What Is Twitter Auto-Follow and How Does it Work?

What you need to know about this common tool

You joined Twitter. You want more followers. But how to go about it? You could manually search the social network. Or you can take advantage of tools that let you find new followers automatically. Learn more about Twitter auto-follow below.

What Is Twitter Auto-Follow?

Twitter auto-follow refers to various methods, software programs, and incentives used to automatically generate followers for an account on the social network. The most common characteristic among these tools is automation. Typically, a bunch of follower connections are made automatically on Twitter by software, rather than manually by the Twitter user.

Auto-follow methods usually rely on reciprocal following, which means following the people who follow you. That's a common practice on Twitter and auto-follow tools make it easier to do.

Other auto-follow methods do slightly different things. Some, for instance, are designed to help you identify new people to follow on Twitter based on your interests. Other systems maintain lists of accounts that automatically follow you back if you follow them.

What's the Goal of Twitter Auto-Follow?

The purpose of auto-follow is obvious—to help people get more followers on Twitter. Some premium automation tools also work with other social networks, helping to boost connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace.

While a few auto-follow tools are free, most companies that make them charge subscription fees. For that reason, their use on Twitter is sometimes referred to as "buying followers."

In the long run, it's a good idea to manually add your own followers and steer clear of auto-following, especially if your goal is to build lasting connections and expand in a meaningful way that can help you and your business.

Auto-follow tools are an artificial way to build a Twitter following quickly. The connections they generate typically aren't as valuable as those you acquire on your own using manual or natural methods. There are some basic strategies to get Twitter followers on your own worth learning.

Still, auto-follow tools are used by many businesses to jump-start their Twitter community. If done carefully, it can help increase anyone's number of followers on Twitter. If your policy is to follow back everyone who follows you, automation tools can save you some time.

Twitter's No Auto-Follow Rule

It's important to keep in mind that Twitter doesn't like automated following.

Twitter's rules state, "The only auto-following behavior Twitter allows is auto-follow-back (following a user after they followed you). Automated un-following is also not permitted.

"If your account automation is causing your account to violate the Twitter Rules (by retweeting spam updates, repeatedly posting duplicate links, etc.), your account may be suspended or terminated."

Reciprocal following is not only allowed, it's encouraged as good Twitter etiquette. But it's allowed only if people continue to follow those whom they automatically followed, at least for a while.

Auto-follow apps typically run a numbers game—they generate a ton of follows on Twitter, with the goal of getting some follow-backs. Then they quickly "unfollow" these same people and start the follower acquisition process over again. This is a major no-no and it could get your account banned.

Attracting Twitter Followers With Advertising

There are many kinds of auto-follow systems and tools. Some use indirect methods that are basically a form of advertising—you pay to advertise your account to potential followers.

Twitter itself offers "promoted accounts" where companies and people pay to be displayed prominently in Twitter's customized "Who to Follow" recommendation lists. This isn't considered auto-following, though, because it doesn't involve anyone automatically following anyone else. The lists simply show usernames. It's up to individual users to decide whether or not to follow a promoted account.

Buying Twitter Followers

Some third-party services offer ways of advertising Twitter accounts and charge based on how many followers result from each promotion. As previously stated, the practice of charging for follower acquisitions is sometimes called "buying followers."

These services are not advertising in the usual sense. Typically, they use tactics designed to increase the number of followers in some automated fashion. They involve a mix of auto-following and advertising. Often, they don't disclose details of their methods.

It's hard to predict exactly when using any large-scale auto-follow service might get you in hot water with Twitter. But be aware of the risk of suspension if you decide to use one of these tools.

Other auto-follow services are based on keyword filtering. You provide the keywords that interest you, and they promise to identify users to follow that match those keywords. 

Twitter's Following Rules and Best Practices

It's a good idea to read the full version of Twitter's following rules and its automation rules. Here are some other things to keep in mind.

Twitter's Follower Limits

An unlimited number of people can follow you on Twitter, but there are limits on how many people you can follow.

Anyone can follow up to 2,000 people. After that, different limits on how many additional people you can follow kick in; it all depends on your ratio of followers to those you follow. If you have a ton of followers and don't follow many people, for example, you're allowed to follow more people than if you have few followers and follow a lot of people.

Twitter imposed these limits on the number of people users can follow in an attempt to curb the "aggressive following" practice that's become common with spammers.

Do Your Own Following Most of the Time

Auto-follow services can be tempting when you're trying to expand your following on Twitter, but it's important to maintain control over your Twitter account and build the kind of connections that add value to your experience. The real value of Twitter lies in meaningful communication, not numbers of followers. For that reason, it's a good idea to be wary of auto-follow services.