Recently I saw a tweet (a post on Twitter) from one of the horsebiz people I follow. They were confused about why Twitter was limiting the people they could follow, especially when they only had about 2,000 followers and others, like celebrities and organizations, had many times that. So, while I helped this one person understand the issues involved, I felt it was a topic that could use some de-mystifying for others, since there is definitely a right and wrong way to ‘follow the tweeter’ when it comes to Twitter.
‘Following’ someone on Twitter is a way to get their tweets, or micro-messages, into your own Twitter timeline. You elect to follow someone because you find what they have to say interesting or informative. Your follow doesn’t result in an automatic two-way connection, since that person can choose to follow you back, or not.
Twitter doesn’t actually set a ceiling on anyone’s number of followers, but they DO monitor following practices, and have policies in place to inhibit the growth of spammers on Twitter. Their full explanation is here in the Twitter Following Rules and Best Practices, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Limit aggressive following: When you follow large numbers of Twitter users in a short period of time, either to pad your own following numbers or for other reasons, Twitter views that as a negative practice that adversely affects the quality of the Twitter experience. In this case, they might impose limits on your account.
- Avoid aggressive following churn: This is the practice of following & then unfollowing large numbers of people. Twitter has identified this as a common tactic used by spammers, and if you’re doing this it can even result in suspension of your Twitter account.
If you’re following more than 2,000 Twitter accounts, there’s an additional caveat:
- Watch your follower-to-following ratio numbers: This policy is also meant to limit ‘egregious’ activity, such as following thousands of accounts when only a small number follow you back. When your ratio numbers are out of whack like that, and you’re following over 2,000 but don’t have balance in the numbers that have followed you back, Twitter imposes a daily following limit, and you will get an error message.
The thing to do here is back off on getting new followers, work on your interaction with your existing Twitter followers, and wait for your numbers to get back into better balance.
However, this doesn’t work the same way in reverse – you’ll see some popular accounts where there are large numbers of followers, but that person isn’t following many at all; Twitter allows this because it’s not an aggressive/spammy tactic that abuses Twitter users or that diminishes Twitter technical performance, but an indication of the genuine interest of the Twitter community in what that user has to say. You’ll see this in the @mashable image here; they’re a popular social media information resource followed by nearly 2.5 million Twitter accounts, yet they only follow 2,300. And Twitter says that’s OK.
If you’re not sure whether you’re using Twitter in a ‘spammy’ way, here’s a list of the Twitter rules; scroll down to the Spam and Abuse section to learn more. It’s especially important to be aware of these stringent rules if you’re using Twitter for your horsebiz and are primarily:
- tweeting mostly links rather than personal updates or interaction with other Twitter users;
- posting exactly the same content on multiple Twitter accounts;
- using aggressive following tactics, including third-party sites that promise to ‘add followers fast’ to your account; and /or
- engaging in other behavior that causes large numbers of people to either block you or report you for spam.
Twitter says they’ve put these rules in place to keep the community functioning smoothly and to create a positive experience for all. They view the rules as fair, and feel they’re just fine for the average Twitter user. So if you’re getting an error/limit message when you’re trying to follow someone, it might be time to review the ‘following’ rules.
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