Bringing down the Twitter snobs

It seems that Mitch Joel and I are becoming the Social Media Odd Couple.  I like Mitch. He’s smart. It’s just that I think he is so frequently wrong.

Like in his latest post, “Being a Twitter Snob is a Good Thing” when he states “it annoys many people when they follow you on Twitter and you do not follow them back. Too bad. Don’t do it.”

Mitch lives the life of a Twitter snob, exclusively following only the most select and obviously interesting people. His reasons:

  • It is a way to de-clutter a cluttered social media world.
  • Having select Twitter followers reflects better on your taste in connections
  • Having an appearance of exclusivity adds to your credibility

Before I respectfully rip Mitch a new one, let me provide two points about my own Twitter strategy:

1) I absolutely block any obvious spammers, MLM marketers and list-builders from my Twitter stream because I do not advocate these business practices. So to that extent, I am not a person who follows everybody.

2) It is a free world and you should follow any Twitter strategy that makes sense to you, including Mitch’s.

Now, having said that, Mitch my dear friend — You.  Just.  Don’t.  Get. It.

Reza Malayeri is exactly the type of person Mitch would not follow.  He is an unassuming employee of a Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle.  He has a 147 Twitter followers, none of them are “A-List” by Mitch’s standards.

A couple of months ago, Reza sent out a random, funny tweet that made me laugh out loud.  We had an exchange of corny comments and soon I was looking forward to seeing him in my Twitter stream.  Reza made a real effort to connect by following my blog, commenting and sending me jokes.

Last week I spoke to Reza for the first time.  I found out that he is a disabled U.S. Veteran.  He is an awesome parent.  He’s helping out his father by putting a family business online after working all day at the hospital.  And after connecting with another member of the {grow} community, Arminda Lindsay, he was inspired to develop, sponsor and promote a Breast Cancer Awareness charity event in his hometown.

Folks, this man is a hero.

He is an A-List human being and I am HONORED and HUMBLED to be following him.

So my first point — There is an amazing person behind every single Twitter picture. Every single one.  Who is Mitch Joel or anybody else to judge who is on the A-List?

Reza and I are now helping each other in a number of ways.  We are creating new business benefits.  How did it start?  With a random, corny tweet.

Second point — Here’s the rule of creating relationships and business benefits through Twitter: You just never know.

You never know who will connect with you, you never know how they will connect with you, and you never know where it will lead. So why would you exclude ANYBODY?

To the Twitter snobberati, I honor your freedom to follow whomever you want, but kindly suggest you are missing out on the greatest networking opportunity in the history of mankind.  And Reza too.

 

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  • Reza is awesome! He was my first Twitter acquantance that became a friend through this wonderful {grow} community. Thanks for highlighting him, Mark.

  • Reza is the man! He and I met through the VA and now he and I are joined at the hip. Very talented individual.

  • Mark, I was going to comment on this post, but since you don’t have more followers than Mitch Joel…
    I can’t agree with you more! People who pride themselves on being Twitter snobs have no idea what they’re missing out on. I made an instant connection with you after our infamous exchange of jokes. We hit it off right away, and even joined a three way joke fest with our good friend Carrie Bond. The number of followers you have, and the types of lists you are on have nothing to do with our connection. I would hate to live a life filled with friends that base everything on vanity and superficiality. Mitch Joel should be known for having the highest number of “conversation fails” on Twitter. Unfortunately he chooses to promote exclusion in a world that needs more unity.

  • Brilliant post. You have stated perfectly something I have fumbled over for a year. Putting this into the files for use in presentations (with credit, of course).

    As the Dalai Lama says, “Though people often laugh when I say it, I myself always want more friends.” This is a perfect example of why that’s true. Thank you!

  • Hello Mark,

    thanks for posting this. Sitting here in Germany, I can watch the A-List-Accounts, might Re-Tweet their opinion and try to connect.

    But, being baclfollowed – no chance. There is a elite, that is closed.

    OK, there are some other, positive examples there as well, but the Twitter-Snobs are out there. I enjoyed a lot of good conversations with these. And it pushed my learning curve upwards. And I really hope, I was able to give something back.

    So I can totally agree with you.

    Greetings from Hamburg, Germany,
    Sven

  • Wow…

    well, I’m kinda a long time Mitch Joel fan.. and.. well.. I think I get where he’s coming from.. but.. yeah.. I kinda feel as you do as far as how to approach twitter.. and social media more generally..

    I mean I followed a twitter link to this post thinking “yeah, I hate those twitter snobs, what’s social about them anyway?”

    I guess… there’s may be a valid question as to.. the weight one should give to the virtue of your approach versus mitch’s,,, and how that weight might shift as an effect of being in your or mitch’s position… and blah blah blah..

    but as a general rule of thumb.. I’m not big on Mitch’s approach.. though I don’t judge him on it.. it just means he feels more distant to me then.. someone else..

  • Mitch’s post had a solid point, but you found the crack clearly, and I’m saying that for 2 reasons: 1) it’s plain and simple logic that there are quality people out there that aren’t necessarily twitterati, and 2) I know Reza IRL & he’s smart & worth a real-life follow if not a Twitter follow in my opinion.

    To Mitch his due credit, he could probably explain his stance away by saying that the “quality” people on Twitter that he’s talking about have been there for a long time and, much like the cream, have risen to the top (ie. gotten the most followers/connections/whatever). Nonetheless, I say, “Go, Reza!”

  • Ah yes, the twitter snob. I follow a whole lot of people that are quite the odd bunch. Some have fame and fortune, most are closer neighbors in the way in which they live their lives. Twitter can turn into a who’s who in social circles just as quickly as any other way of communicating. The issue with Twitter is that the persona created by the author of a 140 character stream has the opportunity to express themselves any which way they feel. It is our job as an individual to follow not only whom we find entertaining but also relevant to our lives.

    I follow Rez, and I am a Veteran as well as a marketer. @thommooney.

    Thanks for the post, Mark!

  • Mark

    Geez, don’t you people sleep? : )

    For those who might be new to the blog, I sincerely like Mitch. We have done a few things together and he is one of my favorite minds on the web. So this post is coming from a place of respect and honest intellectual disagreement. Just wanted to make that clear that Mitch and I can always have disagreements and still like each other. That’s one of the things I respect about Mitch and the people on the community. We can joyfully disagree.

    Thanks so much for the great comments and insights. It was a nice surprise to see so many comments already as I get ready to head out and teach a class this morning!

  • John Piercy

    I love this article , why is there an ” A” list anyways
    So many self serving , self promoting twitter types , that think they are it !
    I call ” Bullshit ”
    I love articles like this , well done
    I’m gonna follow reza too
    JP in Canada

  • I am with you on this Mark. Having a discriminatory Twitter list doesn’t do much for growing a network. My only pre-screen process involves if the user following me @ replies people and doesn’t just broadcast.

    It’s amazing how awesome of connections you’ll stumble upon on here. Giving a non A-lister a listen can be totally rewarding. After all, the Twitter snobs weren’t always on the A-List themselves…someone had to give them a chance at one time too. I think people forget that sometimes.

  • Am I a twitter snob? Not sure.

    I used to follow back almost everybody, but eventually I hit a point where I was getting no value from my twitter stream. So I stopped doing that and now only follow back people who converse with me regularly. That way, I am deepening the connection with those who connect with me and not just auto-following back people who are following me just to get followed.

