Wondering why people follow me on Twitter?

About 6 months ago I got curious as to why people were following me on Twitter. Basically I asked them… and then found out some rather interesting things, both about why they were following me and also about the evolving etiquette around Twitter interactions.

This has turned into a two-part post. Initially I was going to address both the process I used, and the results, but once I writing about the process, I realized the post was  too long to digest at once. So, I’ll get to the numbers in the next post.

On to the process.

How do I know when someone’s following me?
If you look under the Notices tab on your Twitter Settings page you’ll see the checkbox beside ‘New Follower Emails:’. Check it and you’ll be automagically emailed every time someone starts following. Simple ‘eh? Without this feature, knowing when someone started following me would have been much more difficult.

Asking the question…it’s all in the question.

Initially, I thought a simple DM (Twitter Direct Message) along the lines of ‘hey, thanks for following me, how’d you find me?‘ would suffice. But no, it’s too simple, and didn’t really get much of a response. I think it tended to put people off by it’s brevity, and it was generic; it looked like the DM could have been generated by an Auto-DM script.

Auto-DM is currently considered bad form as many people interpret the Twitter to be at its best with live interaction, and the DM channel to be reserved for interaction that may not be of interest to all of  your followers.

So, I settled on this process to review candidates to survey:

  • Click on the link to the new follower’s profile in the New Follower Email.
  • Check out the followers details: location (if any), interests, web page, tweeting history and content to see if they’re interesting to me.
  • Look for a ‘message follower‘ link under the Actions section of their profile. If it’s not there,  they don’t want to be sociable, so I won’t bother them by following them back. In my case, when I follow you, it’ll say ‘message bgrier’ as indicated in the image to the right.
  • If the profile or a quick review of recent tweets reveals that all this follower is writing about is a ‘new moneymaking system’ or ‘SEO secrets’, then I’ll use the link on the line below it and block them from receiving my updates. I effectively vanish from their ‘following’ list. I have no time for these type of spam accounts.

Over the period of my informal survey, both my ‘tweet’ frequency and my follower counts have increased. I don’t think one is a significant result of the other, as during this period, Twitter has gained a lot more publicity, and spam-follower activity has increased. The tweet frequency may have had a small impact.

Regardless, it’s interesting data and is displayed in cool charts 🙂 As you can see in the TweetStats chart below, I have been increasing my online activity.

And my follower count has also grown, as indicated in this TwitterCounter chart.

All right. I’ve seen significant growth of followers over the last few months, and of those, a pretty good segment of people have taken a moment or two to explain why they followed me. Digging into those details will be the subject of my next post, but in the meantime, let me ask you a question.

Why do you think people are following YOU on Twitter? Post your answeres in the comments below.