We wanted to flip the tables on internet marketing this week and take a look at one of the limitations of Twitter from a user perspective.
You may not know this yet, but there is a limit to how many of your fellow tweeters you can follow. I found out the hard way.
As a writer, I am a good observer. So when I joined Twitter, I watched how other writers handled their accounts. Writers follow (and are followed by) each other in droves. Some paranormal e-book authors follow 60,000 or more people. I began aggressively following other writers and literati thinking there was no limit to the inspiration available.
I was wrong.
“ Twitter limits following behavior [because] these limits help us improve site performance and reliability and help us make Twitter a nice place for everyone.” —Twitter
Aggressive is a bad word for Twitter. They use the word 4 times (out of 456 words) on their Following Rules and Best Practices Page. And never in a good way.
But when I say I follow other writers aggressively, I mean actively. I’ve sought out people with shared interests. A lot of them. Since June, I’ve followed 2,000 people I wanted to learn more about. And therein lies the problem. Twitter says I can’t follow anyone else until I have more followers. Here’s why that doesn’t make Twitter a nicer place for me.
I believe in the limits of my own importance
Being merely one human out of nearly 7,000,000,000 on this planet, I expect to notice more people than notice me. I think it’s weird when people have nearly the same number of followers as following—as if they are in a followback loop where they only want to know about people who like them first.
I currently follow three times as many people as follow me. I don’t think that’s because I’m boring. It’s because I like listening more than talking. Plus my following list covers many different topics and those tweeps may not share my interests.
Here’s who I follow and why:
- Marketers like SEO Chicks give me tips to do my day job better. Foreign marketers like Why Not Blue refresh my language skills while teaching me about SEO Montreal-style.
- A Dangerous Business and other travel bloggers fuel my dreams of someday using those language skills again.
- I learn about the publishing industry from agents, publishers, reviewers, and lit zines. I like being reminded of the people behind the good work at places like Melville House and Dalkey Archive.
- Other writers share my struggles and triumphs. Tweeting to Sarah Martinez about how much I enjoyed her book launch is a “thanks for the invite” and good promo for her.
- Visual artists and musicians offer different looks at creativity. BOMB Magazine posts archive interviews that hit all the right notes.
- Popular blogs like Huffington Post make sure I’m not totally clueless on the happenings of the world.
- Washington State DOT, Seattle Police, and local media give me the news I need right now.
- My friends and I support and promote each other in Twitter and real life. Ann Hedreen, Liza Wolff-Francis, Icess Fernandez, and Kim Brown all keep me grounded.
Most of those people will never follow me back. I don’t expect them to. But to get to follower/following parity which Twitter seems to want, I need a wide variety of strangers to follow me that I don’t plan to follow back. That just isn’t me…
I believe in community
I follow back. Not indiscriminately, but if you want to take time to get to know me, I’d like to get to know you too. We can do that on Facebook, but unfortunately you’ll have to make the first move on Twitter (and wait until I hit some magical unpublished ratio—PR and the Social Web says the magic formula is number of followers plus 10%—that means I can follow you back).
Although our day to day importance in each other’s lives may be small, I’m still glad to connect. The world is a lonely place without connections.
I believe in serendipity
Twitter is like Penn Station at rush hour. Somewhere in the cacophony is a voice telling an interesting story (a lot of them really), and I believe that Fate (and a little judgment on my part) will point me in the direction of the information and inspiration I crave. These “random” interactions prevent creative stagnation.
I believe in you
I don’t dump people I follow without good reason. Three or four tweets about how no one likes you or how you are the only important person in the word will get you dumped. And I block spammers. But mostly you’ll find me a pretty open and generous audience. Which means it’s nearly impossible to winnow down my following list so I can follow new people.
What do I do now?
Can I get around this follower limit? Yes. I could start dumping people I don’t LOVE (but I won’t). Or I could build lists of people I am interested in but don’t follow and then set up a stream in HootSuite, but why should I have to? Why should it be so difficult?
”If you’ve reached the account-based follow limit (2,000 users), you’ll need to wait until you yourself have more followers before you can follow additional users.” —Twitter
I can accept that I have to sit out following for a while (not that I have any choice). But it annoys the crap out of me that I can’t take an active aggressive role in building my Twitter feed. So, Destiny…will I get more followers or is everything I need already in my feed?
Are you wildly inspired by too many tweeps? How do you handle your follower/following ratio?