  • Mark – you couldn’t be more correct in your statement that there is an amazing person behind every single Twitter picture. That has certainly been my observation and experience as I’ve become true friends with so many of my tweeps!

    If I connect the dots back to the beginning of each of those friendships – ours included – it always leads to something personal that triggered the initial interactions.

    Reza and I met through your blog, have been following one another since, and I want to add my vote to the growing {grow} list: he IS amazing and my life is better for knowing him.

  • @Mark I don’t sleep when I’m on east coast time on the west coast 😉

  • I am only a Twitter snob when I thank someone for a shout #followfriday and the person goes WHAT? or HUH? I know the person’s been tweeting blindly just for follow back. They don’t really wanna know you, they just want to accumulate followers! Insincere people worth a block.

    I will follow anyone who shouts me (to indicate he/she has followed me) but not anyone who sending self-promotional shouts. You know…those who #ff and always with a link back to their website.

  • YL

    Reza is amazing! All around great person, with a positive attitude spreading across the VA community!

  • Mitch has some great goals and good reasons for his strategy, but those reasons are really met by Twitter lists. I list people under various headings and I check those lists frequency. That sorts out the signal from the noise and also tells others who I recommend niche-by-niche. But the Twitter stream itself is a great place of discovery that becomes rather limited when we determine not to hear new, unrecognized voices.

    Excellent rebuttal.

  • Kennedy

    I agree with everything you’re saying. But wasn’t Mitch’s main point – don’t follow random people? For example, don’t autofollow-back. Don’t worry about offending someone if you don’t choose to follow them.

    I do believe every person is an amazingly unique beautiful soul with important things to say. But I can’t read every book, I can’t read every blog, and I can’t read every tweet. If I try, I only distance myself from my “true” connections.

  • Mark – your blog is quickly becoming one of my very favorites for posts such as these. You always offer a fresh, insightful perspective that resonates and makes me think. Thanks.

  • Mark

    I’m appreciative of all your comments, especially those with dissenting opinions. I know it takes guts to disagree, so thank you for both your support and for your different perspectives. We can all grow by considering these challenges and new points of view!

    Usually I try to provide individual responses but have a few crazy things to deal with today. I know you all will understand. We’re all just doing our best — we’re in this together to connect, support each other and learn.

    Awesome, awesome comments and I thank you so very much!

  • Hi,

    Interesting point about Twitter snobs and thanks to @thefrugallife for bring this article to our attention.

    I personally don’t tend follow people who mass follow and I always take time to check out peoples profiles, their tweets and whether they are “genuine” people like mitch. Some, I notice, just add me to their twitter list to make up the numbers…

    It does not matter to me if people have 10 followers or a 1000 it’s how they interact with others that’s important ie do they just use Twitter as a megaphone and blast 100’s of tweets or do they actually listen to others?

    I personally try and take the time to read most of the tweets of people I follow, go to the links they suggest, make comments and generally try and get involved.

    So as a new kid on the block…I’m still finding my way round 🙂 And if anyone has any good tips re Twitter etiquette and how to retweet adding a comment…I’d love to know as I’m, still wearing L plates…

    Cheers
    @Portugalpiglet

  • Whoops…made a mistake. bit of a blonde moment 🙂

    “I personally don’t tend follow people who mass follow and I always take time to check out peoples profiles, their tweets and whether they are “genuine” people like REZA!!!

  • @Piglet, thank you for your kind words. I’m blessed to have such genuine friends and followers.

  • Mark, Honestly I think you and Mitch are both right. Everyone has their own Twitter strategy like you said. Brandon makes an excellent point about lists, much of the filtering that Mitch is advocating can be achieved that way. A Tweetdeck column can clear much of the stream clutter, if that’s your goal.

    I agree with Kennedy about Mitch’s post; I’m not sure he was advocating snobbery so much as suggesting restraint and discretion, per one’s own strategy. Releasing yourself of the pressure to follow everyone back, and instead strive to follow those who add substance to your stream. JMO.

    That said, I love your line about the story, the person behind the picture. That’s one of my qualifiers for following. I am a Twitter snob and don’t follow just anyone. I look for the quality and variety of tweets, replies, and if there’s real engagement vs. just a broadcast channel of 50 pre-programmed tweets and RTs. FWIW.

  • Mark

    @Davina — Thanks so much for your perspective. I guess I just give people the benefit of the doubt. If somebody appears to be legitimate, why not follow back? They found you for SOME reason. You can still filter followers through lists or your tweet deck of choice. I don’t see a downside of at least giving a possible connection a chance. Great discussion though. Thanks!

  • You’re right, I only follow the most select and interesting people… but you forgot the most important part of that sentence… I only follow the most select and interesting people TO ME (why would I follow people I don’t find interesting or aren’t adding any value?).

    Isn’t every online social network a personal/exclusive experience? Isn’t that the point? If you’re not selecting who you want to connect to and share with, isn’t that just, well… the entire Internet or the entire global population?

    To me, the irony of your Blog post is that it’s actually a validation of what I Blogged about. Mark, you’re following over 14,000 people. I simply can’t cut through that noise to find a gem like Reza or Arminda (no one can and no one will). You’re following everybody and anybody, so people like them are lost in your followers list. It took my Blog post to create this reaction to it, to help me discover people like Reza and Arminda (thank you… I’m following them now)… and that was my point to begin with.

    You wrongly turned this into some kind of “Twitter A-List” debate, which I don’t understand (granted, I’m the guy who used the word “snob” – mostly to strike a lively debate). There is no A-List… well, that’s not true. What makes Twitter unique is that each individual has their own A-List (it’s called the people they are following)… and that’s the point of my Blog post, too. I want to be able to grow and nurture that list of people that I find interesting. Does that mean that everybody gets on that list (or any other Twitter list of mine)? No, what would be the point?

    Think of it this way: why follow anyone according to your strategy? Why not just long on to http://www.twitter.com and use it from there – this way, you’re following everybody… always.

    The overall point of my Blog post is that I am able to find the most interesting and unique people when the people I am following are curating and editing their followers’ list (they’re telling who is great with that vote). This simply makes things more manageable and (to me) indicates that they too are not going to let every MLM rep and SEO guru join the fold (unless that’s their thing – in which case, I probably wouldn’t follow them).

    Ultimately, what makes Twitter so great is that your Twitter experience is not my Twitter experience, and yet they are both sound and solid (which is why I usually run in the other direction when someone says that another person “doesn’t get it” – I didn’t this time because I consider you a friend, peer and a damn smart person).

    So, what do you say, do we attack this via audio and orally duke it out (for the usual fun and laughs) on an upcoming Six Pixels Podcast? I think we’re due 🙂

  • I think it’s an interesting debate or.. there are 2 things I see at work here..

    #1 This idea that anybody could be interesting / of worth / whatever.. how strongly you want to hold on to that possibility.. and look for it.. versus “this is where I have found value,” and the question of how you balance these two approaches.

    #2 There’s the question of elite’s, snobs, whatever.. and in group out group sorta thing.. and what effect that might have on folks who feel not let into the in group.. that maybe many of us feel that, and that’s a part of what this post ends up being about.

    If we go back to #1.. I wonder about my own approach to twitter.. am I too quick to follow.. what would my experience be like if I followed less? And then of course there’s twitter lists and filtering..

