How to use Twitter

Posted: June 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Social media | 30 Comments »

I’ve had a peaceful, quiet little twitter account since 2006.  Then one day, on a lark, I threw up @danshapiro up during a talk that I was giving about RC airplanes. The talk got boingboinged, and my inbox flooded with random folks following me.  (Hi!)  Ever since, I’ve had a couple of new follows a day.  Ashton, here I come.

So here’s the (blurry) algorithm I use to decide who to follow:

If you're a friend, or your followers outnumber your follows, I'll look at your page. If you don't tweet too often and at least a third of your tweets are interesting (and private exchanges with someone do not qualify), then I follow you.

So that’s my decision tree.

What’s yours?

(You might want to subscribe or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss new articles)


  • http://twitter.com/jasongrimes Jason Grimes

    My algorithm is a little different. I analyze every follow request with what kind of information is this person going to provide–does it add to my personal network, interesting commentary on sports or what is happening in the music, snowboard and mountain scene — if so I will follow them.

  • http://twitter.com/CorinCole Corin Cole

    Personally I only want to follow people that:

    a.) I know personally
    b.) Tweets in such a way that interests me more than 50% of the time

    So I don't actually pay attention to who follows me.

    What I would say, however, is that I disagree with your “< 3 tweets/day” – I know what you're aiming at, plenty of people tweet WAY too much (I suspect I do, now and then), but there are plenty of reasons for more than three interesting tweets in a day, and it's quite possible for someone to tweet more than three times a day on a regular basis without it being annoying or pointless.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    I pass no moral judgment on frequent tweeters. But given that I only follow folks who tweet infrequently, any frequent tweeters quickly dominate my twinbox. So that approach doesn't work for me. I do make exceptions for transient events if they're interesting.

    I <3 < 3 tweets per day.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    The number of new follows I get isn't huge, but it's enough that I won't check each one for content. I'm sure I'm not the only person who wishes that follow mails contained the last 5 tweets from the follower… that'd help things immensely.

  • http://www.HubSpot.com Dharmesh Shah

    Interesting. I have a similar algorithm. Some of this I'm trying to codify into a tool to help me automate some of this: http://alerts.grader.com . You might like it.

  • http://blog.arpitnext.com Arpit

    Interesting!

    Just saw for the first time that someone has embedded image from Google Docs drawing. :)

  • http://erica.biz ericabiz

    I don't care how many times someone Tweets a day as long as the Tweets are interesting and/or relevant to my industry (blogging/online marketing).

  • http://openid-provider.appspot.com/jaymzcd@googlemail.com jaymz

    I do something similar although the followers/following ratio I have much lower, like maybe 1/3. If you're not “popular” then it's easy to be following a lot more accounts than there are people following you, plus I follow alot of news streams which I don't really “count”. It's when you see someone following 1,000 people and they've got 3 followers themselves that I instantly close it :)

  • http://twitter.com/jackboot7 Luis Alberto Santana

    I also look if that person tweets are mostly retweets, or links, if so, I won't follow.

  • Brandon

    “I’ve had a peaceful, quiet little twitter account since 2004.”

    … two years before Twitter existed?

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    THAT, my friend, is what it means to be an early adopter!

    (fixed)

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    The ratio really kicks in for me with higher numbers, too. It's surprising how many follows I get from people with 2,000 followers and 2,000 follows. Or maybe not, since they're obviously quite prolific about it. Obviously they're playing the follow me/follow you game.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Yeah and that took me longer than I'd like to admit to figure out. Turns out if you're using Google Apps for Domains or whatever they call it, it's disabled; you have to turn on the Premium trial, re-enable it, then turn off the trial again (or not) to use it.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Looks like a neat idea, but you lost me when:
    1) I couldn't find a simple demo of what it does
    2) you wanted my email address
    3) complicated setup with email filters
    Ping me again when it's a little more developed, I'd be happy to give it another shot.

  • http://erica.biz ericabiz

    I don't care how many times someone Tweets a day as long as the Tweets are interesting and/or relevant to my industry (blogging/online marketing).

