Should I Follow Everyone Who Follows Me on Twitter?

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The longer you use Twitter, the more people are likely to follow you. How do you know if you should follow the people who follow you on Twitter or not? Are you expected to follow everyone on Twitter who follows you?

These are common questions, and while old school Twitter etiquette told us that the polite thing to do is to follow everyone who follows you on Twitter, that suggestion is no longer true, nor is it useful for everyone who uses Twitter.

In order to determine who you should follow on Twitter amongst the people who follow you, first you need to determine your goals for your Twitter activity. Why are you using Twitter and what are your objectives for your efforts?

For example, if you're using Twitter just for fun, then it's up to you to choose who you want to follow. However, if you're using Twitter for marketing purposes or to build your online reputation and presence, then you need to think a bit more closely about who you want to follow in reciprocation for following you. There are two schools of thought related to Twitter followers for marketing and business growth purposes:

More Followers Means More Exposure

On one side of the debate are the people who believe that the more followers you have on Twitter, the more people can possibly share your content. The motto for this group would be, "there is power in numbers." These people will follow just about anyone and even go so far as to automatically follow anyone who follows them. Sometimes people even advertise that they auto-follow in return in an effort to attract more followers.

Quality is More Important than Quantity

While it's true that more followers open the door for more potential exposure, that exposure isn't guaranteed. Would you prefer to have 10,000 followers who follow you but never interact with you again or 1,000 highly engaged and interactive followers who share your content, communicate with you, and build relationships with you? Your answer to that question will tell you the strategy that you should follow related to the reciprocal following. People who find themselves on this side of the debate would use the motto, "quality trumps quantity."

There is more to consider before you decide who you want to follow in return for following you on Twitter. First is your online image and reputation. Before you automatically follow someone on Twitter, take a moment to look at their Twitter stream to ensure you want that person or account included in your own list of people you follow on Twitter. The people you follow can affect your online reputation simply because of guilt by association. On the flip side, the people you follow on Twitter can positively affect your reputation too by associating you with online influencers, thought leaders, and respected people, brands, businesses, and so on.

Furthermore, some people look at the ratio of a Twitter user's followers to the number of people he follows. If a Twitter user follows a lot more people than follow him, then it could be argued that his content is not that interesting or he's just following a lot of people in an attempt to boost his own Twitter followers. Alternately, if a lot more people follow a person than he follows, then it could be argued that he must be tweeting interesting information and clearly isn't trying to follow a lot of people just to boost his own followers. Again, perceptions mean a lot on Twitter, so your goals for your online image should dictate who you follow in return on Twitter.

Finally, it's hard to truly follow a lot of people on Twitter. If you follow 10,000 people on Twitter, can you really keep up with all of their updates every day? Of course not. There are tools like TweetDeck, Twhirl, and HootSuite that can help you manage updates from the people you follow on Twitter, but following a huge number of people always leads to the same result -- you end up closely watching the quality followers and have little interaction with the rest of "the numbers". Again, your goals should dictate your Twitter strategy.