that makes Twitter fun and will eventually ruin the experience for this type of user. If not for all of us. The number of these type of ‘invites’ seems to be on the increase.


I’m becoming more and more certain that option 1 is right for me. I tweet about WP-Cumulus from time to time, but if you want to know about its development you’re way better off using this blog’s RSS feed. Twitter has been called the social media equivalent of a bar, and I like smaller, more intimate venues best. I might eventually even make my updates private to keep you from listening at the door. This is my inner circle. If you like shouting short messages to a football stadium full of people, be my guest. The arena is down the street.

* = Actually, I signed up once before, in March of 2007, but being an early adopter and trying to keep it ‘inner circle’ was no fun.


  1. There is one more option that is a hybrid of options 1 and 3 (and 2, if you will). This option involves using a Twitter application, like TweetDeck, that enables you to create groups. Essentially, you will be going the total mayhem route in regards to your follow methods and the inner circle route in regards to how you view incoming tweets. In your application, define a group that consists of your inner circle and make it your main view. Kick the total mayhem view off to the side and check it when you are interested in the noise. Your twitter page will be a mess, but who goes there anyway?

    Comment by Eric Ragsdale — April 28, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

  2. Hi Eric. I figured that’s why people like tweetdeck so much, but I think it’s a little unfair. If you’re going to follow people, you shouldn’t disregard their tweets. When you follow someone, it should be because you wont to know what they’re up to imho. Not just because it will add to your followers count. It’s like inviting someone to sit next to you and then disregarding them completely.

    Oh and I frequently use my twitter page. The mobile version is quite good on my phone, and I only just now found a good (native) Linux app. So no, I don’t want it to get messy.

    Comment by Roy — April 28, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  3. I have to agree with you about the majority of people using Twitter as a glorified marketing tool and an RSS alternate. I haven’t decided if I will stick with Twitter yet, but in my opinion if people are going to use it just to drive traffic to their blogs it’s a big loss. At the end of the day RSS is much better. Easier to save and organize feeds, where on Twitter if you don’t visit a link immediately it’s likely to get buried in the stream.

    It’s also going to be interesting to see what happens as Facebook opens up it’s stream and Twitter like clients for Facebook start to emerge.

    Comment by Michael — April 30, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  4. Roy: I’m in total agreement about your sentiments. Twitter has been an incredible tool for reaching out to several technology communities I’m involved in. However I can’t help but wonder what my Twitter experience will be like six months from now. How to maintain the high value factor without the incessant noise and Twitter junkies cluttering my inbox?

    Comment by Mark Ginnebaugh — May 3, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  5. The non-social use: Then there’s also the option of using twitter as an API port to various services like texthog.com and others..

    Comment by Mikkel Breum — May 8, 2009 @ 9:51 am

  6. First thanks for the WP-Cumulus widget. Got it installed on my WP blog.

    I have been using twitter for some time now and am finding it easy going. since as of now i have limited followers and people i follow, i dont mind. but when it gets too much, its bound to get going haywire. I have seen some trying to get any one and every one on their network to do this marketing stuff…

    is there a way to stop / block these ppl. one way is that you never follow them, but people who may visit my tweetsite may look into their tweetsite creating a scope for marketing.

    Comment by Hemal — May 18, 2009 @ 9:44 am