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Not Another ’10 Tips to get more Twitter Followers’ Post

twitter paddydonnelly

Ok, this is not one of these ’10 Tips to get more Twitter Followers’ posts that have been clogging the interwebs for the past few weeks. Think of it more as a wake up call.

Twitter and it’s users have undergone massive changes since going mainstream in 2009. People have become maniacally obsessed with numbers. Everyone is desperately seeking as many followers as possible, clawing at any of these crazy ‘sure fire’ methods out there in an effort to reach that unreachable high.

Here are some suggestions from how I use Twitter, which I feel helps me get the most out of it, while offering something of value.

Don’t follow back automatically.

Just because someone follows you doesn’t mean you have to follow back. This ‘courtesy followback’ thing that has developed is horrible and has created a generation of people just obsessed with numbers, not gaining anything from the people they follow. I can’t believe that there are people out there who will follow you and then unfollow you after a day if you don’t return the favour. Come on, are you serious?

Here’s the way I do it. If someone follows me, I always check out their profile and website if they have one. I base the decision to follow them on a variety of things such as their frequency of tweeting, content of tweets, whether I already know them, their location or whether they are in my industry. If I don’t follow you back, don’t take it personally. How could I follow everyone? I barely keep up with my current stream at the minute so I need to be selective.

I have literally been begged by some people for me to follow them. Begged! You know how desperate that sounds? The point of me following you is so that I get something out of your tweets, not to add 1 to your total.

Use DMs, Twitter isn’t a chat room.

Nothing turns me off more than reading a string of tweets between two people. What am I getting out of  ‘@name Thanks!’ ‘@name Hey!’? Golden Rule: If more than two people would get something out of your tweet then use an @, if not then use a DM. I fully understand and appreciate that Twitter is an amazing networking tool but have a think about who will be seeing your tweets.

Use Via instead of RT.

There’s so much Retweeting now that my mind has actually trained itself to ignore anything that begins with ‘RT @name‘, certainly anything that has a string of ‘RT@name RT@name RT@name’.  If someone tweets a link that I feel needs to have some recognition then I tend to write a new tweet with my thoughts, the link, then ‘via @name‘. Come on, it’s not hard to take 10 seconds to do.  It’s just laziness to Retweet other people all day and a personalised tweet has so much more value, both to you and the original linker.

Be valuable.

Add some value to your twitter stream by posting links that are genuinely interesting, reducing the amount of waffle and posting intelligent thoughts rather than just ‘At work’. Granted, I’m no stranger to tweeting absolute rubbish, but try to be valuable in your tweeting generally, without being too noisy.

Space your Tweets.

There are, and always will be, extremely noisy people on Twitter. You will find it hard to imagine how they get anything done in between tweeting every 2 minutes.  If you space out your tweets you will give people time to react, resulting in your tweets both gaining reactions and credibility.  Another Golden Rule: If you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing.

Never Use Auto DMs

I follow you because I have done the research and I’m genuinely interested in your tweets. I then get an auto DM spamming my inbox telling me to check out your site etc etc. This doesn’t need to happen. I click unfollow almost without fail after an auto DM.

Don’t use people

These tweeters who are desperate for numbers are trying to cash in on Twitter’s potential the fast and easy way.  There is a disgusting amount of ‘Please RT this, Please Digg this, Please Float this, Please abuse-your-followers-and-spam-them-with-my-stuff-every-time-I-make-a-blog-post‘ going around.  If you provide good content I will pimp it myself. Don’t spam me!

Provide Good Content and they will come.

I think this is the most important aspect. Just use Twitter sensibly, post your intelligent thoughts, post links you think are cool or worthy, follow people who influence you and you will gain twitter followers. It won’t happen overnight, but there are more important things in this world that that little number under your avatar.


Twitter is free to use whatever way you want so take my advice or ignore it. Follow me @paddydonnelly only if you want, but don’t be pressured and controlled by this numbers game that has reared it’s ugly head.

Comments (41)

  1. i feel like i’m supposed to want huge numbers of followers, that i’m supposed to cultivate such numbers. but twitter, for me, is about learning and connecting. and i don’t want to follow more people than i can manage or be one of 20,000 followers unless it’s some news source like abc. so i’ve done some editing…unfollowing people whose content isn’t helpful to me and not automatically following someone who follows me.