    How many people you follow.. we all know that twitter is a very different experience if you’re following 10 people versus 100, 1000, 10,000..

    I follow about 2K people.. some of which I question if i should continue following.. but.. I’m also kind of used to how fast my twitter stream moves.. and get kinda bored if it moves slower.. Twitter, or a tweet, for me, is ephemeral.. and it’s fine for me if tweets don’t hang around as long and thus a lot of tweets fall by the way side..

    But then I also have Facebook.. where things are a good deal more intimate.. there’s really nobody on there that I’m connected to that I don’t know.. so here I do have that intimate experience..

    I don’t know what I’m driving at…

  • Mitch, the issue for me (and I’ve repeatedly been told I’m in the minority on this when I’ve raised it myself) isn’t whether someone follows me. It’s whether that person follows me *back*. To me, that feels like the virtual equivalent of this real world exchange:

    Me: “I’m interested in talking with you about what you say you’re interested in.”

    Other person: “Great! Glad you like me. I’m not so interested in you but you can keep listening to me if you want.”

    After which, I go off to find others who _are_ open to discussion. Maybe most of us never will talk … but we could. I haven’t said to that person … no, I look at you and judge you not to be worth leaving the door open to.

    The bigger the lopsidedness, the worse it looks to me. I simply won’t follow someone who has a couple hundred thousand followers but only follows 10, because that person probably has an RSS feed, which is what that person’s Twitter account most likely is…not a platform for interaction and discussion. Personally, I’d be embarrassed to be in that position (not that I’m in any danger of that).

    This is one of the few “new” aspects of social media: When someone follows you or sends you a Facebook request, you do have to make a decision. It’s binary and it’s public. Once you’ve “said” it, you can’t unsay it. That’s why I set the threshold very low.

    It does depend what you’re there for. If you look at it as a news mechanism, then no damage done. But if you look at it as a social network (as we know Twitter’s founders apparently do not), then following back — or not — is a meaningful statement by the person making the choice. I suppose the ambiguity of Twitter doesn’t help us settle this discussion.

    I’ve said many times that there’s obviously no way I could be carrying on meaningful conversations with all of the 7,500 accounts I follow on Twitter. But I am constantly, daily, discovering new things in there, and I am amazed by how well the process works. For one thing, the overlapping spheres of people you choose to “follow” tend to intersect at interesting new connections. It happens all the time. That’s the serendipity of it.

    I’ve been asked more than once why I take it so personally, and my answer now is, “Because it is personal. There are persons involved.” People feel these social interactions the same way they do in “real life.” For what it’s worth, discussions around this point–what constitutes “friendship” online–always seem to generate the deepest discussions. The question is clearly central to why we’re here.

    Again, I do thank you for touching it off, and we’re all obviously after the same thing, ultimately–better connectedness.

  • Awesome post. Big reason I’m an advocate of quality > quantity. You just never know. Follow people b/c they are interesting and have something to offer, not because they have hundreds of followers.

    @Worob

    PR at Sunrise (worob.com)

  • @Will – are you insulted when every girl at the bar doesn’t succumb to your advances or offers to buy them a drink? Do you accept all advances and drinks? Just because you’re into me, it doesn’t mean I have to be into you… and because of that, it also doesn’t mean that you have to stop trying to connect and change my mind 😉 Some of the best relationships take time.

  • Well, if the hypothetical girl I’m hitting up has 177,000 boyfriends and says she’s looking for more, then yes, I’d be insulted.

  • @Will – that doesn’t sound like much fun… for the girl or the boyfriends… Try to find one where you can be special – the only one 😉

  • Mitch, I think that’s my point exactly. If you’ve turned down the drink, then I know I’m barking up the wrong tree.

  • @Will – nah, sometimes, it takes more than that first attempt. Persistence is good (sometimes).

  • @mitch I think we would agree that Twitter’s not the best place for an in-depth conversation for a whole bunch of reasons.

  • @mitch Well, to each his own!

  • @Mark @Mitch Look forward to the podcast throwdown 😉

  • Mark

    What you don’t know — and what Mitch would never say — is that he interrupted his vacation to participate in this discussion. So no matter what our point of view, I think we all owe him a “thanks” for coming on board. Certainly Mitch you have made the discussion more interesting and fun, so thank you. You are a class act.

    I know you are a well-meaning and principled business person and so of course aspects of your argument make sense. But you glossed over a few important issues and of course this would be an excellent topic for a podcast. The first one we did on ghost blogging was one of the most fun intellectual exercises of the year for me and I would love another challenge like that. Duel accepted.

  • Mark

    @Will + @ Matt also wanted to thank you for your passionate and well-articulated comments. One thing about Twitter — it sure stirs up some emotions. As you both said or implied, it can be very personal.

    In terms of personal brand, your Twitter persona also says a lot. Everything we do and don’t do sends a message. When I see 20,000 people following somebody and they follow 10 back it says “talk to the hand.” It is a prima donna attitude, which is exactly the right message to send if, in fact, you’re a prima donna.

    My point is that in addition to the obvious emotional levels it touches, there are personal branding issues being communicated by a Twitter strategy too!

    Great discussion. Thanks!

  • I was asked to check this post after a tweet about followers, specifically about not following those that don’t connect.

    If that makes me a snob, then I’ll take that title. Honestly though, I’m more of a not tell you who to follow and I don’t want you telling me who or who not to follow.

    I’m assertive about blocking spammers but don’t block folks I don’t care to follow back. I don’t ask folks to follow me either though and don’t expect it just because I follow them.

    I don’t believe there is an implied social contract there. Follow or don’t but I’ll base my follows off of your behavior. If I don’t follow you it’s not because I hate you, your politics, or your religion It will be about your twitter behavior or lack there of. No tweets? Tweets are only links to your blog? No pic and no bio?

    Each person should choose how they follow or not and not be cowed under by snobs, anti-snobs or anyone else including me.

    Cheers, happy tweeting,
    @tojosan

  • Ah, Mark…I agree with your perspective based on how you present it here. The difference in ratio between my followers and following is primarily a matter of spam bots or people who act like spam bots (a reason why # of followers should not be an important metric, because WOW are there a lot of bots out there!). But I tend to befriend people with not many followers because lots of people took a chance on me.

    I do not follow back blindly. I look at tweets, I look at other things (I actually did a tutorial on that last weekend on my blog), but generally, if I can tell the person is giving it a real try, I will follow back. Very seldom does it come back to bite me in the butt.

    Very interested to see where this goes.

  • Ike

    Sorry, I have to side with Mitch on this.

    The vast majority of people who follow me NEVER engage. They NEVER reach out, even once, to comment, retweet or ask me a question.

    I follow people who I find interesting, and I follow those who engage.

    I do not return a click for a click, because that just invites noise into my stream. It’s noise, because I have no basis to understand the context.

    Follow whomever you want, with whatever strategy works for you… but for your own sake, HAVE a strategy and a system, and DON’T expect everyone else to follow yours.

  • Good god you make me want to scream:

    HELL YEAH!

    Ok – so I did it.

    A List/Schmay List – they put their pants on the same way I do – one leg at a time – except they do it with a chip on their shoulder and a sense of entitlement in their mind.

    “Having an appearance of exclusivity adds to your credibility”

    BS – making real connections, building community, opening the curtain and extending a hand – they things give you credibility in the social media world.

