I received the following question about follower ratio on Twitter from @c_zajac today, as a follow-up to my “What in the Heck is Twitter?” seminar:
What did you say about the ratio of the people you follow to those following you?
Here is the thing about ratio. You want to have the ratio of followers (those who follow you) to those you follow as 1:1 or better. If you have 20 followers and you are following 10 people, your ratio is 2:1. New users to Twitter typically have the reverse – 10 followers and following 20 – 1:2. If you are trying to follow tons of people, Twitter “stops” you at 2000 people (a ton) that you can follow. So once you follow 2000 people, you will need to have 2000 people following you before you can follow more people.
That said, you can always follow someone, see if they follow you back, and then drop them and move on to someone else to keep your numbers below 2000 while your ratio nears 1:1. This is exactly what spammers do: they follow you and then immediate stop following you to generate the email, “SomeDude is now following your updates on Twitter…” including the link to their account in case you want to follow them back. Many people “think” they are supposed to follow back people, so they do and the original “SomeDude” grows a following. It is very deceptive and I strongly recommend against this.
There are a couple of things that you can do to combat this so you don’t end up following people with this deceptive scheme.
Strategy 1: Wait and Check
When you receive the email that someone new is following you, wait a bit, perhaps until the end of the day. Then you can go click on the link to view the person’s account. When you are viewing their profile page, look in the right column under the “Actions” header and you you will see the tell-tale indicator: “Message.” If the link to “message” (send a direct message) is there, then they are following you at that moment. If it just says “Block” and “Report for Spam” then the person isn’t following you.
You can do a bunch of these at a time. I suggest looking at the last bunch of Tweets from the person to decide whether you would appreciate following the content from this person.
Strategy 2: Ignore, Wait and Check
If you want to opt-out of the new follower emails, click on the “Settings” link on Twitter, and then click the “Notices” menu item. Uncheck the box for “New Follower Emails” and click the “Save” button. Now you won’t get emails saying that people are following you.
According to your own schedule, click on the “Followers” link on your Twitter profile and review the list. This list will only show you who is currently following you, from newest to oldest. So the people at the top of the list may have just started following you. I typically skip the first few unless I recognize someone. Then I scroll down the list, click on the account links and review from there.
The advantage of this method is that the known spammers will typically be blocked out already, saving you a bit of time.
Strategy 2a: Wait for @ Reply
As an enhancement to this, I sometimes will try to strike up a conversation with someone that looks interesting that has started following me using the @ reply or mention of their account. If they show up as a real people, then I’m more inclined to be interested in following their updates.
My recommendation is that you don’t go on following sprees unless you are doing specific research for a particular type of person or profession. If you aren’t sure why to follow someone, don’t follow them. If their Tweets don’t interest you, don’t follow them.
If you are new to Twitter, you might find a directory, such as Twellow, useful for finding people on Twitter based on profession, subject and even location. Another method would be to find people that you respect and look at who they follow and engage in conversations.
If you want someone to follow you back, you need to “show up” by engaging in conversations.
Sorry for the long response to what appeared to be a simple question.