  2. imrui

    25 Mar

    Well in my opinion, I think the key on getting more followers is, getting more connections.. and simply, be true to what you are tweeting!

    I saw many desperate people in twitter search trying to promote their websites using twitter. I think they’re just lazy doing the SEO.. x]

    P.S. Just followed you! :D

  3. Paul McCormack

    25 Mar

    At last, the voice of reason! I’ve stopped following people who do exactly that. What we need is a spam filter to prevent tweets getting through. My current set of keywords would include: inspirational, beautiful, top # best and inspiring and that’s just for starters.

    I’m currently following a few key designers, developers business and university colleagues and some of my students. I have enough trouble keeping track of that lot never mind numerous others!

  4. The language of Twitter (followers Vs friends) encourages a type of dominant (followed) and subservient (follower) thinking.

    I will say that you (and I) have done your fair share of zero-value-added retweeting not that that’s necessarily bad – but what you’re talking about here is a subset of people passing on ideas that aren’t always their own.

    We’ll see.

  5. I find this topic interesting regarding how users have created their own set of rules of what is and isn’t acceptable.

    I feel there are a set of rules which can be used by all users but also a few are perhaps more specific to our industry, Design.

  6. nice post and i agree with much of what you say – especially the re-tweeting, i’ve been using via for a while now as it gives me a chance to tweak the post and add my own short snipurl and then i get the chance to track how many people clicked my post link – which will probably annoy the original tweeter if they are tracking the click links…

  7. Very good sir, I really like this post.

    For me there are a few fundamental things that have to be in place for me to follow you back i.e. name, location, bio, photo, an interesting website and useful tweets. Being a web designer, a well crafted website makes a difference too.

    I agree writing (via @…) looks a lot tidier than RT: BUT I still use both. If it’s a good link and I’m feeling lazy (as you pointed out) then the RT button is handy. Or for the sake of helping out a friend promote a good blog post or good cause then it’s just as handy. I think what will happen is Tweetdeck or similar apps may change their RT format to (via @…) soon enough.

  8. David Parsons

    26 Mar

    As someone who’s fairly new to the world of twitter, I couldn’t agree more.

    I couldn’t care less about getting a vast amount of followers – I’m primarily using twitter for learning, inspiration and maybe gaining a few contacts. I have to say I’ve been fairly impressed so far with the ability of twitter to help me achieve this.

    Striking a balance between feed subscriptions and following some well chosen folks on twitter is working out great so far…

  9. Yes!

  10. Couldn’t agree more. I find it really annoying trying to filter all the interesting tweets out from people just having conversations about their coursework or just saying “goodnight”.

    How narcissistic do you have to be to have your private conversations with the world? The world really doesn’t care.

    I will admit I have done it occasionally out of laziness but have since learnt when not to hit the reply button.

    I use Digsby which has MSN,Email, Facebook and Twitter all built in which makes it less tempting to hit the reply button in Twitter when with another two clicks I can be emailing or having a proper IM conversation.

  11. Jennifer Bongar

    26 Mar

    When I started using Twitter, my goal was to gain insight about social media from strangers — so it’s worthy to have a profile. And if the tweets add value to my goal and the Twitterer is not too noisy, I continue to follow. Otherwise, I unfollow. Sorry.

    Having said that, I don’t expect to be followed, but if people follow, thank you. That for me is a bonus. It doesn’t mean though that I auto follow back. I still check the profile.

  12. Jennifer Bongar

    26 Mar

    P.S. Thank you for another useful post. I’m learning.

  13. I agree!
    But one thing I did learn that sometimes, if you have a message to spread, you have to stress it out a few times to have it picked up.

    For example my @bogusky challenge –

    I can see in the stats when people act, and it sometimes needs some repetition to reach an audience. I guess this is somewhat different because I’m on a mission :) But it did felt somewhat dirty to me anyway.

    That’s the information overflow I guess, starting with too many people following. If they miss your tweet at that moment, they might not see it at all. That’s a bit pitty, but I guess that’s what it is!