    Examples: @DaveCarpenter, @DannyBrown, @johnhaydon

    You got it right Mark.

    As usual.

  • This isn’t a debate. This is grandstanding- one admitting his bait is labeling a practice (which his opponent admits he himself does, sifting through follows) as SNOBBERY and the opponent attacks with a specific example against a general case argument. Everyone does it their own way, and none are wrong… for them… move on folks nothing to see here

  • I’m struggling to understand the spin here. My point was that people who really pay attention to who they are following usually open my mind up to following new and interesting people vs. those who follow anybody and everybody and then I can’t make heads or tails of who I can connect with that is new and interesting.

    Suddenly, this became a weird debate over elitism (I don’t think I am or any of the people I follow are like this) or whether or not you should follow everyone who follows you (this works for some and it doesn’t work great for others).

    Frank, is your Twitter feed exclusive? Of course it is… it’s your own, exclusive feed. If it wasn’t you would be on the Twitter homepage adding anybody and everybody who is tweeting, right?

    How many of your thousand of followers do you really know… really?

  • One thing I’d kinda add is.. in earlier days.. one of those early attempts to think about influence or recommend people to follow.. you’d get so and so recommended to you… and they’d be followed by.. @Chrisbrogan and @Pistachio.. and you’d think “well that’s absolutely a worthless endorsement.. they follow everybody.

    We’d have conversations about all this stuff.. at the local social media breakfast or whatever.. and at least at the time it seemed like the thing to do was follow back whoever followed you.. but.. then this was very early days..

    I’m feeling like this conversation.. to some degree or another follows this kinda of thread.. “is social media really social..” or “does social media scale..” or.. at the very least it’s an attention economy question, right?

    I think the point that it’s important to be open to seeing the possibilities of new people.. or you think of that kind of Indian tradition of bowing with your hands clasped.. as if in prayer, bowing to the divinity in the person.. I think.. it should probably be a best practice of some sort.. to have this somewhere in you’re social media mix.. I don’t know that it has to be on twitter but.. that has always seemed to me like a logical place for it..

    It’s only through this kind of openness.. be it socially.. or in the mind… or perhaps in how we manage stuff.. that gives the opportunity for innovation to happen.

  • Lee

    I set up a young journalists career, just through watching and reading people on twitter… it wasn’t the reason i first started following these two people, but it has ended up with a young girl on the way to achieve her dreams. never EVER judge a book by its cover!

  • Mitch – I’m not the one who used the words “having an appearance of exclusivity”. I don’t want one, nor need one.

    I’m also not the one who chose the word “snob”. What word is more tied with elitism?

    How many of my followers do I know? – not sure I can give you an exact figure. What I can give you is the truth that I have a greater chance to know them because I’m not worried about any of the notions mentioned above.

    Words matter Mitch.

  • To MISquote Forrest Gump, “Twitter’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

    To your point, though, you just never know the wonder and delight of the people who are in your Twitter stream. To discount the majority of people is simply shortsighted. It’s like ignoring the world because you think you’re better than everyone else.

    Being discriminating in your followbacks is ok, but being snobby? That’s not something I have any interest in doing.

    Thanks for the great post!

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  • Mitch Joel – Twist Image

    @Frank. What I actually said was…

    “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?).”

  • Mark

    Thanks for the comments and insights, again particularly those who choose to take a stand in dissent.

    @Todd I would like to specifically address your “grandstanding” comment which implies I am taking a false position to somehow further an agenda of self-promotion. If you have read my blog or follow me on Twitter you would see that what I articulated is how I authentically and passionately approach things. I specifically teach about this approach in my classes and I have emphasized over and over again the opportunities you have if you are open to people and try to be authentically helpful.

    I am perfectly fine with you disagreeing. I am not fine with being labeled as grandstanding just because I took a controversial position against somebody with status in the industry. One of the things I DESPISE about the social web is this fortress mentality that shuts down dissent with labels. Brogan labels dissenters as “haters.” Other people hide behind “snarky.” That drives me nuts. Without dissent we are sycophants just taking orders from people who are at the “top” largely because they had a head start. That’s how we establish myths like “it’s all about the conversation” in the first place. People accept and internalize that rubbish just because it comes from somebody with a lot of followers.

    I think it is possible to challenge the assumptions and myths of the social web in a way that is still respectful. In fact I think it is necessary if we are to grow as a professional discipline and as individuals.

    I’m sure this didn’t change your mind but it hit a hot button with me I guess.

  • I’m with you, Mark. Differing voices and opinions makes it a healthy and equalized eco-system. Pot shots, etc… make the real (and potential) clients gun shy. No logical reason to do that.

  • @mitch isn’t it usually the thing that you get a new follower message, you click the link, you look at the profile.. I don’t think anyone is saying you don’t do this, make an assessment.. before you click to follow back. The question is maybe how you make that assessment, and how high your follow back bar is, right? That bar’s relationship to snobbery or anything else?

  • Mitch Joel’s tweet drew me to your post – I’m happy to discover your blog.

    And that’s the point. For me anyway.

    I don’t follow everyone who follows me on Twitter. And I don’t think I’m missing the point.

    I follow :

    a) people who engage me … they seem to think we have something in common and I’m pleased to check them out at that point and follow back.

    b) people my network points me towards … they’re not my influencers for nothing. If they think you’re interesting, I might just take the time to check you out and follow you (or read your blog 😉

    c) people I discover naturally through search tools etc. I do my own legwork.

    I advise corporate clients (not brands – individuals – brands could be an exception, depending) to resist the automatic reaction of following everyone who follows them.

    People who are starting out on Twitter already find it overwhelming. My advice to clients who are testing the waters is to choose a niche and select 20 people to follow who also interested in that niche.

    I tell them Twitter isn’t Facebook and they shouldn’t feel badly if they don’t follow their sister-in-law or their buddy back. That’s not the point of Twitter.

    They can grow their network from there when they’re ready, but until then can comfortably begin to grasp the power of Twitter.

    I’m part of the Twitter old guard – I was on it when it was still a “what are you doing right now” platform. And I’m still not automatically following everyone who follows me. And I never will.

    The bottom line for me is that there are tons of Rezas out there (unique as he is) – what I mean is that there are tons of people out there with great stories. In fact, we’re surrounded by them when we take public transport or go to the theatre. We can’t engage with absolutely everyone whose path we cross – it would be overwhelming. Opportunities may pass us by, but we’re able to value the opportunities that are within our reach. And so it is with Twitter.

    Now that I’m following you, Mark, I look forward to discovering Reza 😉

    Reza, I’m pleased to meet you!

  • @michelleblanc so wisely put it in my humble opinion: followers ton twitter and friends on facebook are just the same as virtual business cards. You never refuse one’s business card handed out your way. You sort them out.
    Thanks for your post and I totally agree: we should always agree to disagree, happily! World is made of diversity of people and opinions.

  • Mark, another great thought-provoking post.

    I’m trying to build a following and figure out who the best people are to follow. I would venture to say that you and Mitch are on common ground with the idea that those two goals are not mutually exclusive.

