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My top 10 criteria for following a Twitter account 

Flickr photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplelime/I’ve made the odd wrong call over the years. One was the . When I saw the first in the early 2000s, I couldn’t see them going anywhere. They were pretending to be proper with no proofreading or even fact-checking, and I looked down on them. Some, I suppose, that still carry on their nonsense with a high-and-mighty approach, without realizing what blogs really are, should still be looked down upon. But those who embrace the blogging culture, seeing it as a means to create dialogue and to share ideas, get my vote.
   Twitter was the same. I was probably one of the early adopters of in April 2007. But I couldn’t see a need for Tweeting. Being predisposed against cellphones and the limits of the single SMS message, it reminded me too much of them. Now, with a particularly “noisy” Twitter account (a lot of posts for the few followers I have), I am obviously a convert, because I engage with like-minded people. It reminds me more of the early days of the internet, when it was more club-like than the spam-infested waters we chart today.
   I don’t particularly enjoy it, however, when some Tweeters go on about shoulds and shouldn’ts on Twitter. There do not appear to be hard and fast rules yet, especially something that is as limited expression-wise as Twitter. One post on the blogosphere attacked one Tweeter for spamming. The complaint? He sent notes of thanks to other Tweeters, but because they were not private, direct messages, and everyone among his followers could see them, they were considered .
   I disagreed, and, judging by the comments, so did many others. My argument was that I knew full well what sort of Tweeter the person was when I signed up. In fact, I liked the fact he was so respectful and was willing to engage in one-to-one . When you know what you’re getting into, it can’t be spam. If you didn’t like the Tweeter, a removal request—an “unfollow”, in Twitter parlance—works. Unlike spam.
   These personal messages probably upped my own total where I engage in dialogue directly with followers. And while I have had a few leave, the overwhelming majority have stayed on. What might be a bit disconcerting is the fact I have had thousands of Tweets for the 700-odd people who follow, which might discourage others from signing up. (The Lucire Twitter account, I have noticed, has roughly the same number of posts as it does followers.)
   I guess it depends what one goes for. I never look at the noise ratio, while others might. When figuring out whom to follow, I look at these factors, and it really is a first-impressions approach. These might not be yours, and because everyone uses Twitter their own way, it is not meant to be a definitive list. These points are just my ones, as valid as the next person’s.

1. Do I know the person?
   If I am a friend, especially a real-world one, then I will likely follow regardless. End of inquiry.

2. If I don’t know the person, do I admire what they do?
   There’ll be some whose work I plain like, so I don’t care if they don’t follow me back. I think highly of them and I want to see what they are thinking.

3. Is the person’s following-to-follower ratio roughly one to one?
   If so, it suggests that they are willing to engage one-to-one with people. Some celebrities, with the notable exception of Tweeters such as Stephen Fry, are notorious for having many followers but not too many people among their following category. That suggests they enjoy having that adoration—but aren’t willing to put a bit back toward their fan base. No dialogue or engagement there, and the relationship is no different to when I see them on telly or True Hollywood Story. (You can check who’s following you back using friendorfollow.com.)

4. Are the Tweets of value?
   I have been guilty of letting an automated service—I forget its name because so many Twitter support services are called Twitter-this or Tweet-that, and are not well branded—repost my blog headlines on to Twitter. Some people found them of value. But many others do not because it’s too “robotic” for them. They want to see that the Tweeter has engaged people one on one. I have a mixture of both now, with the real posts outnumbering the automated ones, but if all I see are automated ones, I will think twice. If they are relevant, I might follow. If they are not—today I saw one that just listed the songs the Tweeter was listening to—then I won’t.

5. Has the Tweeter engaged?
   I like seeing the one-to-one . If the Tweeter has sent single messages to someone else (they’re the ones beginning with an at sign), it means they might do that with me and inspire me. Or, I can help them and they might accept my advice. Basically, there is a two-way street.

6. How many Tweets has the person made?
   I will think about quantity, too. If there are only three, then there’s a smaller chance I will follow, unless (1) applied. If there are no Tweets at all, then that’s a big turn-off.

7. Has the Tweeter been repeating posts?
   There’s nothing more discouraging than seeing the same URL posted in six of the last ten Tweets the person has made. It suggests to me that they are there to spam.

8. Has the Tweeter posted things I’ve seen before?
   There’s one going around now about getting 19,530 new followers or something like that, accompanied by a link. Many Tweeters have this on their accounts. I have never clicked on the link they provide but it looks too to me. I might be wrong, but it’s another turn-off.

9. Is the account real or fake?
   This is tied in to points (4) through (8) above. There are some accounts that are probably created by computer. You can tell who they are because they will have a nonsense combination of letters or even digits in their usernames, there will be a picture of a scantily clad and well endowed woman as the avatar, they come in groups as the script goes through the web, and they all say the same thing. I block these and file a spam report with @spam, run by Twitter.