    How do you feel about this? Can you repeat your message to reach your audience? I tried to vary the message anyway..

    Also the timezone difference is something that keeps bothering me. Same with services like Digg .. if you don’t contribute at the right time of the day your message will be wasted.

    (BTW: you all still can follow .. I try to reach something here ;))

  14. Paddy

    26 Mar

    @PaulMay – I’m the first to admit I’ve done a lot of useless retweeting in the past. Don’t you feel that including ‘via @name’ shows that you acknowledge the source while giving ‘your’ take on the link. Especially in the design industry it’s so important to give credit for something.

    @Steven – I agree there has to be some intelligent thought put into when you should repeat your message, especially regarding Twitter’s ‘busy’ times and different time zones. I am all for repeating a message a couple of times over a few days to take these factors into consideration but repeating a message every 20 minutes to get Digg’s etc will just turn people off.

  15. Fantastic article/rant! I totally agree with the multiple retweets. I used to just ignore them but then I realised its not worth following a lazy twitter user!

  16. Well there’s one perspective. What I find interesting is the range of opinions. Seems the “lazy” retweeters tend to get followed a lot – must be because they’re so annoying.? I think I retweet too much, but when I poll the audience, overwhelmingly people ask to keep sending on the good stuff. And Twitter can be good for filtering out the noise and allowing the relevant stuff to rise to the top, primarily through the retweeting process.

    I’m with you on auto-following. It just cracks me up how opinionated everyone is on Twitter, about Twitter. Everybody has different rules they are willing to defend. Seems we should have a few different Twitters.

    One for “@” kinds of conversations.

    One for links/feeds/retweets.

    One for shameless self-promotion, etc.

    One just for spammers so they can drive each other nuts!

    Just my thoughts – you’ve written a good post.

  17. I am relatively new to Twitter. And SO relieved that there are people that agree to the same things I have been wondering about. I like Twitter for the networking aspect and the great info I find on the internet. I sometimes like to reply to a tweet or comment just to make it a bit more human. But spending all that time on Twitter for a number… I prefer a BBQ or going to the park with friends without looking at a screen for at least a few hours of my week.

  18. Liam

    26 Mar

    I turned on my “follow all @ replies” two or three days ago just to see what some of my following peeps were talking about. I had no idea Twitter was being treated like a chat room. You said, “Use DMs, Twitter isn’t a chat room.” I could not disagree any more! I just turned that feature off again because my stream was soooooooo full.

    Use twitter as a micro-blogging tool. That’s what it was made to do, so use it that way.

  19. Hala

    26 Mar

    it’s a social network there is a reason why the number of ‘followers’ is bigger than your name and description. it’s the first thing to look at when you click a name. it says something about the person more than what they have to say, or at least that what we are made to believe.

    I was the first to make the mistake thinking many ‘follows=interesting’ tweets and made me automatically click the ‘follow’ button. But soon realized that half of them had the most useless tweets.

    as for the auto follow, it’s just people without a certain goal or interest on twitter. Just like many other social networks, we all have that one person on our facebook added but we really have no idea who it is!

    Btw, I ended up here through an RT :p

  20. Sonia

    26 Mar

    Your blog makes me smile. Ur pic, the origami, ur “The Ramblings…” title. Love it.

  21. Love this post–finally a sane look at Twitter best practices, and some great tips. I just posted a similar blog about focusing on “quality vs quantity” and developing a high quality twitter community. It’s the opposite approach of Guy Kawasaki and the race for the numbers. What many people don’t realize is with these giant networks, most people aren’t really following you anyhow (“follower” is misleading); you’re just a trickle in a raging river of comments.We need to get back to the real value of Twitter, as a tool for valuable connections and real dialog. thanks.

  22. Sonia

    26 Mar

    You changed everything I said I liked… It’s ugly now. Yuck.

  23. Paddy

    27 Mar

    @Sonia – The pic, post it note etc are all random.

  24. kyle

    27 Mar

    I’ve thought some of these things for a bit now – and I’m so glad you wrote them.

    I wouldn’t call this a rant – this is a reflective post and much needed.

