This is a great conundrum for many business owners – who should I follow on Twitter? Everyone, no-one or a select few and how do I select these few?

This is something I decided to write about after recently working my way through the full back catalogue of the Freakonomics Podcasts by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I definitely recommend a listen!

So this morning I listened to ‘Is Twitter a Two-Way Street?’ and although it was recorded in March 2011 the discussion was still extremely relevant. Surprisingly, two and a half years later there has not been a huge change in the most popular Tweeters.

Who should a business follow on Twitter?

For reasons we will discuss later following no one isn’t a viable option for most businesses. Following everyone not only makes it almost impossible for you to get anything out of Twitter, but also makes those that you do follow not feel particularly appreciated. Here’s a checklist of people you should be following, or should at least consider following for your sake and theirs:

– Industry Leaders
You may get ideas and industry specific news

– Local Resources & Important Contacts
So here I’m talking about your local newspapers and journalists

– Clients and Customers
People you work with and companies that you liaise with to show you care and keep updated about their progress.

– Influential people
So these are influential people that follow you – It can be useful to interact with these people.

Here I have used a tool called FollowerWonk by Moz. I have analysed the Twitter followers of a large UK based building materials supplier. The graph shows the social authority and influence of their followers. We can click on highly authoritative slices to see these well regarded followers – These are the people you need to be following.

Who Should my business follow on Twitter


The majority of their followers have little to no social authority, there is a small minority that has a high social authority – these are the people that it would be a sin not to follow back! By clicking on the authoritative slices I can see these influential followers – they include the TradesHub, NFU England and Wales, WRAP and the Architects Journal. If I had these people following me and I was a building materials supplier then I can assure you that I would certainly be following them back!

Why shouldn’t my business follow everyone who follows it?

If you think about it for just a second, it is immediately clear that if you followed everyone you would not read everyone’s Tweets – there is just not enough time in the day! Following millions of people will not necessarily get you millions of followers and even if it does, how will this work for you? Here’s a post from my colleague Laura about Social Customer Service. This is an important thing to consider when drawing up your Social Media Strategy.

Twitter is not just about getting as many followers as possible. It’s about interacting with your customers, fans, friends and influential people. As well as interacting you also want to listen – and you will find it very hard to listen if there is too much ‘noise’. This is about business, your business – not a numbers game.

How Twitter is Changing over time

Courtesy of Twitaholic, Freaknomics drew up a list of the top 5 ‘Power Tweeters’. These are the Tweeters with the highest number of followers and here is a comparison with the Power Tweeters of this month and bare with me here:

Freakonomics post

Obviously there will be a shift with popularity – as Britney Spears slows down her career and newer celebrities like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift begin to get their career in full swing – but what is truly interesting is the slight shift in each of the Tweeters’ behavior. More specifically I am talking about how many people they follow. In March 2011 the top 4 all followed at least 100,000 people each – with Obama at over 600,000! The only exception here was Kim Kardashian who with 6.5 million followers only followed 118.

Interestingly, our new entries from this month have started to follow in the footsteps of Kim Kardashian. Both Katy Perry and Taylor Swift follow less than 130 people, while Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Barack Obama continue to follow from 120,000 to 650,000.

You do not need to worry about following everyone, Twitter has been around long enough now for people to figure out that if  you’re following lots of people you probably don’t care.

But is it rude not to follow someone back?

We’ve looked at extremely generous followers like Barack Obama, so maybe it’s time to look at the opposite end of the scale. Freakonomics themselves follow no one. And I mean absolutely 0. All they do is Tweet out their blog posts every week and that works for them. Which they are happy with – and not to mention that they have over 500,000 followers.

But there is more potential than this and a lot of businesses will need more of a push. I wouldn’t advise your business following no one on Twitter. As is suggested in this particular Podcast, following no one suggests two things about you. Either you’re popular and you’re not even trying or you just don’t care. Would you follow every person on Twitter? No. Why? Because it would dilute the sentiment to each of the people you are following – you will look at none of the Tweets either way so following everyone and following no one is ultimately the same. So the key thing to remember here is staying involved without forgetting that you should also get something out of it.

So there we have it. How you run Twitter for your business is up to you but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re getting everything you can from Twitter in the case of business, interest, knowledge and interaction with your customers.

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