Scaling Up My Twitter Follow-Back Policy

Yesterday I revised my follow-back policy on Twitter. My old policy was to follow back everyone, if they looked like a real normal person. Which means not like a robot, or some company with a Ponzi scheme, or some big-breasted girl selling candy for grown-ups. (And more valid reason can be found here: Why People Don't Follow Back on Twitter)

Unfortunately, my approach was not scalable.

I had adopted this policy for three reasons:

  1. I would like to enable people to send me direct messages, just like they are able to send me emails.
  2. I think organizing and filtering Twitter streams is more powerful when done with client applications (like TweetDeck) and not on the server (by Twitter itself).
  3. I think it is a form of politeness to acknowledge new followers by following them back.

Unfortunately, this policy turned out not to be scalable, for two reasons:

  1. Whether or not to follow someone back is a conscious decision that takes time. I had to check every person’s statistics, bio, and their latest twenty tweets (like suggested in Twitter follow-backs: the 5 step lightning approach). At times when there are 50 new followers per day, this easily cost me half an hour. That’s a costly form of politeness. Of course, only the decision whether to follow someone back is the not-scalable-part. It would be easy to just auto-follow everyone (as Guy Kawasaki and others do). But I have no use for a Ponzi scheme, nor candy for grown-ups.
  2. Various client tools become slower and more cumbersome when you’re following 1000+ people. When it became an arduous task to simply browse through my list of followed people, I knew I was heading in the wrong direction.

So, I un-followed everyone, and re-followed about 200 people that I was really paying attention to. I regret that many people won’t be able to DM me anymore, and I will find myself a more scalable way to express my gratitude to followers. And sure, some more people will definitely be added back to my list.

But not all 1500. Sorry.

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