    Thank you,

  25. K

    27 Mar

    Great article and while I agree with most points, I don’t totally agree with the RT vs. VIA pov. I think there’s an appropriate time to use each, and I have no problem with the RT factor. It’s just not that big of a deal to me. But, like everything else, to each his own.

    And I don’t mind, and I do have, conversations in my Twitter stream. With most people using a Twitter client these days, it does give the “chat” look and feel where there are many open conversations going on between two people.

    If they don’t interest me, or have any value to me, I just pass them by. But there are times when 2 people are having a convo, of no real value, that does interest me and it gives me the opportunity to speak to them.

    For instance, 2 people were talking about chocolate pie the other day. There was no real value to the world so-to-speak but I love chocolate pie and replied at them both about how out of all the tweets on the screen that one was the first word I noticed, “chocolate”. We spoke briefly and then moved on with our day.

    Well, the rest of the world probably gained no new resource or interesting tid-bits but so what. It’s just not that serious.

    I see others do it all the time and it doesn’t ruffle my feathers not one bit. Twitter is multi-functional and we each use it the way we want…which is what makes so many of us happy =)

    I don’t find the fast tweeting to be too bothersome either but that might be just me. I understand your point here but I can think of a few reasons why sometimes I like it; but this is really neither here nor there for me.

    It’s the Freedom of Tweet we all love!

  26. could not agree with you more on twitter NOT being a chat room. say something profound. don’t just say “hey!” i freaking hate that. go use aim to chat.

  27. Good solid post here paddy.

    Im not convinced with the using DM’s between 2 people. There are plenty of times when a lively debate between 2 people is worthy of other peoples viewing pleasure. I often have 2 way tweets, and don’t mind seeing other tweets between 2 other people. It gains an insight into who and what they are. ANything remotely private or just personal then yes, I use DM. I use DM to thank people for RT’s and such like.

    The whole ‘via’ is solid point and I have been using this for the last several weeks. Makes the Retweeted post look much more welcoming, the content is at the beginning, rather than a dozen RT names. The only problem is that its a pain to do on the iPhone if you have more than 2 names to re key in. But always now use ‘via’, situated at the end of the tweet.

    Great post mate,

  28. Jim

    30 Mar

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been saying this ever since I started with Twitter. People’s obsession with follower count is unhealthy – but tweeting about it is obnoxious.

    Why anyone would want to follow 5,000 people is beyond me. What the heck do you get out of it? How can you possibly interact with people on that scale?

  29. Sally Frinddly

    30 Mar

    I could agree with you more even if I could not agree with your more.

  30. Interesting what a wide variety of opinion there is on this topic from experts. I actually began using ALL of the above Twitter sins: courtesy followback, @name, RT, and auto DM after readining several other blogs from respected Twitter experts who said those functions were all valuable tools and should be used. I have just been sending out updates prior to reading those expert opinions. I agree with your points, but I wonder if there is room for “moderation” in using these functions as others recommend…

  31. Great article, Paddy! Thanks for your lucid words and arguments.

  32. I totally agree with all of your comments. I also previously wrote a blog about “It’s not about the number of followers” I don’t understand why everyone is trying to followers that they have nothing in common or of interest in. You can check the blog out at:

  33. *thumbs up* I don’t understand the obsession with numbers, and I barely noticed it until Twitter hit the mainstream and everyone hopped the bandwagon. I guess it was bound to happen, though…

    I don’t follow people just because they follow me, either — I think that’s ridiculous. I can tell that a lot of people do, though, because they follow me soon after I start following them…

  34. You wrote what I do :)

    If someone follows me, I check out their profile and decide to follow back based (more or less) on their most recent page or two of tweets. Links are RT/Dugg etc. only if I find them interesting.

    If you follow 10,000 people, how do you keep up with the stream? At that level, surely it’s just noise?

  35. Straight-talkin’, no nonsense. I love it!

  36. Great post, I just started following people because I am quite interested in what they have to say, but don’t quite understand why somebody needs to obsess over how many followers he/she has. Use twitter for what it was made for…communicating mundane events to people who care.

  37. I hope this doesn’t overlap much with what’s already been said but I’ve been compiling data on the different techniques for the past few weeks and thought I’d share… I put everything up here:


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