    I struggle with the process as I try to learn the best way to do Twitter and not get overwhelmed by the stream. I have become more focused on having individual conversations, highlighting great posts, and participating fully in hashtag chats. That has resulted in a lot more followers who I’m familiar with (mostly through the chats) and led to me following more people in the midst of chats. I do wonder though:
    1. Do you (or others) have any suggestions on figuring out who the spammers are that you want to block (i.e., how to figure out which of your new followers you want to follow). Is it as simple as just taking the time to click on their streams and see if you see “value?”

    2. How do you organize your Followers into a manageable flow so you can keep track of all the Tweet goodness that you feel can be found. If I blink I miss 30-50 tweets. Please be more detailed than “create a list,” because the devil is in the details.

    Again, great job. Thanks for igniting a great discussion. And thanks to Mitch Joel for his patient and thoughtful participation.

    Peter

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  • Hello everyone, and thank you for the engaging commentary. This topic has provoked a great debate that is very productive. I really enjoy the differing viewpoints that all of you have on this subject. I’m learning quite a bit from all of you. Let’s keep the conversations going. I believe all of you to be worthy of a follow, especially since you took the time to engage in this stimulating conversation. Regardless of your stance, thank you for joining the conversation!
    @Michelle I’m pleased to make your acquaintance 🙂

  • Thanks for the post. Having recently met Reza for the Magic Carpet Ride Tweetup we’re hosting on Oct. 28, I can vouch for him. He may not have the highest following on Twitter, but he’s got passion and a positive attitude.

    When I first got started with Twitter last year when I started my performance art project, I automatically followed about 95% of those who followed me. I gave them a personal thank you back. When that became overwhelming, I talked to my friend Chris Pirillo, and in the process of helping to write some of the tips in his 140 Twitter Tips eBook, I came to the conclusion that the point of Twitter is not collecting the most followers, but cultivating a community.

    I would imagine everyone has some sort of selection process in place once they pass a critical mass. I too have not followed back certain MLM’s, porn figures who would spam me with pictures, men who remind me of sexual predators, and obnoxious troll Twitterers who cannot spell. is it snobbery? I’d actually like to call it DISCRETION.

    Imei

  • @Matt – so my perceived value is based on a numbers game/undefined ratio and not the quality/relevance? I’m more interested in “who” I am following than “how many” I am following. To date, my Twitter experience has been amazing and I’m not even able to connect to the many people I am following. That being said, I add new and interesting people every day… not because I need to bump up a ratio, but because they are interesting and they’re following interesting people. I’m fine with being a snob like that.

  • todd

    @mark-
    when I suggested grandstanding, it is because there is no real debate here.
    Your position is not FALSE, it’s confusing and not REALLY controversial.

    You suggest that Mitch is inappropriately siphoning who to follow while you take the stand that you should pretty much follow everyone, otherwise, according to your example (the specific), you might miss that “diamond in the rough.”
    But you clearly admit that you will filter, and then more importantly suggest that whatever strategy on Twitter makes sense to the individual is what is right.
    Oy, which is it?
    The controversy does not come from you disagreeing with Mitch, but rather that you are arguing with a general policy with a specific case.
    Your rule of “you just never know” taken to its illogical extreme means, follow everyone, no matter what. (ie dont exclude those pesky spammers, why? you never know)
    But you DO know (as you limit who you follow)- this is a matter of degree or perspective and the real rule is something akin to any diet: you have to find the right one that works for you…

    which you had pretty much admitted in your piece.

    reminds me of my old debate coach’s warning not to be “two ships passing in the night” to paraphrase Longfellow

  • I stayed away from this discussion because I follow both @mitchjoel and @markwschaefer for different reasons and results and I didn’t take issue with either’s position on twitter snobbishness.

    I follow Mitch and have for a while. I discovered him through following his “conversations” with Mark and I enjoyed their verbal debate too. I now subscribe to Mitch’s blog and it’s become a regular read of mine. Mitch doesn’t follow me back and that’s ok with me. We all don’t need to be friends.

    I do more than follow Mark. We have collaborated on some amazing projects and I consider him a very good friend. As friendships tend to extend, I’ve also met quite a few others I can call friends through the {grow} community.

    That said, I am not friends with everyone I follow but I also definitely do not follow “anyone and everyone” although I get the impression Mith might think so if he took any time to check. Yes I have lists and take time to “prune” them but I kind of like the general feed. If someone overdoes it, I unfollow but for the most part it’s a busy place and I like it. Until reading Mich’s blog, I never thought about it reflecting negatively on me but having thought about it, don’t care.

    It’s obvious both of you are brilliant and each provide plenty of helpful content I enjoy almost every day. Thanks!

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  • Of all the names I should have no problem spelling correctly you’d think one would be Mitch’s. Sorry ’bout the typos.

  • Kathy Snavely

    Mark, I have to say that you are one of the best on the web in generating meaningful discussions. I have found you to be welcoming and inclusive, way before I met you IRL. You are an excellent listener, rooted in a true desire in caring to listen.

    I have been disappointed by others who don’t share your generosity. One “social media expert” first conversation with me criticized a retweet of what she said at a conference. After pondering her response (because she couldn’t be wrong, she was an expert in social media), it was clear she hadn’t bothered to read what I’d said in entirety. After trying to engage her several other times, it appears her only interest was to berate me. While I still follow her, I will not attempt to have a conversation with her again.

    You and I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with a few colleagues earlier this year. One person at our table only had an interest in speaking with the table celebrity; while I could hardly blame her (ouch – a woman again), in several attempts since that time, she hasn’t acknowledged any attempt to converse with her on Twitter (in spite of the fact that she requested such a conversation with each tweet).

    I think perhaps what has sparked such a riotous response to what you (and Mitch) have written is the use of the word “snob.” While some may call the two people I’ve described “snobs,” I prefer not to view them in such a context. If they choose not to converse with me, that is their choice…and frankly, their loss.

    Thanks to all of you reading this post who have chosen to embrace the diverse people who have knocked on your door, who have acknowledged the worthiness of others in listening to them.

  • I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said here (serves me right for waiting so long to comment). But you know what I love about your relationship with Mitch?! You comment on one another’s blogs and let the rest of us see the very intelligent and fun debate. LOVE THAT!!

  • Mark

    @Michelle S Thanks for this thoughtful response. I learns something from you today!

    @Emmanuelle — Twitter certainly a great way to learn through diversity. Thanks.

    @Peter — Here are short answers to your questions. If this is still unclear please call me next week and I can talk you through it. There is no sure-fire way to determine spammers. Usually you can sniff them out but they can be pretty crafty. I’m blocking anybody trying to sell Twitter lists, grow my followers ( for free!) or promote MLM (multiple level marketing) including the Trump network.

    There are three popular free platforms to sort your Twitter stream, Seesmic, Tweetdeck and HootSuite. Right now HS seems to have the lead but folks use all of these successfully. Sorting is a personal preference but I divide mine by replies and DMs of course but then also thought leaders, my active blog community members (like you), and then local Twitter folks. Those are examples of useful Twitter streams. You can also save searches. I prefer this to lists because lists have a limited number of members and I don’t like clicking back and forth. There’s a start for you!

  • Rob

    I was wondering about the value of following tweeps with >20000 followers. Most follow back, some don’t. Convo with them is a chance occurrence and that’s OK, I understand they can’t reply to everyone. I consider it serendipitous that I discovered this blog and pleased to meet Reza today.

    Oh, and I guess I met Reza via a possible bot or RSS feed via Twitter.

    That’s sorta kinda disappointing.

