There is only one good reason to follow someone on Twitter.
When I first joined Twitter, I started following everything and everyone who sounded vaguely Lebanese. I also followed back everyone who followed me, as a form of courtesy and protocole. It was at a time when this blog was about gathering little nuggets of Lebanese news here and there, and I figured at the time that twitter was a great source of offbeat news.
Years have passed and my thinking about twitter has developed, and I think I finally worked out a philosophy for how to use twitter effectively and efficiently. I will share it here even though I know many will find it controversial.
Who you should not follow on Twitter
- You should not follow people because they are famous. Some celebrities post mind-numbingly boring and useless stuff. I know one celebrity who posts nothing but “good morning” and “good night” posts. Some just don’t know how to use twitter and their account are just placeholder accounts.
- You should not follow friends or family just because you know them. Some people I really like post the most useless stuff (horoscopes, 4Square check-ins, Paper.li news). We have Facebook for friends, keep Twitter for people who post stuff that are interesting to you.
- Don’t follow someone just because they follow you back. This is tricky and can risk sounding arrogant. But twitter is not about people, it’s about what they post. Some people who follow me post about topics that I don’t care about at all: Football, horoscopes (can you guess my pet peeve?) or cars. Listen, if I follow you and you’re not interested in what I post (Lebanon, politics, coding and coffee), I won’t take it personally if you don’t follow me back, honestly.
- Don’t follow news accounts or people who post all the latest news in any topic. This is useless pollution to your timeline; if a news item is interesting enough, someone will end up retweeting it and you’ll see it.
- Avoid hashtag polluters. If I see a tweet with two words and 12 hashtags, I immediately unfollow the person. Hashtags are useful, but they can be abused.
- Don’t follow someone because they’re writing about a topic that is hot at the moment: Egypt is big right now but I won’t go about following every egyptian I find on twitter. A better way is to create an Egypt twitter list and put all these tweeps in it (you don’t have to follow someone to put them in a list).
- Don’t follow someone just because they’re attractive. But that doesn’t mean that you should have a prejudice against good looking people. Some of the most intelligent tweeps I follow are also quite fetching.
The one reason you should follow someone on Twitter
If you read the section above carefully, you should have been able to tease out the answer . The only criteria for following someone on twitter is that, more often than not, they post things that are interesting to you. That’s it. It’s not about friendship or niceties, it’s about what people post.
When you want to decide if someone is worth following, go to their profile page and read their last 10 tweets (ignore conversations because they often don’t show up on your timeline), are these interesting to you? Do they post interesting links about topics you care about? Do they have a unique perspective on an issue? Are they funny? Do they write like real people (as opposed to robots)? Are their tweets unique to them?
Be discerning. You can’t possibly enjoy following thousands and thousands of accounts. There’s nothing wrong with following a few hundred of the best accounts. And by best I don’t mean the most famous or the ones with the most followers, but the ones you enjoy reading most. Unfollow liberally and without guilt; unfollowing someone is not the same as unfriending them. If they are upset point them to this post.
I understand that not everyone uses twitter the same. Some use it just to make friends and chat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to benefit from what the platform excels at, you may find my advice useful. Oh, and if you do think that what I say is interesting, do follow me on twitter.