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Why I Follow 15,000 People on Twitter

Twitter can be a great way to connect with new personal and business contacts. Here are the ways I use the social network to my benefit.
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I love Twitter. It is a fantastic platform to do the 4 Cs: create, consume and curate content -- as well as communicate with a wide variety of people and companies. However, with everyone from social-media “gurus” to celebrities to teens, it has somehow become “en vogue” to dump most of the people you follow on Twitter and follow just a few hundred.

I have taken a different approach. I follow more 15,000 accounts, which is around 40 percent of people who follow me. So, why do I follow so many people?  Here are some reasons:

I’m here to learn: I am a naturally curious person and I like to learn and meet new people. I can’t do that if I am predisposed to think that I already know everyone who is fabulous and interesting on Twitter. Nor do I believe that there are only a few hundred people who have something of value to say to me. Following a lot of people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and expertise gives me an opportunity to get exposed to even more great content and ideas.

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I love and use lists: While I like finding new and interesting people to follow, I don’t always have time to view what every single one of them is saying. I use lists to cultivate a smaller group of accounts whose updates I want to ensure I see on a daily basis. That allows me to “have my cake” of following a broad range of people and “eat it too” by spending more of my time with my predetermined lists. As people and companies pique or lose my interest, I move them in and out of my core lists.

Lists are also a great tool for consuming news content without personal updates and opinions for those times where that is my focus.

I don’t have low self-esteem: I’ve been told that some people think that it makes them look more important to have tons of followers yet only follow a few accounts in return. That doesn’t concern me. My confidence doesn’t come from a social-media ratio.

I ignore Direct Messages (aka DMs): I’ve also been told that some people don’t follow more than a handful of accounts on Twitter because they can’t keep up with all of the random and spam direct messages from followers. I don’t typically use that feature of Twitter, so it’s not a problem for me. If you do use DMs, you may want to use a secondary email account to connect to Twitter and get the Twitter mobile app to alert you when you have new ones, so you can check them on your own time.

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It’s about relationships: It’s harder to build a relationship with someone on Twitter if you don’t follow that person. I have met amazing personal and business contacts through the platform and that beats “exclusivity” any day.

That being said, I don’t follow everyone who follows me. A lot of the time that’s because of timing. I try to look at profiles of new follower accounts on a regular basis to see if they are of interest for me to explore further, but sometimes I get busy and those get lost due to bad timing. I also tend to favor those who have interacted with me a few times, so interaction (or I should say smart and interesting interaction) is a good way to be top of mind with those who you would like to follow you.

I also try not to follow people -- although there are exceptions -- who tweet to porn stars, use misogynistic language or the like. Following a Twitter account with content that I find aggravating defeats the entire purpose of using the platform.

And finally, sometimes Twitter or Tweetdeck accidentally unfollow people who I really do want to be following. I’ve got no answer for that one other than “technology happens.”

So, that’s my explanation of how my Twitter use might be different than some of my peers. Perhaps it gives you an idea of how you may want to broaden your Twitter horizons.

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