  • Mark

    @Imei — Thanks for passing your strategy along. Chris is a smart guy,

    @Mitch — So how is the vacation going? : )

    @Todd perhaps I’m tired, perhaps I’m dense but it seems you are convoluting a very simple point I was trying to make. A lot of people seem to have understood a point you claim does not exist. I respect your perspective and intellect and thank you for trying to clarify your point.

  • Mark

    @Billy If I had to name a poster child for the value I receive from Twitter, it would be you, We have created meaningful economic value together and more important, have become friends. This never would have happened if I had not followed you back on Twitter. This tiny event changed my life in such a positive way. So Mitch has not followed you back — the probability that he will connect with you in an equally positive way has been reduced to near zero. That’s a powerful case study for the point I am making.

    Of course I can’t engage with thousands of people and I never claimed that. But connecting to people who have sought you out multiplies the chances that some day you will find your “Billy.”

  • Mark

    @Kathy Gosh that is such a lovely comment — would make a good blog post! The social web can amplify both good qualities and flaws and both are in abundance on Twitter. Thanks for this excellent contribution.

    @Gini — Thanks. I am slowly but surely surrounding myself with people who can passionately and intelligently attack problems without attacking people. Mitch is in this category and you certainly are too. I know you are so busy this week so it means a lot that you took the time to read the post and comment. Thanks!

    @ Rob Sometimes I get 100 new followers a day ( I haven’t checked but based on the comments this might be one of those days!). At this rate I will have 20,000 followers too some day. I didn’t plan for that but i will cross each bridge as i come to it. When that happens, I will be the same person as when I had 400 followers – perhaps a bit busier. So I don’t think having a lot of followers predestines somebody to be a jerk. The longer we are all on Twitter, we will have to learn how to deal with more followers. Thanks so much for commenting today!

  • Hello. My name is Jules and I am a recovering Twitter snob.

    Clicking on the link that my trusted Twitter friend posted, I was saying to myself, “I am for sure a Twitter Snob. I totally on team Mitch because I like a guy with two first names and I completely agree that you can’t possibly engage with every single person that follows you.”

    Then Mark got me with the super-funny, heroic disabled veteran and I crumbled. Who the hell am I to only follow people I find impressive oh, I mean interesting (as if it matters if I make my feed look upscale) or engaging (ie. will spend their precious time telling me how pithy I am.)

    Everyone should follow whoever they want and I agree with being selective, but I am changing my snobby ways. From now on, everyone gets a follow (real people, not bots or brands) and it will stay that way until they: make me mad; say something stupid regarding politics, religion or sex; or I simply cannot take their tedious, mundane updates any longer.

    Hey, I may not be any nicer after I follow everyone back, but being a reformed Twitter snob makes me feel better. Life is short, be nice.

    @JulesZunichPR

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  • I look at it from a simple economic analysis perspective: does the marginal benefit of auto-following people exceed the marginal cost?

    I hypothesize that it does, and in actual TESTING (pundits who take a strong stand on issues like this without any actual date drive me nuts), it holds true.

    As of March 2009, I had about 4,100 followers, purely organically, and without auto-following. I turned on auto-follow, worked my way through the various auto-follow directories, started doing highly targeted following, and I grew my follower count to over 30,000.

    Sure, some of those followers are junk/spammers/not in my target. But the end result? My follower count went up 900%, my number of actions — retweets and real conversations — went up about 250%. Sure, the “rate” is lower, but the total action response is higher.

    So let’s consider the cost.

    Clutter? If you’re following more than about 150 people, you have to manage your attention using search and lists anyway. A thousand or a hundred thousand, doesn’t really matter.

    “Taste in connections”? If you’re auto-following, you don’t have bad taste in connections — it’s simply an indicator that it’s a non-issue to you. Really, other people just don’t care that much about your Twitter follow policy.

    Exlusivity = credibility?? Let your content speak for itself.

    Bottom line: the incremental cost of automatically following people is trivial to the point of effectively being zero. If the marginal cost is approaching zero, why on earth wouldn’t you do it, even for the *chance* of something great happening?

    It may not be a killer strategy, but it’s kind of like free lottery tickets.

  • Mark

    @Jules — You mean I have a CONVERT? : )

    Thanks for this great comment. You are really quite a writer!

    @Scott — I think that is one of the most intersting and entertaining comments I’ve had on here. Very well done. I’m a data guy so that approach really appeals to me. The next step is figuring your “conversion rate” of followers who are helping you create new economic benefits. But as you go through your formulas, don;t be afraid to engage and have some fun too! : )

    Thanks for the excellent comment!

  • I have a wicked bad crush on Mitch Joel’s brain, but I gotta agree with you on this one.

    My Twitter network is large and eclectic. There are people from all walks of life and industries in it — even some people I don’t particular care for — because that’s what life is like.

    I don’t want to create a social walled garden, filled with echoing voices only like my own. Sure, it would be pleasant and very “Disney” to hang out in that world, but it wouldn’t be real.

    People are messy and unpredictable, shocking and magical, frustrating and awe-inspiring. And, hands down, it is the people in my network that I took a chance on, and just chose to follow back on instinct and a leap of faith, who end up making my day interesting.

    Those are the people who drag me out of my garden and offer me a chance to see the world in a new way. And sure, the new view is always blinding at first, but once my eyes adjust, the things I start to see usually take my breath away.

  • Mark

    @Jen — When I read a comment like this I am so humbled by the intellect, wisdom and talent of the people in this community. Absolutely stunning piece of writing, Jen. I’m not worthy.

  • @Jules…I LOVE your comment! But I don’t think you’re a Twitter snob so no need to recover!

  • I have always seen Twitter as a party. There’s the popular people, and then there’s the crowd.

    If I was one of the “elite”, I hope I would walk across the room, return smiles, shake hands, and stop for a chat and a laugh. I would want to help find people from the crowd who need to be heard (Mark and Reza?). I would not want to walk around with a sense of superiority or entitlement, brushing off people who try to talk to me.

    What I would absolutely hate to be is someone who is worried to be associated with the crowd out of fear how that reflects on my status.

    When I joined Twitter, the kindness of a lot of people just following me back made me speechless. I had no track record, no followers, no idea what I was doing; they just gave me a chance. Not wanting to sound corny, but I thought that a world with an unwritten policy like that had come a long way.

    I do understand that having thousands of Twitter followers creates a sorting problem. If you just have one Twitter Stream, I suppose you won’t get any value out of it. But when you put the people who have specific meaning to you on a list, you can easily return the favor of a follow without interfering with selected topics or people.

    That means you have a colorful Main Twitter Stream that you can visit when you have some time. The people on mine have surprised me, made me laugh, cry, learn, reconsider, {grow} 🙂 And no, it’s not like following the general stream on Twitter.com. I think we all agree that we would not follow the spammers, trashers and self-promoters that make a huge portion of the tweets on there.

    Here is the other end of the spectrum: I worship Seth Godin’s writing. I think he’s a genius. I quote and refer him all the time and I would pre-order any book he writes without hesitation. But I stopped following him on Twitter. At my party, I’d rather have that space and time for someone who may have an interest in having a conversation with me.

  • Dagi, you just wrote what I wish I’d written. Perfect!

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @Dagi — Simply superb comment. Well said. Thank you!

  • Rob

    For some reason…I’m thinking of following every commenter in this post.

