The problem with auto-follow

Why do so many tweeps use auto-follow and auto-dm services?

By Rob FallaYour Presence Online

I suspect they are using the automated services because they want to build up a following but do not want to put the work into maintaining a good high quality following. There is a fairly recent trend on Twitter, especially amongst the newer users, to confuse quantity with quality. There seems to be some sort of bragging rights associated with having the biggest following amongst your friends.

There is no rational justification for building a large, random, meaningless follower base. Why would it matter if you have thousands of followers but have nothing useful or valuable to say to them.

If you are entertaining, insightful, knowledgeable on a particular subject or are a celebrity in your own right there is a good chance you will have a large follower base. This is because you are providing your followers with something of value.

What is auto-follow?

Auto-follow services monitor your follower list and automatically follow-back anyone who follows you.

Twitter validation services are a kind of auto-follow service whereby the person using the auto-follow service wants to auto-follow but wants to avoid following bot-maintained and therefore probable spammer accounts. I will have more to say about Twitter validation soon.

Auto-DM services are used as part of an auto-follow service, to respond to DMs and to respond to monitored words or phrases from followers.

There is automated tweeting, where you plan ahead to tweet to promote something, such as an event or a new blog posting. That kind of automated tweeting is helpful to you and to your community.

Why use auto-follow services?

Obviously there are some features of auto-follow that make it attractive, otherwise it would not be such a popular option. As far as I can tell the main benefits to using auto-follow are:

  • Automate your follower management, thereby saving you time.
  • Encourage others to follow you with the promise that you will reciprocate.
  • Avoid falling foul of the perceived twitter etiquette for follow-backs.

Let’s look at each.

Saving time

Ok, I must admit that using an auto-follow service will save time. But I would caution you that you will get back what you put into twitter.

Build a large following

Is the size of the following what matters?

You will have a timeline filled with meaningless irrelevant and potentially even spammy tweets.

Etiquette of follow-backs

There is no official guide to twitter etiquette. Anyone using this service faces the same time constraints as you. I check my followers list from time to time but not more then twice per week. I can and usually will not follow back new followers until I go through and manage my following. The exception to this is if someone has mentioned me, bringing them more directly into my awareness, and I want or ought to DM a response. Although I can DM anyone who is following me I will not DM anyone unless I am following them and they are following me back. I do wish Twitter would enforce two way connection before allowing DMs.


3 responses to “The problem with auto-follow

  1. Great post Rob. I get the emails from Twitter letting me know when someone new is following me and I used to check each one out as it came through. This often meant that it would interupt what I was doing at work.
    I am now a little more disciplined in that I put them in a folder in Outlook and go though them every couple of days.
    In each case I will check out the profile to see if they are of any interest before deciding whether or not to follow back.
    The only exception to this will be if I get a username I recognise of someone I already know in which case I will follow back straight away.
    The automatic DMS are so obvious and don’t add anything to the relationship.

  2. I have only been using Twitter for two months now and discovered it’s working quite different than I expected. Your post is shining a light on some apsects that actually surprised me. It helpes me understand Twitter better. However Twitter can be very useful in finding people all over the world who can help you. If you get 1% of your followers to really interact with you and help would be a great score. I’m looking forward to work with you Rob.

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