  • http://openid-provider.appspot.com/jaymzcd@googlemail.com jaymz

    I do something similar although the followers/following ratio I have much lower, like maybe 1/3. If you're not “popular” then it's easy to be following a lot more accounts than there are people following you, plus I follow alot of news streams which I don't really “count”. It's when you see someone following 1,000 people and they've got 3 followers themselves that I instantly close it :)

  • http://twitter.com/jackboot7 Luis Alberto Santana

    I also look if that person tweets are mostly retweets, or links, if so, I won't follow.

  • Brandon

    “I’ve had a peaceful, quiet little twitter account since 2004.”

    … two years before Twitter existed?

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    THAT, my friend, is what it means to be an early adopter!

    (fixed)

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    The ratio really kicks in for me with higher numbers, too. It's surprising how many follows I get from people with 2,000 followers and 2,000 follows. Or maybe not, since they're obviously quite prolific about it. Obviously they're playing the follow me/follow you game.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Yeah and that took me longer than I'd like to admit to figure out. Turns out if you're using Google Apps for Domains or whatever they call it, it's disabled; you have to turn on the Premium trial, re-enable it, then turn off the trial again (or not) to use it.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Looks like a neat idea, but you lost me when:
    1) I couldn't find a simple demo of what it does
    2) you wanted my email address
    3) complicated setup with email filters
    Ping me again when it's a little more developed, I'd be happy to give it another shot.

  • http://thejeffbrown.me Jeff Brown

    Hmm. So, all links are bad?

    I almost never tweet links to my own stuff, but rather, things I find interesting that I think others might also. In fact, that's nearly all of my tweets. Links to other people's quality content. Altruism I believe it's called.

    So, I'm someone you would NOT follow?

    I wrote this post in January of last year regarding the Twitter habits among public figures in my industry.

    http://thejeffbrown.me/2009/01/30/twitterverse-

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Someone who mostly retweets doesn't fit the profile of what I'm looking for from the limited time I interact with Twitter. Someone who posts original links does, so I probably differ from Louis there.

    It's easy to see “I wouldn't follow you” as a value judgment. There are 52,000 newspapers in the US, and I don't read 51,998 of them… but that doesn't mean they're bad newspapers. It's just about optimizing for personal relevance.

  • http://thejeffbrown.me Jeff Brown

    Hey Dan. Thanks for replying. Found you when I saw you on with Leo last night.

    Some of the most valuable people I find on Twitter are people tweeting mostly links to the interesting content, news and information they're finding on the web. Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) is an excellent example.

    I have learned a great deal through following people infinitely smarter than I am. Many of them share a lot of links to things I otherwise would've never seen or found on my own.

    I want to encourage Luis not to jump the gun and assume that a lot of tweeted links are somehow bad.

    Some who retweet do so without much thought. Still others I follow who retweet a lot (@chrisbrogan for example) are sharing some pretty awesome content of other people, content I find very edifying and, again, may not have found on my own otherwise.

    Without people like Chris “spreading the love” while at the same time providing what I'd call a “service to others,” the Twitter ecosystem wouldn't be what it is.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Thanks for tuning in! Any ecosystem is built out of roles and niches. Guy Kawasaki is an excellent example of someone I would never, under any circumstances, follow. It's not an indictment what he does or of him personally (I do subscribe to his blog); lots of folks including you find his Twitter feed helpful and relevant. For me, it's as useful as Pravda. Doesn't make it bad; it's just not for me.

  • Pingback: How Do You Decide Who To Follow On Twitter? | Fuelmyblog - The blog for the exclusive blog community.

  • Kevin

    All the twitter notification emails go to a folder that I don't access. I tend to simply check my followers list once every month, and follow back those that a) are following me and have @'d me more than once b) have a reasonable following v follower ratio, I never follow back those where followers is higher than following.. I think one month is a reasonable amount of time for a follower chaser to disappear – by that I mean those that follow everyone for a day or two and unfollow those that don't reciprocate. Love the flow chart, may I use it on our community blog with link here? @kevindixie

  • Frank

    I used to be scared of following people who do a lot of personal exchanges, but it turns out that tweets that start with an @username don't get pushed to followers other than the recipient and those following both the sender and recipient.

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    True. I was thinking of those who carry on private conversations without preceding by @personIdontknoworcareabout.
    (Also, this post was broken when you looked at it – the actual flowchart was missing, so I think you were just responding to the caption)