The auto-follow conundrum

Twitter Logo
Twitter Logo

To Follow or Not To Follow? If someone follows you, should you check out their profile or ignore it? Should you just follow them regardless of who they are or follow depending on whether you like what they seem to be all about? What are the real social rules in a social network with only one truly enforced rule? 140 characters or less…

Let’s imagine that you use Twitter and understand it can help you to market yourself while also allowing you to keep up-to-date on everything happening with friends, celebs and industries that you care about. Let’s imagine your going about your Twitter posting and get a new follower. They don’t reply to something you say. They just start following you and you presume that either you said something that caught their attention or they know you somehow. Do you follow them back regardless? Do you look at their profile and make an educated decision about their tweets, their website and their bio? Or do you just ignore it because you didn’t recognize their name immediately as a real friend? Do you reply to them and start a conversation?

Twitter has overtaken the social networking world with it’s ease of use. The follow mechanic is it’s way of casting aside the 1:1 true friends system. There’s no reason to even write to the person explaining to them why you’ve chosen to follow them. You just do it. The only case where following back is enforced is if you are a private twit, but that seems extremely uncommon. Among all the public twits, there’s no enforcement over who sees your posts or who subscribes/follows those posts. Rather than forcing a friends system, Twitter left the choice to the user.

Since it’s really up to the user, it’s strange to me that there’s been some heated debates about following back people that follow you. Guy Kawasaki, founder of, mentioned in a keynote at the SES New York that he feels it’s arrogant not to follow back people that follow you. I really like Guy’s The Art of the Start keynote. I like a lot of what Guy has to say in this keynote about Twitter too, but his auto-follow or you’re arrogant is something I completely disagree with him about.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it could very well be the opposite and that following back everyone makes you look extremely unrealistic. After all, if you don’t have any interest in a persons tweets, isn’t it rather fake to follow them back? Wouldn’t it be rude to say you’ll follow someones tweets, but then ignore it all together anyway? Twitter is one of the easiest ways you can be transparent with your audience and I think one way you show your personality other than through your bio, pic and background on Twitter is by the people you follow. If you simply follow everyone with no hesitation, then you’re not really being true to your Twitter audience. I tend to think of following as a way to show people that I’m a fan of what that person contributes to society. Why lie about that by just auto-following everyone that follows me?