An Easy Guide to Gaining Followers and Being Followed on Twitter

Twitter (Photo credits:

Twitter is an interesting mix of people. As you join Twitter, you need to decide how you will follow and unfollow others. I thought it would be helpful if some of us can mutually share how we determine who we follow and unfollow people. If those who have been doing this a while can mutually cooperate to stimulate conversations about how we use Twitter, it can  help others.

The scary thing about writing such a list is when you've been tweeting as long as I have, I've made many of the mistakes I mention myself. ;-) So, I submit this list as just guidelines knowing I'm not so perfect either.

I follow people who:

  • Talk with me about interesting things.
    I most often follow people on the spot who have interesting conversations with me that make me a better person. Replying to people or modifying the tweet (MT) instead of just retweeting are two quick ways to gain followers from most people.
  • Demonstrate by their words that they are the exceptional kind of person I'd like to be around.
    You become like those you are around. (How to build your circle of the wise.) Let' me give you an example. Look at the conversation below.

    Kimberly @khurdhorst is my kind of teacher. She showed by her tweet that she loves a child. She has no benefit from tweeting that except just letting out a little piece of who she is. We need educators on Twitter like Kimberly who show their unashamed love of their students and the greatest profession. She's my my of educator. I followed her immediately just for that one tweet.

  • Demonstrate a common interest in things I care about.
    It may be silly but sometimes I do a litmus test to find people who are just funny and cool. They are games, but I've found the best educators and people to follow. I may tweet a line from one of my favorite movies and follow the people that reply. It may be those who reply to a tweet I wrote that meant a lot to me. It may be those who cared enough to tweet encouragement if I was having a rough day.
  • People who are born encouragers.
    I first followed +Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1  because he tweeted me encouragement as I ran. He was so kind. Then, when I followed him, he'd dm me to ask me if I was ok or encourage me when I needed a push. There are people who notice others and care about the person.
  • People who are bridge builders
    There are those who tweet great things but also take time to reply and encourage a lot of people. Often these people are like  +Tom Whitby @tomwhitbyand +Brad Currie  @bcurrie5 who run fantastic chats and link people together. (Steven Anderson  @web20classroom too and so many others! If they run a chat, I'm going to follow them – that is how important the bridge builders are.) They are important because they link all kinds of people and work hard at promoting important conversations.
  • Exceptional people with exceptional ideas
    I do follow some people who do not follow me back. I create a whitelist in my Social Bro app and I will follow them. Michael Hyatt @michaelhyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World  is one of those people. I listen to his podcast each morning and am going back and listening to old ones. His existence in the world makes my existence in the world better. They don't have to follow me back.
  • Friends
    There are so many cool people in the world with interesting stories. Oh, to have a pad of paper and a line of people so as to hear all of them! If I sit down and talk to you for a bit at a conference and if you tweet me that we had a great conversation – you've just cemented that relationship. I follow you and we can now continue conversing. Sometimes when I'm talking with a person, I'll get their handle right then and tweet them so we can do that.
  • Educators, especially teachers, principals, superintendents, librarians, curriculum directors, and IT or parents who advocate for good education wherever their child is in school. I also love to follow homeschooling parents b/c they are teachers too!

    But, that said, if you don't put this stuff in your bio and you put something random about how you like to skydive and eat coffee beans whole, I'm not going to know that about you. I often use my follower management tool, Social Bro, to search for those who have the word “teacher” in their profile. I hunger to look at my beautiful tweet stream and see the random beauty of educators from around the world talking. I have no desire to make myself look important by only following 145 people – I have private lists to drill down to that level.

I unfollow people who:

