How Many People Do You Need to Follow on Twitter?

By Mark Evans - Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 at 7:30 am  

It was interesting but not terribly surprising to see the attention garnered by Chris Brogan, who decided to unfollow 131,000 people on Twitter recently – an “experiment” done to kill a troublesome spam problem.

Brogan’s move raises a few questions such as:

1. Why would anyone want or need to follow 131,000 people?

2. How could anyone have a productive Twitter experience with that much data flowing through their live stream?

3. How many of the people were following Brogan only because he was following them?

To be honest, I have always had a thing about people who follow thousands of people on Twitter, let alone tens of thousands or more than 100,000. It strikes me as something so complicated, unworkable and unmanageable that the downsides far outweigh any benefits.

Yet there are lots of people who are follow-aholics for a variety of reasons.

The biggest culprit is the idea that if you follow someone, they will follow you back. This plays into the whole social vanity/I have more followers than you thesis. There is also the notion that if you have lots of followers, some of them will pay attention to whatever you’re hawking or saying.

That said, I believe there are few, if any, benefits to having massive amounts of followers. It’s completely do-able but it kills the idea of following people who provide some kind of “value”, which is the power of Twitter. In other words, it is great to drink out of a hose that is dripping but messy if the hose is gushing with water.

For people who do follow lots and lots of people on Twitter, I guess it’s the price they pay to have lots and lots of people following them. If it means have your life stream become completely overwhelming, that’s the price to pay.

For the rest of us, it makes no sense to follow lots of people, and by lots I mean no more than about 500. Following 500 (or less) people lets you follow people who provide “value”, as well some some strategic follows such as potential customers, rivals, etc.

It will be interesting to see how Brogan reloads on Twitter. Will he focus on following a smaller group of people or revert back to his follow everybody ways once his spam problem disappears?