10. Is the follower really there to engage or to pump up their number?
   There are a few whose MO is to come in to Twitter, follow you, expect you to follow back, and after a few days, they disconnect. I hadn’t wised up to this initially but I spotted a few after a while who did just that. Because I try to keep a reasonable following-to-follower ratio, I don’t want to follow someone who had “unfollowed” me, and that’s how I learned of these people. They would come back a few weeks later and try the same thing, like clockwork (possibly it is clockwork, i.e. a software script). I believe I have blocked one; you might find it quite amusing to observe their repeated techniques. One has been by my account eight times.
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Very good points. I am new to twitter and enjoying the possibility of it all.  
Thank you. Just remember a few things: first, in personal cases, you are in charge of the technology, not the other way around; and secondly, because it’s still fairly new, I don’t believe there’s an ideal way of using Twitter yet. But I do like it for the community feel it gives.  
You called out @stephenfry, and I feel the need to leap to his defence. I followed him when he had ~30k followers and was stunned when he bothered to follow me back - when his Twitter exploits started hitting worldwide newspapers, I think is when he couldn't keep up anymore - going from 30k to 150k in a couple of months can't be easy to keep up with! And if you look at his tweetstream you'll see that he's VERY engaged and chatty with the ppl he follows (about 55k) - I have a hard enough time keeping track of a few hundred :) In fact I personally know at least 3 ppl who unfollowed him because, in their view, he talks too much. Make of that what you will.

If you're gonna complain, how bout you pick on someone like @biz (200k followers, follows 158, founder of twitter :) )?

Cheers, from @arowarth  
Hi Jack - I can see you've put a lot of thought in your criteria list. Good one!

Coincidetally, I told my dad about Twitter recently (he blogs already, so I thought I'd convert him to Tweet as well) - and he just didnt quite get the whole thing, saying "Why do you want to know what others are doing and where do you find the time to keep yourself updated with all this 'nonsense'?" ..haha

I guess the whole concept of Twitter works on a simple rule - our inane desire or curiosity to know what others are up to - the Chinese would call it "sam pat" (38) - or simply, a busybody.

But I embrace this 'nonsense' - it's valuable 'nonsense' to me! :)  
Alan, I have no idea what you are talking about. Just where did I attack Mr Fry? So where did I complain about his being too chatty? Did you even read the piece before you got so preachy?
   Adèle, I agree, but also I find the networking useful.  
Jack, I do beg your pardon - I somehow misread point 3 as "Some celebrities such as @stephenfry are notorious for..." - missing the critical "notable exception" clause. Whoops! I certainly wasn't intending to flame or to preach, merely to share my experiences. Thanks for an interesting and well-reasoned article.  
Alan, thank you for that. I even wrote a follow-up the same day for a print magazine where I praised Stephen three times, so it did take me aback!  
I must add to the defence of Stephen Fry. The guy gets thousands of @replies every day (just do a Twitter search on @stephenfry and see how they just keep coming). He puts a HELL of a lot of effort into interacting with his fans, but it would be physically impossible for him to respond to everyone. The comments in this article were *outrageously* unfair.  
Oops. I just maade the same mistake.

My sincere apologies.

Take it as a sign of my huge admiration for the good Mr Fry. :)  
I have to say Jack, your criteria are pretty valid. I've been known to engage in some vanity follows before, but have since stopped. I like what you have said here.  
I agree with most of your comments. One exception. I have to disagree with the 1-to-1 ratio. I used to think that, then realized that I was not able to engage as well as I used to before my list got larger. I originally got involved in Twitter to offer greater benefit to my clients and potential prospects. I think as long as you are transparent in your intentions, it's okay to make your own rules. you may disagree, but I'm going to post my new rules on my Twitter page later today. I'm sure my list of followers will drop...probably not a bad thing - I say that because I think some are following simply because I had always followed people that followed me. All in all, a very nice, thought out post.
I'm going to disagree with you here on two points:

3. Is the person’s following-to-follower ratio roughly one to one?

Since you took Fry as an example, I'll use him also. I'd imagine that with him at 311,000 followers, following all of them back would be an inhuman achievement. I mean, politeness aside, I'm not going to waste hours following each of them back and don't kid yourself, are you?

Also, when you talk about one post on the blogosphere attacked one Tweeter for spamming, I completely agree, he was spamming. Thanking them for the add in a DM is no more personal or impersonal than an @reply.

Plus, people following you don't want a stream of your tweets "@whoever Thanks for the add!"

I mean, other then that it's a good list, which I'd use and recommend. Just those two points stuck out at me.  
Yeah good post, I hope I tick most of those in a positive sense. I was actually dis-couraged by the twitter community yesterday for RT'ing that tweepme all day. Twitter shouldnt be about 1000 random followers / followings, I would rather have 10 who can actually give value!  
T. Simpson: thank you. Deidre and Tommy: I take your points.
   Deidre, that is a very good point. I only have a few hundred followers so I haven’t experienced what it would be like to get a mass of Tweeters following in one go. I imagine if it did get over a certain amount I could see Twitter being less practical.
   Tommy, true: 311,000 is impracticable. When I first followed Stephen he had tens of thousands and admit I did not check back when I wrote this piece.
   With the possible spamming, I imagine it’s a definition thing and in this early stage we are both probably right. What we have to bear in mind is we control this technology and should mould it to our requirements—which, of course, was probably one of the underlying reasons behind what you and Deidre wrote.
   Stuart, thank you—agreed with you there. Twitter has become partly recreational for me, but those senseless Tweets do annoy me still.  
Dave, since you and Alan both reacted the same way originally maybe I should take some responsibility. Perhaps it was my phrasing. Anyway, glad to know we are all fans of the esteemed Mr Fry.  
Jack - Thanks for sharing this link - We definitely engage the same Twitter philosophy.

I especially like the point about the "spam" thank you Tweets - I am always so grateful when someone RTs - it's so important to let that person (and the world) know you appreciate them!

I very much look forward to networking with you more.

Wendy, I’m glad most post struck a chord and, like you, I am grateful for the RTs I get, too!  
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