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How Twitter Lost Me At Follow

Twitter Fail

Mugshots, blips, brightkites and a (get ready for the 10 cent word) plethora of other services have infiltrated the Twitter stream.

Frankly, they’re polluting the conversation and diluting the value of what Twitter could be – a place to discuss and gain insight into various topics.

This ideal is debatable, I know. It depends on whether you use Twitter as a resource center or a gossip column. Let me be clear, no one way is more correct than the other. However…

The more outside streams coming into Twitter, compounded with the number of people you follow, it gets pretty damn difficult to follow any type of conversation let alone actually develop relationships and learn from folks.

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I suppose this post could very much lead to a discussion on broadcast marketing versus relationship marketing.

So, I have a question for those that follow 1000, 2000, 5000 people… how in the hell are you gaining value from that much noise? Seriously, I’d love to know.

On the flip side, what do you do to provide value to the folks who follow you?

Here’s the thing: Twitter (or any social network, for that matter) is about developing relationships. Can you really do this when following 1000+ people? How do you develop relationships when conversations pretty much amount to nothing more than “drive-by” remarks?

The smaller your “follow” list the more insight you gain into each person’s life, their likes/dis-likes, what they’re up to, etc.

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So, if you’re looking to Twitter to be a source of education, valuable discussion, and profitable relationships then it would make sense to limit the number of people you follow.

Is this the solution?

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been relatively quiet on Twitter while I ponder both the value I receive from and provide to the stream.

I know some folks who limit the number of people they follow to between 50 and 100. This way they can engage in more meaningful conversations and get to know the other folks better.

Is a self-imposed limit the answer? I’d love to hear form you.

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Written By

Mark Eckenrode is a Certified Master of Guerrilla Marketing raised on comic books, punk rock, and Pepsi. He's also the chief marketing trainer at HomeStomper where AgentGenius readers can learn unconventional methods for winning with social media.



  1. Kim Wood

    November 10, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I’ll have to let you know what happens to the question I just posed on twitter (sorry I didn’t see this first :).

    I want to keep my connections, but right now I feel it’s mostly just “noise” and I’m beginning to not enjoy Twitter like I used to.

    If it’s all noise – you won’t be able to build relationships (and yes, I know tweetdeck can help, but it’s not the best answer, imho).

  2. Mariana

    November 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    You bring up some interesting points. Here are my personal thoughts on Twitter.

    1. I use Twitter socially. I enjoy the blips, mugshots, etc because it gives me a well rounded view of people I call friends. When I see what kinds of music they enjoy and what they deem important to write about and or photograph, it created friendship bonds on different levels. I would never know about these things without Twitter.

    2. I follow 318 hand-selected Twitterers. Many hardly ever tweet, but when they do, I am interested. Some tweet randomly thoughout the day. Some are twitter conversationalists. Some are purely Twitter notifiers. Many are a blend of all of the above. ALL are interesting to me.

    3. To me, Twitter is an ongoing conversation that I can join, watch or leave whenever I want to. There is always someone there to bounce an idea off of, complain about the weather, laugh about a funny post, congratulate …

    BTW … I clicked over to this post from a Tweet I read.

  3. DebOnTheWeb (AKA Deb Agliano)

    November 10, 2008 at 11:58 am

    You bring up a very good point Mark. I check and respond to my @replies and direct messages all of the time, but only check the full stream a few times a day because otherwise there is just too much and the conversations are disjointed.

    I joined as a way to try to follow the conversations I want. There’s a group called RealEstateTweeple there and it’s very easy to start a new group.

  4. Nick Bastian

    November 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I have been wondering where in the heck you have been. 🙂 Yep, I follow you. Yep, it can be hard to follow along with everyone and I might not catch every little nugget thrown out into the Twitterverse. But, I like the fact that those nuggets exist.

  5. Gina Kay Landis

    November 10, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    I follow folks whose tweets and profile I find interesting, engaging, and worthwhile, particuarly those with whom I have something in common. My follow list is a bit over 400, my followers, just under 500.

    The value the few that do actually frequenly tweet is still worthwhile. Noise is relative, of course, and some of the banter between those I follow and their followers, I skim over. However there are often gems among the noise that make each visit to Twitter something worth doing.

    1000 or more followers and those we follow? I would venture to guess not all 1000 tweet every day nor do they visit Twitter every day. Twitter, while a worthwhile venture, is often for social sorts. Those who joined up to appease another (i.e. in business, from someone saying it is a good thing) may not participate. Those who sought out Twitter or to whom Twitter was recommended as a social networking tool and a way to gain relationships and contacts and to(over time) gain actual business are more likely to participate.

