Should You Auto-Follow Everyone That Follows You?

Update: On September 2, it finally got to Chris, and he unfollowed everyone to try to shake off all the spammers he had autofollowed. He also said he would quit Twitter if they didn’t like that he had auto-unfollowed everyone.

Brogan’s: “Power Twitter Tip #2:

He recommends: “Follow anyone who follows you (and unfollow spammers/jerks).”

✔  Tip: This is usually done by turning on “auto-following” in a third party Twitter application such as SocialToo, because if you’re going to follow anyone and everyone, doing it manually is inefficient.

I asked Chris what his reasoning was. He said “Benefit to me is that I get several hundred followers a day. It’s a full time job if I want to do it by hand.” I asked if he unfollows both manually and automatically, he said “Correct. I unfollow mostly manually, and then let take care of the rest.” Have to disagree with Chris on this one.

Update: I asked Chris some follow-up but didn’t hear back. @SherryinAL points out that maybe Chris meant that manually unfollowing saved him time vs. manually following because he gets so many followers per day. I still think this isn’t a situation most Twitter users find themselves in. I’ve responded further in the comments.

Sometimes users with a lot of followers give advice that doesn’t work as well for users with not so many followers. This seems like one of those times. Autofollowing is kind of the land mine of tips for using Twitter. Potential problems include:

1. Auto-following everyone makes you a target for spammers

Spammers make lists of accounts that auto-follow, so auto-following everyone makes you a target for spammers …and your stream gets cluttered with spam. Even Chris has run into autofollowing problems. So, while it seems like checking out people before you follow them takes more time, becoming a target for spammers by auto-following them can end up costing you more time (and more spam) in the long run. However, like everything else on Twitter, your mileage may vary. Always remember Twitter Rule #1


"Twitter In Real Life" by HubSpot

2. You have to either manually follow, or manually unfollow

While both are work, autofollowing and manually unfollowing attracts spammers, and makes work for yourself. Chris himself wrote how he had to suspend autofollowing some time back because he was getting too many spammy DMs. I think any advice to autofollow needs at least an asterisk on the reason for doing so and the dangers of doing so.

3. You don’t need to auto-follow to get a lot of followers

Whether Chris autofollows for this reason or not, it’s important to consider whether this is something users should consider doing to get more followers. Users ask me frequently if they can grow their accounts without doing things like autofollowing, or following lots of other users. Of course, Chris has been a HUGE name in Social Media for years and recently had a bestselling book. So his results are difficult to use to gauge how well his methods help the average user.

We have a lot of followers because we focus relentlessly every single day on sharing and writing good tweets and helping people on Twitter. That creates a lot of friends, and a lot of retweets. Chris has a lot of followers because he provides similar value. I just want to point out that you don’t have to autofollow to get followers! We actually have 50,000 more followers than Chris does and we do NOT autofollow. (Stat comparison.)

Twitter in real life, by Hubspot

So to get followers, you don’t need to:

  1. Auto-follow;
  2. Spend money advertising your Twitter account;
  3. Trade tweets—you tweet me, I tweet you;
  4. Follow more people than follow you hoping many will follow you back;
  5. Tweet things just because they are popular or likely to get retweeted, i.e @GuyKawasaki‘s strategy.

None of things are necessarily bad in all cases, I just want to point out that they are not necessary. As of June, 2010, we do NONE of these things. When users with a lot of followers give advice, often what they say is take as gospel: you must do these things to do well on Twitter. I just want to say it ain’t necessarily so :)

✔  Tip: To see what’s currently popular on Twitter, check out the TwitterSphere. To search what’s popular, I recommend Topsy.

So what should YOU do?  All I can say is, remember Twitter Rule #1 :) Also, here’s a related view on auto-following from the very helpful Fernando Fonseca (@fjfonseca on Twitter)

Stat comparison

Stats current as of 6/18/2010 8:25:41 AM CST.

@ChrisBrogan’s account:

  1. FOLLOWERS: 140,841
  2. Following: 128,346
  3. Joined: 24 October 2006
  4. Listed: 12,576
  5. Retweets received: 104,754

Our account:

  1. FOLLOWERS: 192,636
  2. Following: 126,996
  3. Joined: 22 August 2008
  4. Listed 9,372
  5. Retweets received: 523,702

Compare last three months of Followers/Following/Tweets at this Twittercounter link.

✔  Tip: To see when someone joined Twitter, check out the When did you join Twitter? tool. To see who’s getting retweets, enter their username into the Chirrps cool profile search tool.

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