a peek inside the fishbowl

10 Jan, 2013

How do you decide who to follow on Twitter ?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: The business of blogging

I think this probably happens to everyone who has an account that reaches a certain milestone, but suddenly I’m getting a whole bunch more Twitter followers than ever before. I’m not one of those people who automatically follows everyone back. I spend about 5 seconds deciding whether I will follow someone or not. This is what runs through my mind:

  • Has the person posted a photo of themselves? If it’s blank I automatically assume they’re a spammer. I also prefer photos of people, not logos, or cats, because I prefer to see a friendly face. Speaking of which, I have unfollowed people with gross and/or animated photos because I can’t stand seeing them in my feed. So pick a good photo of yourself and run with it.
  • What’s the twitter handle? If it’s something like SunnyDay23765 I assume it’s a spammer and don’t read on.
  • Has the person filled out a bio? Some people don’t bother, so I don’t bother.
  • How did they use their allotted 160 characters for their bio? The bio is make it or break it for me. And this is where I confess that I don’t often follow people in insurance/car/real estate/pyramid-type sales. I don’t want to open myself up to the hard sell. Sorry, but it’s true. If you list yourself as a salesperson first above all other things I assume it’s your priority and that you’re just out to find clients. Be creative. Be yourself. Scratch that… be the Best Creative Version of yourself. And use good keywords too. If you love cupcakes and want to connect with other cupcake lovers, say so in your bio and they will find you.
  • Has the person told me where they live? I am more likely to follow someone who lives in my home town. Filling in a location can also create some work/networking/interpersonal opportunities too, so if you are the kind of person who is looking to boost your Twitter followers, it might be a good idea to reveal where you are tweeting from.
  • What has the person been tweeting lately? If it’s funny, relevant, insightful, or interesting, I am more likely to follow. I am also more likely to follow if there is a good balance of “look at me” tweets and tweets about other people. I have unfollowed people who talk about themselves ad nauseum. Twitter is a conversation, and I don’t want to follow people who just talk about themselves all the time. And don’t be a jerk. Because if I see you being a jerk (to me, or to anyone one Twitter) I will never give you my business. In fact, I’ll tell people to stay away from you because you’re such a jerk. Here’s a good exercise: open your twitter feed and look at your last 5-10 tweets. Do those tweets reflect the kind of person you are?
  • I am lukewarm in regards to inspirational quotes from Gandhi, Einstein, Maya Angelou, etc. but I think opinions are mixed on this one.
  • Has the person interacted with me? I may not follow the account at first, but if I sense that they’re listening and interacting with me I am more likely to follow.

If you’re on Twitter I’d love to hear how you decide who to follow.

p.s. I should probably mention that I’m @missfish on Twitter eh? :)

16 Responses to "How do you decide who to follow on Twitter ?"

1 | Giulia Doyle

January 10th, 2013 at 2:46 pm


I will also follow someone on Twitter who has made thoughtful comments on my blog post, and/or interacted with me on the blog or by email.

2 | Randy Little

January 10th, 2013 at 3:53 pm


I follow nearly anyone who lives in and around Ottawa (save for chronic complainers and link posters) and only allow the same to follow me. I block everyone else without emotion :)

3 | Mary Lynn

January 10th, 2013 at 4:01 pm


I use very similar criteria, except that I follow quite a few people outside my hometown. I quite enjoy hearing what’s going on in other parts of the country (or outside Canada).

I rarely follow people who list their businesses first in their profiles, but I do follow a few because when I looked at their actual tweets I found that they talked about a lot more than just work. In addition to the businesses you listed, I’m wary of marketing and promotions types, but I’ve made exceptions in a few cases.

4 | Theresa

January 10th, 2013 at 4:09 pm


I usually follow people that I find interesting, informative, or share a common interest with. I think one thing to remember is that what we may find exceptionally interesting, others may find annoying. My twitter is a reflection of who I am and what I think, and if anyone finds my tweets boring or annoying, they are welcomed to unfollow me, it won’t hurt my feelings. I try to keep this in mind when reading my twitter feed. Maybe someone goes on ad nauseum about their new job, new home, cat, supper, tattoo… It’s important to them, they are excited about it. They are not tweeting solely for my benefit, I am choosing to follow them and their thoughts and opinions.

That said, if all someone ever tweets is how much they bench pressed, how many kms they ran, how annoying their coworker is (those tweets can be pretty funny, by the way) I simply unfollow. I don’t expect them to tweet to please me any more than I tweet to please anyone else. If I feel inspired to tweet a Gandhi quote, I’m doing it. I don’t give a second thought if anyone might find it annoying.

Like you, I won’t follow anyone without a photo and some sort of a bio.

5 | andrea

January 10th, 2013 at 4:41 pm


Theresa, you bring up a great point about one’s “interestingness.” It’s entirely subjective, especially as it relates to notable quotes. I am only speaking for myself here in terms of what I find interesting. I think it’s safe to say that on Twitter we should try to remain true to our authentic selves, but it is still good practice to be mindful of what we put out there into the world. After all, we don’t know who’s reading, right?

6 | Femi

January 10th, 2013 at 5:57 pm


When I first got on Twitter, I only followed a list of the top people in my field (Public Relations). I expanded out to follow people in my interests (sports, technology, investing). Now I am looking to whittle it down between those who actually tweet, share interesting content aligned to my interests, don’t spam a lot, and are humorous.