    Is it “all good?” I dunno. Ask those who have thousands following and who follow thousands. Can’t fathom it myself, but then again when I was at 180 follows I couldn’t fathom being over 400. That said, I am finding it’s good at 400+.

  6. Todd

    November 10, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    “…So, I have a question for those that follow 1000, 2000, 5000 people… how in the hell are you gaining value from that much noise? Seriously, I’d love to know.”

    The smart people that follow me know to use the @ symbol and my user name to get my attention. Tweet Deck even provides a dedicated column for that so you see people mentioning you even if they are not in your friends list.

    Baffeling to keep reading the same hate for Twitter over and over in the RE space. I’ll repeat my same answer for the thousand time:

    In the context of an agent practicing realty, you need to learn to LISTEN. Set up keywords of interest and assign a location, build an alert using Yahoo Pipes to text message your phone. It’s not that difficult.

    Example: You want to know when anyone using Twitter in the 73301 area code mentions the word “REALTOR” or “I need an agent” in their tweet, and when found, send a text message with the Twitter status converted to a Tiny URL to your phone.

    “Noise” is an adjective used by those who fail to find the value in know what 4 million people are doing at any one given moment.

  7. Lucretia Pruitt

    November 10, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Should *you* follow more than 100 people? That’s a good question… One that YOU have to decide.
    Should *I* follow more than 100 people? Well yes, frankly.

    Here’s the thing – there’s no right or wrong on Twitter. There are, at best, some “best practices” if you are trying to achieve certain results from it. Even in those best practices, there will be variants.

    The power of Twitter is in the fact that it doesn’t have “rules” or “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” each and every individual user gets to craft his or her own environment.

    Don’t like how someone else is using it? Don’t follow them.
    They’re following you and trying to impose their presence by @ing you incessantly?
    Block them.

    At present, I interact with about 4,000 people on twitter according to the counters.
    Now, let’s talk about what that means.
    I post on average about 100-200 posts a day. Around 95% of those are @s – conversations with other users.
    I post about 50 DMs a day. All of those are interaction with other users.
    I have “close” relationships with a couple hundred people.
    I have “twitter” relationships with a couple thousand. (by that I mean we interact solely on twitter, and when we have things to say to each other… either I @ them or they @ me and the other responds)
    I have “symbolic” relationships with the rest – that would be because they don’t post often (or at all anymore) but mostly, we don’t interact – however, there are times when we do.

    Do I “keep up” um, no. That’s a mindset that works great at under 100 followers.
    But for me, twitter isn’t an email thread… it’s a cocktail party. I don’t walk into a cocktail party and say “okay, I just got here – quick! Tell me what everyone has said for the past 3 hours!”
    I walk in and say “hello! What are we talking about?” and someone might say “oh, Jenny said to tell you that she thinks X” (read: posted an @ to you 3 hrs ago) – if Jenny’s in the room I walk over and say “Jenny, about X…” (@ her back)
    Someone might say “You missed the conversation about Y – go talk to Tim & Joe to get caught up” (I saw an interesting twitter about it – I went to Tim & John’s timestreams to get caught up)
    Someone might come over and talk to me right away (@ me and engage)

    Twitter behavior is determined by what YOU want to get out of it. Not what other people *think* you should want to get out of it.

    Do I have real relationships with the people I follow? Don’t just trust me when I say yes – ask them.

    After all, I came here through @LaniAR’s tweet. You can ask her if you like. She’ll probably laugh, but you can ask her.


  8. Sonny Gill

    November 10, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    You lost it when you said that a network of a couple thousand is noise.

    That’s not noise, it’s actual conversations going on. You may not catch every single one but you most certainly can build a relationship even if you have that many followers.

    Is it difficult? Yes. I understand your point of having a small network helps you build more meaningful relationships, but it’s quite possible with a larger network as well. I follow 718 currently and am able to connect with and learn from many folks and don’t feel the stream to be overbearing. I don’t think limiting the amount you follow will solve anything. It’s to how each individual uses it and whether it fits their style or not.

  9. Justin Williams

    November 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    You can follow back via courtesy as much as you want but the Real Value comes into play when you focus on your priority listeners. The best way to do this is create a Priority Group in Tweetdeck and that way you can only focus on the ones you put in your priority group, otherwise if you are only on the Web/Mobile Etc then I agree there can be room for improvement in focusing on the priorities.

  10. Jim Grapes

    November 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I feel so old because I tried but never could develop even the slightest interest in twitter. As one of the last of boomers twitter seems so irrelevant to me.