    Well, not everyone, but for some reason this resonates.

    🙂

  • hello Friends

    I’m still amazed at how a negative thing has turned into so many positives. We’ve gone from a debate about exclusion, to all of us showing support for one another. I’ve begun to get a feel for what Mitch is talking about in his post. I’ve been inundated with a healthy dose of Twitter love (Thank You), and it’s starting to become a little busy 😉 I definitely have a major need for organization and curation. Having said that, I think I’ll solve my problem by making one big list named {grow} 😉 Peace, Love, and understanding!

    Reza

  • Thanks so much, Will and Mark, for taking the time just to say something nice. Means a lot to me!

  • Any gathering with Jules, Jen, Gini, Dagi and Reza sounds inviting to me. What an interesting group the {grow} party is. And I’m sure Mark welcomes Seth and Mtich to drop in anytime too. Come one, come all. And come as you are.

    I learn something new here everytime, literally everytime, I stop by. Never quit learning!

  • One of the main ways that I find new people on Twitter, truth be told, is by manually following people that @ reply or retweet me. Certainly, I follow a large number of people, who have never done either, but those people are generally not diamonds in the rough. They’re the shining lights everyone can see from a distance. When someone @ replies or retweets me, I usually check out their profile and link and then hit follow…At the very least, I hit follow if I don’t have time for the rest. The only time they then come off my follow list is when I see 5 rapid fire auto-tweets in a row, a ton of content uninteresting to me, or just something that I vehemently disagree with and don’t want to bother seeing many times each day. For me, handling it this way allows me to give people an opportunity when they have essentially said to me “I’m listening to you” and it disconnects me from, what I see as, a typical Twitter follow strategy, which is, “I’m following you for a probationary period of X days. You have that long to impress me.” Of course, while this is my approach, I’m sure this strategy might be un-manageable if I received the number of @ replies & retweets Mark & Mitch do.

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  • Mark

    @Rob — probably a viable strategy!

    @Reza — Thanks for being a good sport about all of this!

    @Dagi — I’m grateful for your amazing contributions to the discussion!

    @Billy — Ironically I just sent you an email telling you how much I learn from you!

    @Eric — I think this is an extremely smart approach. A goal should be to surround yourslef with people who interest you and who are also interested IN you. A good indicator is being RT so I like that. It also sends a message that you paid attention and that you are appreciative. Like this comment a lot. Thanks!

  • Wow… allot happened here over night. This has been valuable reading for me, and like Mark, I am humbled by the diversity and intellect passing through this portal. It would seem that one could predict how all the personalities represented here would behave in a large company, or at a cocktail party, yet I don’t think it is that simple. Twitter casts a weird shadow through it’s structure for online experience. I bet if we all put on costumes and went to the same bash it would be hard to tell Mark from Mitch… It is that time of the year )

  • Fran Barlow

    I share your policy of ruthlessly blocking spammers from following me (I also block those who are obviously rightwingers) and I only follow those I know that I will read because I have the time and they say interesting things.

  • trrish

    Following people for the purposes of building a network (ie, sales, self-promotion, etc)..isn’t that just being a different sort of snob? “Look at me, I follow the common people! By the way, have you seen my website?”. I say, tweet and let tweet. I prefer to avoid the self-promoters and the salespeople. I like following actual people who follow back and have something of interest to tweet about. And mostly, I’m in it for the comedy.

  • Mark

    @RJ — So glad you are part of the {grow} community. Yes, there are some pretty awesome people who hang out here!

    @Fran — Glad you agree. If everybody was as diligent as you we would have a lot less spam I think!

    @trish — Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that one. My goal is to make connections and hopefully create business benefits, primarily by sharing excellent content and being authentically helpful to others. Is that spammy?

  • RJ Stribley – Yep, lucky it’s Halloween!

    trrish – I agree with you. I’m just a bod who likes to interact with people and love it when someone takes a moment to comment on my (non commercial) blog I created recently so I can interact with them. Please may I have your website details)

    I stumbled across this whole discussion through someone I follow on twitter and it has certainly proved very informative!

    So folks, on a much lighter note if you were all birds which one species best fits your personality? Canary, Parrot, Magpie, Robin, Peacock, Warblers, Hawk Vulcher etc etc? http://www.avianweb.com/birdspecies.htm

    Perhaps this could be a whole new discussion… or would this equate to “Silly Saturday” as opposed to “Follow Friday” Hey, I am on a roll we could even have “Moaning Monday”

    @portugalpiglet

  • Hey Mark

    Spot on post and one that is in line with a post I made on my own blog a few weeks ago (http://ow.ly/32nb8).

    Your post is a tangible reason in the follow or nto argument and we are all ultimately looking for interesting people to follow sucha as Reza

    Thanks for bringing it (and him) to the fore!

    Jamie

  • All this preaching about what people should and shouldn’t do on Twitter is putting people off giving it a go. We all found our own way of using it without benefit of sermons or ‘social media gurus’. Its not rocket science and everyone’s needs, expectations and experiences are different. There is no ‘one size fits all’so how about just shutting up and letting people get on with it their own way?

  • Mark

    @Ann — Twitter is not rocket science but it is not intuitive either. I have had hundreds of smart and experienced business people through my marketing classes and nearly all of them have been perplexed by the quirkiness of Twitter.

    Debates like this are a healthy way to explore alternative approaches and help us all consider diverse ideas. This post has had about 100 comments. “Shutting up” probably is not the preferred alternative for the people who are trying to keep learning and who have contributed their views in a spirit of good faith and helpfulness.

  • You make a good point about being too snobby, but really Twitter is entirely up to ones own discretion. I have many criteria that a person needs to meet in order to be followed. First they have to pass the prescreening. Have an actual twitter avatar, some actual tweets and have a reasonable follower/followed ratio. If their description mentions something of interest to me I’ll typically click through the email link to view their profile. I will admit that geography does weigh in, but won’t stop me from at least checking out their profile.

    After looking at their tweets I look for a mix of interaction with other Twitterers and actually sharing things. I find often there are people who are conversing all the time and not actually sharing anything, or all they do is share links and don’t interact. If I don’t follow someone I am willing to be swayed. Actually talk to me and start a dialog and I’m a lot more likely to follow someone.

    I don’t look at it as being a snob. I get out and actually meet the people I follow on twitter. I have 319 and have actually met 143 of those people, they are a mix of previous friends, but mostly people I have met through twitter or local events within my community.

    Preach all you want about being a snob, getting out and actually meeting people and establishing relationships outside the electronic world is where it’s at.

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  • @Billy: I meant to comment on your comment last week. Thank you! I’d go anywhere with Jules, Jen, Dagi, Reza, you, and Mark!

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  • Mark

    @James — I actually go through a similar process. A person has to at least look a legitimate person : ) Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

    @Gini — I do home we can get some of these folks together in real life!

  • Michael

    Hail to the twitter snobs! Some people seem to think that “Freedom of speech” means “obligation to speak constantly” and “obligation of everyone else to listen”

    Sorry, not me! Just because someone likes what I have to say and decides to follow me on Twitter, does not in any way make me feel obligated to follow back and pretend he/she is interesting if their tweets doesn’t catch my interest.

    Why not just trade phone numbers with 40.000 people who chose to go to the same ball game as you?

    If focusing on quality of content instead of quantity of followers, makes me a snob, then by all means call me a snob!