  • Haven't tweeted in 30 days.
    It doesn't matter if you're popular. If you haven't tweeted in 30 days then you're not engaged on Twitter and likely may end up taken over by a spammer.
  • Have no rhyme or reason to what they tweet.
    Thousands of retweets? A bunch of junk? If I see that you're just indiscriminately tweeting junk, I kind of feel like you're the old aunt who auto forwards everything in their inbox without reading. Her mail goes in my spam and your Twitter account will be unfollowed.
  • Are consistently mean, demeaning, and use Twitter to belittle others.
    There are those who make a career out of insulting people. I have no time for them in my life – I work with teenagers, that is hard enough.
  • Spam me with dm without admitting it.
    If you get a virus and dm me – contact me and let me know it was a virus, or I'll unfollow you. If you indiscriminately dm me asking me to do things for you all the time – you don't care, you just want * want * want – I'm unfollowing. If I want someone in my life who just wants to take from me all the time – I'll go home and talk to my teenagers. (I do love teenagers, but if you've had them, your empty pockets and full calendar understand.)
  • Consistently steal my tweets verbatim without credit.
    Yes, there are unimaginative people who just copy the tweets of others – verbatim, even in the same order. When I saw it happening, I started using the sharedby tool which pops a frame at the top of the tweet giving me credit anyway. It isn't that it is such a huge deal but when it is companies and people making money off Twitter who just want to take all those hours I spend researching and just copy it without credit, that is bad netiquette.
  • Don't converse.
    I use a great tool that social media genius Jure Klepic @jkcallas (a friend of Angela Maiers) recommended when I talked to him at Microsoft. Social bro helps me manage Twitter followers. I go in once a week and see who is following me that I'm not following back (I can't do this daily – it is too many people) and look at them. I look at those I'm following who just never talk back to me. I'll look at what they've been tweeting lately: is it about education? Do those tweets make me a better person? If they don't converse with me and don't meet this criteria, I'll unfollow.
  • Who try to game the system.
    These are Twitter scum in my book. I don't care how interesting you are. If you follow as many as you can and unfollow just after they follow you back hoping that not everyone will unfollow you – you're gaming the system and that wasn't what Twitter is supposed to be. I will unfollow you AND blacklist you in socialbro (which means I'll never see your name again.)
  • People who are users.
    I'm just a teacher who has been blessed with many great friends online. There are “important” thought leaders who won't follow me, won't converse with me, and completely ignore me when I reach out to ask a question. They have NO teachers in their list of people they follow except those who look like cookie cutter copies of themselves. However, these people will often email me asking me to promote their book or retweet something or do this or that for them. They want to use my followers but don't care a rip about me at all when I need help or have a question.

    I love people who love average everyday teachers and if they are going ignore me because I'm just a teacher then how will they feel about other teachers? Call it “I'm taking my tweets and flying to the roost” but truthfully I know I'm nothing and these people won't miss me or even care. I can add them to a list and read their stuff to stay abreast but many of them don't even use popular educational hashtags to make it easier to see what they are talking about. I'd rather talk with real educators who I love because the greatest teachers have a lot of love… and humility. Those are the kinds of people I'd like to be around. I like cooperative collaborators in my stream.

    Others just want to use me for a retweet and beg incessantly for me to promote their product, book, or whatever but have never engaged in conversation, never talked in the community. They are users and will be lucky to even get a follow.

I won't follow you if:

  • Your profile says nothing about you.
    I have no idea if you're legit or not.
  • Your avatar is still a new egg.
    You haven't taken the time to put yourself out there. I want to make sure people are real.
  • You don't follow anyone at all.
  • Your twitter stream shows you're here to be followed not to converse.
    Desperate divas get no dates. If you want to be followed, be helpful, be giving, think of others first. Being followed is a by product of being kind and helpful — or being a celebrity. Celebrities won't read this post anyway. Life is full of enough people full of themselves – I fund such an attitude repugnant.
  • You're a celebrity.
    Exception: Jimmy Fallon. @jimmyfallon The dude is hilarious. His Twitter games are fun to play.
I'd love to hear your guidelines. If you're on Twitter, these rules will change over time. Twitter is important to me because it links me quickly and easily with some of the finest people on the planet. I'm always looking for great educators and teachers to follow or anyone who loves teaching kids. 
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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Dawn Casey-Rowe November 14, 2013 - 6:21 am

This is really interesting, especially some of the tools. I follow people in all areas of interest in life but wish that I had used lists and tools earlier in life, because I need to go back and do this. Sometimes tweets get so buried and it just happens to be the 30 seconds I catch that I see when I’d like to see ed people or sustainability people or writers. That’s my one rewind the clock Twitter wish.

coolcatteacher November 14, 2013 - 3:10 pm

Well, you just have to go forward. Thanks for this perspective as it will help reinforce the usefulness of these tools to others.

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