Why I Might Not Be Following You Back on Twitter

The other day, I was chatting with a few entrepreneurs about Twitter, including who they follow and how they use it in their businesses. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to use Twitter, and how many different approaches can actually work. The trick is picking the approach that’s right for your goals.

As I listened to the different points of view during the conversation, I realized one thing — I am a fairly flexible user. I don’t have many hard and fast rules that guide who I follow, what I tweet and how I use my account. You probably know what I mean by “rules.” You may even follow some of them yourself. Things like:

  • Not following people who follow more than 1,000 people.
  • Not following people who have links in their tweets.
  • Not following accounts that have a company logo as the avatar.
  • Not following people who don’t RT.
  • Not following anyone who tweets (or doesn’t tweet) about [fill in the blank].
  • Unfollowing everyone who auto DMs you.
  • Unfollowing everyone who unfollows you.

While some of these things are certainly annoying and can impact the way I interact with people, they aren’t necessarily deal-breakers for me.

Part of the reason I’ve adopted a looser perspective is that I learned early on that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I’ve formed some great relationships on Twitter with people who I initially thought I would have nothing in common with. I also tweet about a variety of topics on my personal Twitter account, so it’s always seemed silly to limit my network to one or two focused topics (the Small Business Bonfire account is mostly for business topics, so I use that one a little bit differently).

But, even with my flexible approach to Twitter, there are some reasons I might not be following you back. Here are a few of them.

You have a questionable profile.

This could mean one of two things. Either you don’t have your bio filled out, or you don’t have an avatar. Without both of these things, I don’t know for sure that you’re not a bot. I also like to see websites, too, but I understand that not everyone has one, so a missing URL isn’t the end of the world for me.

When it comes to your bio, it may seem like a challenge to boil yourself down to 160 characters, but entering something is better than having it completely blank. I want to know something about the people I follow. I often click through to check out websites and blogs, but if you don’t have a bio, I usually don’t even get that far. Don’t make me fish for info about you. If you’re trying to grow your following, a bio and an avatar are must-haves (adding a link to your a website or blog is even better).

Your tweets are annoying.

Of course, this is completely subjective. I will also tell you that I have a very high annoyance tolerance, so it takes a heck of a lot before I unfollow someone. Some things that qualify as annoying tweeting to me include:

  • Tweeting the same thing over and over and over and over with nothing else in between.
  • Being combative and overly argumentative (I’m not talking healthy debate here).
  • Bad-mouthing people.
  • Spamming (you know, sending what looks like individual tweets but turns out to be spam to a bunch of people).

I’m sure you can name one or two behaviors that qualify as annoying tweeting to you, too!

Your numbers are weird.

If you have 6,000 people following you and you are only following 200, that’s a major question mark for me. It tells me that you might only engage with your small circle, but want to play the numbers game. It might also tell me that you will probably unfollow me shortly after I follow you. I won’t unilaterally not follow an account where this is the case, but I will check out your timeline and mentions to see what you’re all about before I follow you.

Another weird numbers thing is if you haven’t tweeted at all yet, but you’re already following 2,000 people. You may even have a lot of people following you back. Makes me wonder how you generated such a big following before you even started tweeting (did you use some kind of software?). That’s just strange, and how am I supposed to know if I want to follow you if I have no way to know what you tweet about?

I inadvertently missed you.

It happens! I check out my new followers and follow back in batches, not as they happen, so I miss people from time to time. The best solution to this is to tweet me or engage with me in some way. When I check out your profile, I will get clued in that I missed you the first time around.

So, along with the obvious reasons such as bots and half-naked avatars, those are my biggest reasons for not following people back on Twitter. What are yours? Do you approach Twitter differently?

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Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa is a digital strategist, content marketer, freelance writer and founder of the Small Business Bonfire. She's a team player, a team builder and not a bad leader, either. You can often find her on various social networks looking for remarkable people to collaborate with.


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  1. I get follow notifications all the time from new accounts with the default egg profile picture. Many of them have never tweeted before but follow 100 or 200 accounts!

    I’m sure the majority of these are spam accounts, but on the off chance real people are doing this — take a few seconds to tweet something so we have some idea what you’re all about!

    • Yes, Emily! That’s exactly the point — a lot of real people with real accounts skip the bio. Sometimes, it could be the learning curve as people start to use Twitter for the first time, but no bio, no avatar, no tweets = no following back for me.

  2. What a great article! I find I have “loose rules” too (well, when it comes to Twitter). I’m still amazed at the number of real people who are genuinely trying to build their SM influence who skip the simple step of filling out the bio. Put something, even if it’s basic and (sorry) boring. You can always go back and update it! Naturally work in your keywords so you’re SEARCHable! If you’re a real person talking about things I care about, I want to be able to find you. #stepping off soapbox*

  3. Alyssa,

    A GREAT article, it should be required reading before anyone gets their “twitter license”. You have also hit on all the pet peeves.



  4. Thanks for writing this Alyssa!

    I don’t autofollow, don’t follow the “no RT” people and never follow anyone who’s Twitter name is a female name followed by a number :)

    j :)

  5. Yeah, what you said. Haha! You’ve hit so many nails on the head we could be twitter cousins. :) Thank you for this article. I agree with Bill… this should be required reading before getting the tweet license.

      • libby

        Hi Alyssa,

        I manage a brand account that has a lot of followers. I am looking for a way to follow everyone that follows the account back. BUT, the catch is I only want to follow relative people. Is there a way to sort your followers by their klout, or even possibly the number of followers they have, or the number of tweets they have posted?


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  13. Alyssa, I set-up a company site that carries my logo and a personal site for my own observations. I work on getting the right mix of followers on the company site to build a relationship and network. I sometimes use Hootsuite to keep info on specials and to build a knowledge base for new connections.
    I enjoy seeing tweets of all types, even on the business site. I glean ideas from them to use at future times.

  14. Gael McCarte

    Great articel. Yes I agree. I don’t follow ‘eggs’ either. Somehow I was hacked and listed as following 200 eggs. I unfollowed them all. How can an egg who has never tweetd have 2,000 followers? It does not make sense. I don’t follow those who use vile language, adolescents who want to talk about skate boarding, or not sleeping, or the discovery of their genitals. I don’t follow those in industries that are not related to mine, like industrial truck repair. I notice that tweeters are more discriminating. If they do accidentally follow me, whether or not I follow back if they are in an unrelated field they unfollow me. We are all learning as we go and the protocols are evolving. Just saying…

  15. Great post, Allyssa. I agree about the bio/avatar, although now that my Twitter account has grown I auto-follow everyone just to save time (and Twitter eventually gets rid of the fakes). Another thing that annoys me — Twitter accounts that have clearly been delegated to the VA, while the real owner isn’t there at all. You can tell — there’s no conversation, it’s either all quotes or all sales pitches or all blog posts with nothing else. Just one of my pet peeves (I wrote about this a few months ago too: http://www.solo-e.com/blog/2011/04/ways-annoy-twitter-followers.html)

    • I absolutely agree, Terri. I know that some people use Twitter solely as an outgoing communications tool, instead of a conversational tool. If that works for them, great. For me personally, those are the accounts I don’t follow back, don’t RT and avoid as much as possible.

      Read your Twitter post, btw — more great points. Thanks for sharing!

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