Rexplanation: How I decide who to follow on Twitter

[Note: This post is a Rexplanation.]

Recently, I followed someone on Twitter who, upon being notified of my follow, responded to me with a tweeted reply: I’m curious: Why did you decide to follow me?

As the 12 regular readers of this blog know, I have written way too much about Twitter over the years. However, an upside to that way-to-much writing is the ability to dig out and send people who ask me such questions a link to an old post like this one from 2009. It was written to explain why I unfollowed about 1,300 people I had followed (primarily, because they followed me) and began a new method for deciding who to follow.

Re-reading that post, I think the reasons are still sound for my explanation then of why I follow, and unfollow, people on Twitter. However, as Twitter has added more “people curation” features and more people tweet, I’ve decided to write this post to update the topic.

In another post, I might explain some of those features (like how it’s not necessary to actually follow someone to track what they are saying on Twitter), but to keep this post from going way too long, I’m going to limit it to the topic of describing the kind of people I overtly follow on Twitter — the ones who appear if you click on the  Following link on my Twitter account page at Twitter.com.

I follow:

  • People who tweet regularly and insightfully about a topic in which I’m interested. Typically, these topics will include: media (especially magazines and new media), technology or humor (especially ad-libbed commentary regarding breaking news).
  • People who have links in at least 33% of their public tweets. (I am using the term public tweets to describe those that aren’t a reply to someone.)
  • People from Nashville. I follow many people from Nashville who I don’t actually know. I do so because they serve as an “emergency radar system” and they tend to support the same sports teams I follow. I follow them overtly so they can direct-message (DM) me. I have DMs set up to come to me via text-message.
  • People I know — maybe not personally, but I know who they are. (However, I’m continuously amazed to discover someone I know tweets regularly, but somehow I’ve missed following them. If you are someone I know, but I don’t follow you, email me — I have all the Twitter notifications turned off, so I have no idea who actually follows me.)
  • People I’m intrigued with for reasons I can’t quite explain — as in, they’re a train wreck waiting to happen. (I find these are the people I unfollow most quickly, also.)
  • People who have re-tweeted or favorited a tweet of mine, causing me to glance at their profile where I typically discover we share a common interest — thus, they re-tweeted something I may have said.
  • People who have an avatar on their account and not the egg default avatar. Unless, say, they are my brother.
  • People who have written enough of the “bio” field to make me know they are who I think they are.
  • People who have blogged for a long time, or who used to blog but don’t anymore.
  • Funny people. But not a lot of funny people, because I like to tweet funny things and I don’t want to read something funny someone else wrote that I was thinking about tweeting.

I feel certain that this list is not complete, so, like other Rexplanations, I reserve the right to tweak it (and tweet it) later.

And then, as I’ll explain later, there is this irony: The more people you follow, the less likely you are to be able to keep up with what any one person you follow has to say. This is both a technical and human bandwidth issue. You can address the challenge with becoming a power-user of Twitter Lists. But that requires another Rexplanation, so I’ll stop here.

PS. If you want to follow me on Twitter, you have several flavors:

@R – My personal Twitter account
@HammockInc – Several people tweet here, but I sometimes add something
@SmallBusiness – Where I curate a few links a day of news about small business
@TitansRex – Where you’ll find me during an away-game of my favorite team
@RexSpammock – Where I try to understand what retailers are attempting to do to get people to tweet about them in exchange for incentives