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  • nicfletch

    I like your take Mark – while it’s certainly easier to not be inundated by the millions of tweets you get when you follow a ton of people, I have learned more from my lovely twitter friends more than I ever expected. I think the organic take is the way to go.

  • Tech_Blend

    @Mitch Joel – Twist Image I agree here with you Mitch. Pruning is very important, and for me being selective is also. So many corporate accounts don’t follow back though, but they should. Guess their numbers look better 😉 Personally i like being friendly but at the same time look for VALUE in people and their content as well…

    The elite are just filtering us out, no doubt—like sheep. Mark has a point here also, behind every image is someone amazing, a human with a wonderful story, just like us.

    End of the day if you’d like success in SM, it’s not the ELITE we want to attract guys (who have an extremely myopic view and hunt and gather together, for the most part), it’s the masses and volumes of ordinary people out there….

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  • michelini

    I like that….yes, we are all free to be who we want to be in life and on twitter

    BUT WHAT ABOUT DMs – I want to DM some people I follow, and I cannot because they aren’t following me back..

    therefore I cannot contact them TO DO BUSINESS With them….or I have to publicly @ message them

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  • Why don’t you reply to people in a thread?

  • Because when I wrote this article in 2010, I didnt have a comment section that allowed me to reply in a thread. You’re seeing the old comment section displayed in the new software. it sucks, but it is what it is.

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  • Having unfollowed, then refollowed you due to that article on why the social media elite don’t respond to us. I decided to check out your blog/site thoroughly. It has been a hoot.
    I like the style of it, and the content is substantial.
    I signed up for your conversation. So let’s go!
    I posted a tweet aimed at your recent post that I parked the brakes at, and I mentioned you in my own blog. It was a springboard for my thoughts on tribes. I have risen to the top of a couple and walked away, sort of. Now I blog to support a small business bootstrapping effort I have begun.
    Thanks.
    See you on the waves.

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  • Mark

    That’s bull, seriously?? Just because someone follows you on twitter doesn’t mean you have to follow them back. I only follow people that are interesting and jab the same interests as me. It’s like friends, it’s not a bloody hippy colony with free love and peace, grow up and join the real world!! If I have nothing in common with someone and they say nothing that interests me why unearth would I follow them?! This poster is an idiot! I can’t stand people like this, you know you are the exact kind of person that trusts everyone you meet and then bitch about how people are mean and hurt you or rob you or take advance of you, you know what? They should, your obviously in need of something, maybe daddy issues or youve just been single and unmarried for a long time I don’t know.. But this post is just stupid..

  • This an interesting conversation and a dilemma I’ve changed my policy on several times! There are so many inactive and annoying accounts out there who will follow you in hopes of being followed back.
    With my company’s account, I’ve developed a strategy to balance our list in favor of gathering insight without clutter and maintaing a credibly follower/following ratio: when we’ve been followed, I usually wait a day or two to see if they drop off before following back. If it’s annoying, irrelevant, or offensive content: unfollow. Every month or so, I’ll go through the top of our following list and clean out inactive accounts. Sounds like a lot of work, and I guess it is, but we’re just building our social media presence.
    I appreciate your even-handedness, and I just realized that this is an older post! I hope you enjoyed your policy being tested with floods of new followers 🙂

  • My idea of quality is if the profile passes my anti-spam tests (IE if its a feed full of quotes or links or no bio I don’t follow). I follow.  If I start to notice nothing but selling afterwards I drop them. But recently I have stopped following recommendations of top tweeters, why? They’re boring. I looked at my list of “mentors” and had to shake my head. With a few exceptions they had gone from interacting to talking to you. Granted some of these profiles had tens of thousands of followers. But they can’t take the time to say hi to one of them during the day.
    I promote my books on twitter, but I also talk to a lot of my followers and try to keep people entertained too. Because I use twitter first to network, second make friends, third “oh by the way, I write books”. Its been working for me.

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  • I love you.

  • : )

  • Anonymous

    Great post, my fav is when people follow you send you a DM (so they know you are following them) then they unfollow you so you can’t DM them back. What the heck is that about?

    I try to read the stream before I follow and put them in a list. Takes some time but well worth the effort.

  • I value Mitch Joel’s idea and I think he’s awesome and I understand the filtering and all that stuff he’s so concerned about. However, I think people like Danny Brown and you will be loved even more because as Brian Solis always puts it, “Engage or Die”

  • What a wonderful story! Like you, I’ve met many great people on Twitter – who’ve become people I’ve caught up with IRL.  My rule? If I like what they tweet, I follow them! 🙂

  • A good strategy I think!  Thanks!

  • We all have to follow our own paths, but it has certainly worked for me!

  • That is a weird one for sure Al. Thanks for commenting!

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  • This was excellent Mark. Timely and thought-provoking as usual. 
    I’d say my style is a blend of yours and Mitch Joel’s: a bit highbrow but also grounded in filtering 3 practices that really grind my gears, and usually solicit a swift unfollow if I see continued patterns: 

    1. My distaste for Foursquare abuse. I don’t give ([email protected]:twitter so charmingly put it in “Own Your F*cking Owl” http://bit.ly/uYixaS this week), three fine frog’s ass hairs if you’re in XX location parking lot. 
    How does that provide value to others? Since when have we developed such inflated sense of selves that every insipid, mundane detail of our lives simply HAS to be shared across social channels? 

    Foursquare is for those who 1) Are too lazy to blog or create compelling content and 2) Build massive lists and have a panic attack every time their Klout score drops a point. 
    People seriously need some perspective. 

    2. Those who only share inane, cliche quotes you’d find written in your 5th grade yearbook: “Carpe diem” >> “He has achieved success…whether by a well kempt garden patch” >> “Enjoy Life – take time to smell the roses, watch a sunset or sunrise with a loved one, take a walk along the seashore, hike in the woods etc.”
    Think I’ll go and vom about something else now…

    3. Those who swear profusely, only talk about themselves or are so negative it’s nauseating. Bigotry and hatred one of the easiest things to eliminate 

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Hi Mark,

    Twitter snobbery and Klout seem to go hand-in-hand. When I look at results I’m always amused.  More on that in a minute.

    We met on Twitter. Would it have happened if we didn’t follow each other? I don’t know, but I doubt it. My follow policy is identical to yours except that I also unfollow people who I don’t know and haven’t been active for 90 days or more, It’s a community housekeeping thing.

    The primary reason I follow people back is so they can direct message me. Most of my incoming DM are from people who don’t have a large community. Like you and Reza, the conversations almost always lead to something special. If you read my Twitter stream there are often nonsensical conversations because part of them are via DM or email. My community members tend to use multiple tools when we chat.

    Klout doesn’t measure DM’s. It doesn’t measure email exchanges. It doesn’t measure real life conversations. And, because it doesn’t (can’t) measure those things, it doesn’t really measure influence. I’ve spent a lot of time testing and quantifying Twitter activity for my clients. I’ve found that the “influencers” as defined by Klout get retweets but they don’t drive traffic. There have been many times that the number of retweets have exceeded the number of clicks. This means that people are retweeting without checking out what they retweet.

    But when the people who are not worth the Twitter snobs follow back share links, something different happens. The clicks always exceed the retweets. Could it be that they are more influential? That their connections trust them more? That the relationships they’ve established are genuine?

    I think so.

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