  11. Molly

    November 10, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I don’t have more than 100 following or followers. I like it that way. I don’t follow everyone who follows me, I read through their tweets before I friend them and sometimes, what they tweet doesn’t appeal to me or isn’t something that I want people who know me/work with me to see over my shoulder.

    I like what Lucretia said about it being like a cocktail party-so true. I very rarely flip back through pages of tweets to “see what I missed”-unless I had to leave in the middle of a good thread.

  12. dirty_snowflake

    November 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I follow about 900 people on twitter. Size, scale, and noise is relative. I get bored following less folks. Once you scale up to a certain rate of consumption it’s hard to scale back down. If you don’t tweet a lot, then yes in that maelstrom of noise your voice will be lost. I have a lot of twitter friends that tweet a lot. I also have certain friends tweets sent directly to my phone as SMS, so I won’t lose their voices even if they don’t tweet a lot. I think it’s all about what scale works for you. I don’t follow people back unless they @me and engage me in conversation.

    I check twitter fairly often throughout the day both on the computer and my phone’s web browser when I’m bored or waiting in line. If I only had a few 100 people’s tweets to read over, I wouldn’t have constantly new content to entertain myself with. I have plenty of conversations with people and reserve DM’s for more intimate friends. If I want to track a particular topic I cruise over to summize and consume several pages of random peoples’ tweets. It’s all about the rate you consume information at and what works for you. I also periodically scale upwards and find more people to follow (usually based on interesting @ conversations they’ve had with other people in my twitterstream) once I’ve gotten used to the my current rate of dataflow.

    Whatever works for you.

  13. Todd Carpenter

    November 10, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    I have about 1000 followers/following. Could easily handle ten times as much. Why? Because I’m not reading every tweet from every person, every minute. I miss 99% of what gets said. I don’t care if 99% of my followers miss what I said.

    When I feel like it, I go post something. I usually stick around to see what folks online at that moment might be saying, and then I’m off.

    There are people I follow for real. Everything they post. @respres, @tboard, @mizzle, @gingerw, @beerealty… but I use to follow them. So for instance, do a search for housechick (my favorite twitterer of all time BTW) then click on the RSS icon, then dump it into an RSS feed reader.

    Now, every time housechick tweets, or is mentioned by someone else, it goes to my feed reader. When I want to see everyone, I go to my twitter client. When I want to see what my most important connections (maybe the ones for you Mark, that you want to build stranger relationships with) on twitter are saying, I go to my feed reader.

    Once you don’t feel obligated to make sense of the Twitter Stream, all those tools you lament like BrightKite and Blip become positives because they add to conversation. You want to really connect with someone? Share your taste in music on blip. You want to take online conversations offline? It happened to me yesterday when I used BrightKite to tweet and a follower found me in the same restaurant.

    I use Twitter to meat people. I use all those other tools to develop relationships with them.

  14. Brad Coy

    November 10, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I could go on with my thoughts here but for the most part they would mirror some of what has already been said here, esp. @geekmommy and @tcar. I’ve gone back to my roots with twitter. I use it for social reasons only pretty much these days, have shed making any, what I would consider unnecessary noise, (fancy that) and find it a great place to go to distract myself from what’s in from of me at any given time. What I generally find is that when I go on twitter these days I can engage friends in discussion or get involved in discussion at any given time. This is of great value for me. With relationships that I have developed I can call on any number of friends and locals for help on a variety of subjects. This is all reciprocated as well, believe me. I don’t care for a lot of back and forth chat and absolutely detest that the platform has become so spammy and business centric. 🙂

  15. Steph

    November 10, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Mark, I think it gets back to why we are on twitter. Am I going to unfollow someone simply because I don’t like their conversation or their tweets? That depends on who they are. If I could care less about another agents conversation on something they are passionate about, yet they are just as passionate about their clients…I don’t unfollow them because I would still love to send them a referral given the opportunity.

    If it is someone who has followed me for what ever reason I don’t know and we have nothing in common, then yes.

    I think maybe web 3.0 will be a lot less social for this reason. It’s about finding people you have something in common with right? Whether is be real estate, someone local who checks in on brightkite and you want to meet up with them or simply someone that you share the same music taste and enjoy blipping music with. I don’t think any of it is wrong, it’s just that you can’t please everyone. It would be a waste of time trying to do so.

    Anyhow, I don’t think it is noise. I think it is just people being people.

