Why I Don’t Follow Everyone that Follows Me and You Shouldn’t Either

Guy Kawasaki recently wrote a post where he makes the case that the best way to get followers on twitter is to 1.) follow everyone that follows you, 2.) have fake conversations with important people so you'll look important and 3.) tweet lots of links to things that "might" be interesting.  While his strategies are obviously effective if your goal is to "get lots of followers" I think what he's proposing is unhelpful and promotes an underlying misconception about the best way to use social media.

Let me start by saying have a huge respect for Guy and love his writing…I just think he's wrong on this point.

As Seth Godin points out in this video having tons of followers on twitter is worthless.  What matters are the real relationships…and the exchange of worthwhile ideas.

When you visit the twitter profile of Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble or Barack Obama and see that they're "following" thousands of people, you instantly know that they're not really "following" any of those people (admittedly Obama may be a little busy preparing to lead the free world).   Guy admits this in his post when he says that following his strategy you'll have to focus on messages sent directly to you.  This defeats the purpose of "following" someone in the first place…and I think points to a deeper misunderstanding of social networking.

Social networking is important when its real and it's a useless distraction when its fake. 

The question to ask is not "how many followers do I have?" but "Are there people out there who I would go out of my way for and I know
would go out of their way for me?"  The way that you earn that is by
going out of the way for them.

When I visit the profile of someone like Steven Bristol (of Less Everything) or Tim O'Reilly (of O'Reilly Media) and see them followed by hundreds or thousands of people while they only follow a fraction of that…I see someone that has genuine influence in the twittersphere.  People want to follow them because they say things that matter, not because they "return the follow." Rather than filling my tweetdeck with useless tweets just designed to attract followers, I know when I read their tweets I'm going to be reading content that's genuinely interesting to me.

So here's my plea (to all those folks that have started following me because I follow them or those folks who are ticked because I'm not following them after they started following me).  Let's not treat Twitter like MySpace.  Please, only follow the folks that are actually interesting to you, that you actually care about…and remember, if we see that you're following thousands of people…we don't believe you.

(In the interest of full disclosure…I follow Guy Kawasaki on Twitter…but I don't really believe he's following me…and I hope this post doesn't hurt my chances if I approach Garage Technology Ventures for funding of my next project)


13 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Follow Everyone that Follows Me and You Shouldn’t Either

  1. meryl333 says:

    Good POV and an approach I wholeheartedly endorse. Still, Guy’s advice is sound for some. My own twitter habits mirror my “real life”: lasting relationships w/ a variety of core people I respect–and who respect me. I don’t portend to be a socmedia expert, yet after 8 months on twitter, I’ve made contacts with many social media folks I can now call my friends.

  2. Jon I am pissed, I follow you and have more followers than Steve. But you mention Steve and not me! Steve says nothing but fart jokes, I bring wisdom and laughs. I am sad.

  3. Meryl333,
    Thanks for your comments. I agree, if your goal is to “get lots of followers” then I’m Guy’s approach is right on.
    I guess I’m questioning whether that’s the right goal to have.
    Like you I’ve connected with lots of interesting folks through twitter. Here’s my approach: If you follow me I look at your recent tweets. If I see something interesting I’ll follow you for a while. If I’m not finding your tweets interesting…after a while I’m going to stop following you.
    Interestingly, I still follow Guy on twitter. Because I respect him as a thought leader I’m willing to filter through his prolific tweeting for the real nuggets.

  4. I see people use Twitter almost like their personal GPS: “I got on the airplane” or “Watching a movie”, etc. If we’re really close friends that might be interesting but if I’m following you I want to know what you think and things you have found. A picture every now and then is nice but the links are important.
    I agree that just following everyone and having everyone follow you is not the point. Then we’re just groupies.
    I write a blog. It’s my thoughts, ideas and a snapshot of my journey. I don’t really care who reads it. It’s not really for the whole world. I do find that the people who did read it are the folks I really know. It reveals what I’m thinking and where I’m going. That is the point of all of this. In my opinion…..

  5. A very Useful blog. Thank you. I have just started using Twitter and will certainly take your advice into consideration.

  6. I “follow” almost everyone back because I think having to unlock the DM privilege is bullshit. If someone wants to pay attention to the thoughts I have throughout the day then I’d better give them (a) the chance to show me that they are just as interesting to me and (b) the opportunity to communicate with me privately about those thoughts. If Twitter allowed private DMs even between non-followers I wouldn’t follow everyone back. And Tweetdeck helps make that number manageable with its grouping feature. For now.

  7. I know Guy, I’ve met Guy, I like Guy, I respect Guy – and at the same time I’ve told him that his regular followers/friends/readers may be getting way too many alltop-promoting tweets.
    To his credit, he is honest, made no excuses for what he considers effective promotion techniques (I can’t tell him to stop promoting something that he has to hawk as I would too), would be fine if I stopped following him (does that make him insincere?) and did not take my feedback as an attack as many people do online and in person.
    So, has Guy swung too far to one side of the “great opinions vs. self-promotion” pendulum? Yes, I think quite a bit. But, he’s successful at what he does and his experiences and advice are still worth a lot to anyone starting anything new. (Of course, I am biased. I am mentioned in the credits to ART OF THE START. LOL).
    Now, go ahead and follow me on twitter and read my blog and don’t forget my awesome photos at .
    Darn – ran out of things to self-promote…. 🙂

    Guy’s method works for him. Yours, and other people who want to forge relationships moreso than create large networks, obviously works for you. And believe it or not, people who spam think it’s working for them! It’s pure arrogance, and part of our human nature, to make people wrong for holding a belief that differs from our own, but it doesn’t mean it is reality.
    Though I don’t use Guy’s approach (I just don’t want to follow EVERYONE that follows me, but for now I follow most) I think he made some very valuable points. BUT people are so focused on ONE component of what he said, they miss the forest for the trees. His first paragraph described why he was giving the advice that followed. Did anyone actually READ the first paragraph? From all the yammering it seems like I am the only one who picked up on why he was saying what he did.

  9. Delightfully and Disturbingly Human

    A blog post calls another very well known and well liked blogger an idiot. That’s the title: “So-and-so is an Idiot.” A mutual friend tipped me off in an email. I know the alleged idiot in that post, I do…

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