7 | lacoop

January 10th, 2013 at 7:00 pm


It took me a bit of time to understand the value of Twitter…now I get it…it is my source of news at all levels. Sadly, newspapers and broadcast news just don’t do much for me anymore…too often they just report to “inflame” and get attention…other times they have not done much of a job checking the facts. On Twitter, if I follow the right people, I can get the latest news on so many things I am interested in following. So, I look for “local” sources of news (like you Andrea), and I look for big picture news stories, and I follow satellites (yes, actual satellites in orbit), and I follow cooks, and athletes and so forth…because those are things I am interested in (and more). In order to select them, I check a lot of the same parameters you described above, especially checking their latest tweets to see how interesting they are…and I do tend to check how many followers they have as a simple measure of popularity (not a deciding factor, but it does grab my eye).

8 | Tanya

January 10th, 2013 at 8:38 pm


After listening to my husband constantly talking about Twitter, I decided to give it a try. At first I was lost but am getting the hang of it, sort of. I use it to follow news, weather, funny people and locals, especially other moms. I am currently at home on mat leave so I am living vicariously through others, twitter and blogs, for the time being.

9 | Chris

January 10th, 2013 at 9:20 pm


I use twitter as a source for my industry news primarily. I have similar guidelines for who I follow and who I let follow me. That being said I do allow eggs and logos from known sources as many in my industry haven’t figured out Twitter yet. It makes for some interesting “discoveries” from my industry when they don’t realize the implications of tweeting sensitive information.
For outside my industry if I get a follower or I’m looking to follow I read what they’ve posted to get a sense of what they broadcast. I allow anyone regardless of industry follow me as long as they are a real person and tweet nothing too outrageous. I won’t usually follow them back but if they want to hear what I say it doesn’t hurt.
I will/do follow people of all stripes politically from my local/Provincial/Federal levels to hear what’s being said (even the ones I severely dislike).
My two cents, or nickel as it will be going forward.

10 | peter goold

January 11th, 2013 at 9:12 am


I like what you say about twitter being a conversation. I follow anyone that I find interesting. That seems to be parents and especially self employed parents. Originally I had set up to follow my industry (insurance – sorry) but found the messages more like advertising and generally not informative. I did follow policticians especially those with views contrary to mine. May as well keep an open mind. The problem is that their tweets also often seem canned. So if I am following someone they are likely to be original and informative. Humor is always welcome! If you are all that I don’t mind the odd pitch coming my way! @SFAgentPeterG

11 | andrea

January 11th, 2013 at 10:09 am


Ha. Peter. Sorry for the dig at insurance people. But you get where I’m coming from, right?

Sales people (of all kinds!) who are looking to build a client list should start by building relationships with people instead. And this takes time. I’m only suggesting they focus on the other things they bring to the table, such as a love for hockey or knitting. Whatever! The relationships build organically and the business stuff will come later.

A great way of sorting followers (especially by industry) is by using Twitter lists. I find Hootsuite to be a great way of organizing lists into streams. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your varied followers try dividing them by topic and accessing them that way. For example you can have a local news feed, a recipes feed, etc. And you only read the list you feel like at that moment.

12 | Javamom

January 11th, 2013 at 11:07 am


I am relatively new to twitter and use it in association with my conversational blog. Having said that, to me, Twitter is not a competition of ‘hey look at how many people follow me, or I have collected’ kind of thing. I am very selective on who I follow, many of whom also have a blog, so that I can actually interact in some way some of the time with those people. I don’t even have a 100 followers, nor am I following 100 tweeps. It’s not about the volume, for me.

I do like variety though. I live in Toronto but follow people in other parts of Canada, and world wide. That is the whole thing for me – variety. How cool to hear about someone buried in a snowstorm in Saskatchewan, or another person excited about a local event in Ottawa…or the US somewhere…

Sometimes I unfollow someone, not because they aren’t nice people, or spamming me, but simply because I no longer require to see their tweets about things. Maybe that person is in the midst of toddlerhood and preoccupied about toilet training, and that’s all fine and dandy, I have BEEN there, but I no longer want to read about it. I may still visit her/him on their blog here and there, but I just don’t need or want that feed in my Twitter anymore.

13 | Heather

January 11th, 2013 at 5:05 pm


I am still a newbie at Twitter so I have to admit that I tend to follow the people that make sense to me! Sometimes, with all the links and hashtags, I feel like I am reading a different language.

I like following local Ottawa people and those who do the same type of work I do, but I just unfollowed someone who seemed to be advertising products in just about every tweet.

And hey, it was a Twitter feed that told me whether my kid was going to school today!

Now to figure out how I can eliminate some characters and get the word “Ottawa” in my bio….

14 | Mike Tiger

January 19th, 2013 at 9:46 am


Hello. Your views on following are similiar to mine. It has taken me a year (this month) to grasp the subtle technique required to communicate effectively. I do follow radio from across this land.They seem to be an amazing source of information, insipration,and humour.My tweets are basic (often sarcastic) My advice? Pick a”cause” one that would be suiting your morals.Eg. No Bullies or Melting Polar Cap, something like that is a feel good use of twitter.

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