  16. Ken Brand

    November 10, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    imagine a party with 50 people, 170 people, 289 people, 516 people or more than 1,000. It’s stimulating. You touch base with the friends you know well. You cozy up to a pod of new folks who know friends you know and you listen to what they have to say, you comment, move on and maybe watch and listen to the cool kids in the corner. You meander out into the back yard and watch, listen, laugh and maybe toss a couple of comments on the fire.

    It’s like that for me. Some funny, some odd, some worthwhile, some ah-has, so-what’s and WTF’s too.

    My two cents.

  17. Dru Bloomfield

    November 11, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I love Twitter. Ok, my bias is showing.
    Cocktail party, yes. Sitting in the back of the classroom passing notes, yes. Emergency alert broadcast system, absolutely. It’s all that, and more.

    I’ve been told I have eclectic friends, and Twitter has opened doors to conversations and ideas that I might have missed. I search periodically on my current passion or fascination, and see who’s discussing. I use Tweetscan and other tools to keep up on business related conversations, which do happen also.

    It’s a tool. It’s toy. It’s whatever you want it to be. And whatever that is to you, enjoy it.

  18. Mark Eckenrode

    November 11, 2008 at 9:16 am

    great comments, folks. thanks. i really wanted to get a discussion going on this because this topic has come up in a number of conversations. good to have these viewpoints in one spot… you all rock.

    @debontheweb: i got pointed to tweetworks the other day and need to check that out. glad to see you’re liking it.

    @nick: thanks 🙂

    @todd: using the term “noise” does not mean one fails to recognize value (a purely subjective term itself). however, until one has a way to filter/manage the data in meaningful ways it really is just noise

    @lucretia: much thanks for sharing your “power user” approach 🙂

    @sonny: same as my comment to todd – no matter the value, it’s still just noise until you have a way to filter/manage the data

    @tcar: excellent practical advice, man.

  19. Mark Eckenrode

    November 11, 2008 at 9:20 am

    re-reading the comments i think the general consensus is this:

    stop looking for “value” and just talk

    is that accurate?

  20. Toby & Sadie

    November 11, 2008 at 9:24 am

    I do agree with you Mark on a fundamental level.

    All of the apps are making it harder to keep conversation going. Of course, the “Twitter Purists” will say that Twtter was never intended to be a conversation platform in the first place.

    So, I think it goes back to the fundamental element: Why are you on Twitter?

    If @mizzle posts a mugshot, I’m definately going to look. You never know what it will be. But she also provides so much more.

    When someone follows me, I check their profile. If all they are doing is using Twitter as an RSS feed, then I’m out. I want conversation.

    I work a lot from home. I miss the water-cool chit-chat. So Twitter provides some of that when I need a short break – similar to Brad.

  21. teresa boardman

    November 11, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I have around 1000 followers but am following maybe 600. You can’t keep up with them all and I don’t read every tweet. I share your view on the blip and the mugshots but that is what people like to do on twitter. Some of the relationships I have via twitter have value, others do not. Kind of like my life outside of twitter.

  22. Derec Shuler

    November 11, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    @tcar mentioned this weekend that Twitter is like the watercooler for the virtual workplace and that’s a great analogy. Conversation is always going on and you can jump in when passing by.

    I use TweetDeck and setup keyword searches to be notified when certain topics or phrases are used in Tweets, which is a great way to monitor trends and expand my circle with people that share interests.

  23. Paula Henry

    November 12, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Lots of tak about Twitter lately. I admit I just didn’t get it at first. I was looking to make some new friends, learn more about people I alreday knew in the industry and make the most of the marketing potential it provides.

    I have since broadened my view, looked at local Twits and found some great new friends and businesses.

    I don’t always get a response, but that’s okay – often I do. I’m still learning about the potential, but enjoy the bits of wisdom and insight I gain each time I visit.

  24. Vicki Moore

    November 13, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Justin Williams – Thanks for the heads up to TweetDeck. I saw someone using it at BlogWell – even tho at the time I didn’t know what it was. What a huge help. I

  25. Matthew Rathbun

    November 13, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    To me, Twitter is an ongoing information party. I look for certain people (mainly the first 100 or so followers who I actually connected with) and pause to overhear certain other conversations, as I pass through the party.

    I’ve met some amazing folks through this conversation stream, and almost all of them have enriched my life at some point.

    I find the ability to share in this venue of great importance as well. Anytime I’m stuck and need some help, all I have to do is ask in less than 140 characters and someone WILL have the answer if your sphere is large enough.

    I don’t think it’s the number of followers you have – it’s the quality. I’ve dumped some followers who were “big names” because they weren’t adding value – just self promotion.

    For now – I still find value.

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