How do you ‘follow’ 2500 people on Twitter?

OK, I’ve had enough. That’s it. I’ve had enough of people suggesting we should all have limits on the number of people followed on Twitter. The tweet that did it? Peter King, who suggested “Twitter should cap how many people you can follow at 10% of the # of people following you. Put a premium on the # you follow.” and “Twitter needs to be a place for leaders to lead. Otherwise we’ll cancel each other out.”

Yeah, that’s what we need: more leaders. And forcing people to broadcast to an audience before they can listen to anyone.

Many people have a ‘quality not quantity’ strategy with Twitter where they restrict themselves to following a certain number of Twitterers. But by using certain tools and adopting a certain mindset, I think you can have both quality and quantity. So here’s how I ‘follow’ 2,500 people on Twitter:

Think of it as a stream, not a publication

There are two fears on Twitter: the fear that you will miss out on something because you’re not following the right person; and the fear that you’ll miss out on something because you’re following too many people. I tend to lean towards the former.

The thing is, Twitter is not a permanent publication; it is a conversation, or a series of conversations. You dip in and out of it. I am not ‘listening to 1000 voices’ – I am listening to the few who happen to be tweeting at that particular time.

The more people you follow, the more chance you have of stumbling across something interesting.

The more diverse people you follow, the more chance of stumbling across something useful from outside of your immediate circles – and those for me are the most interesting things of all.

Stop worrying about what you’re missing, and focus on what you do see. As for the quality…

You can still choose a few dozen favourite users

TweetDeck is a Twitter reader that allows you to split your feed in various ways. I use this to have a separate ‘friends’ column for people I know particularly well, alongside the feed of all those I follow. You can also use it to have a column for a particular search.

If you’re accessing on a mobile phone, Twitstat Mobile allows you to ‘sweetheart’ users to a ‘VIP’ list.

If you’re worried about missing the buzz, use services like Twitturly, Tweetburner and TweetGrid Trending.

That’s it. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t follow thousands of people, just how and why you might. Twitter is so flexible you can use it in any number of ways, all at the same time. Just don’t tell me how I should use it.

How do you manage your Twitterstream?

33 thoughts on “How do you ‘follow’ 2500 people on Twitter?

  1. Kasper Sorensen

    Peter King, who suggested “Twitter should cap how many people you can follow at 10% of the # of people following you. Put a premium on the # you follow.” and “Twitter needs to be a place for leaders to lead. Otherwise we’ll cancel each other out.”

    I choose to think that tweet was sarcastic.

    The beauty of Twitter is that it’s not one or the other. You can use it both ways, except that setting a limit to a % of the # of followers you have would kill the community in no time.

    Twitter is great for handling lots of real time feeds. Stuff that’s only relevant to you for a short period of time. Some of it wouldn’t even work in your rss reader as it would be too dated when you came to read it anyway.

    For this reason I have deleted some of my RSS feeds from my feed reader and now just follow these sites on twitter. – Saves me having to go through 50 news items everyday, marking all as read.

  2. Ed Walker

    I’ve started using Mr Tweet to find interesting people to follow, it’s a really useful application – especially when you’re just starting out and building your network.

  3. Dan Thornton

    Totally agree with you Paul – the way I use Twitter, and the amount of people I follow has changed dramatically (I follow just under 2k people).

    If there’s a plan at all, it’s to try and communicate with as many of those people as possible in the time I allow myself on Twitter – because that way they’re far more likely to make sure anything relevant is highlight with an @message to me etc if they think I haven’t seen it.

  4. Emily W. Sussman

    When you have so many people to follow, you’ll never see anything in your feed but its most frequent users. (That’s why I un-followed Times Online UK—being particularly aggressive in their marketing, they were bullying about how frequently they updated. Personally, I prefer variety, and non-commercial interests.)

    By that same token, it doesn’t hurt to follow infrequent Twitterers if they’re people you care about and/or find particularly interesting. You’ll probably miss their episodic Tweets, but you can just click on their icon to get their most recent updates, or for that matter, all of them going back to when they joined.

    Of course, if you have 2,500 mini-icons to scan for their icon, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. 🙂

    Bottom line: You’ve got to experiment to find the perfect mix that toes the fine line between interesting and informative. I know a lot of people who are avowedly Twitter-averse, but it can really work for you if you embrace it, try a couple of different fits and check it regularly.

  5. Kasper Sorensen

    @Emily W. Sussman
    It’s not so much about quantity as it is about management. Think of twitter as a sort of real time RSS reader. If you feel overwhelmed by information you simply filter out what is relevant to you by keywords or groups. There are plenty of tools for doing exactly this, many of them mentioned in this article.

    I don’t think twitter is an archive of information that you should be able to store and read at a later point in time. We’ve already got RSS readers for that. It’s a real time conversation that (for the most part) is only relevant over a limited period of time.

    My bottom line 😉
    It doesn’t matter how many incoming streams of information you’ve got as long as you have a system in place to filter out the information that’s relevant to you.

  6. Emily W. Sussman

    @Kasper Sorenson:

    Great point. And…

    Funny that we’re talking about this today. I have a friend who’s a newly-minted journalism professor who’s progressive (read: young) enough to have incorporated Twitter to her students, who are apparently very anti-Twitter. FYI: Heard the story on Twitter, strangely enough 🙂

    Your most recent post was spot-on, I think, about its usefulness as a real-time source of well-filtered information rather than a heap of uselessness. I suggested that she pitch it that way to her anti-Twitter students, and she was appreciative. So, thanks!

  7. paulbradshaw

    @Emily, agree with you about news organisation Twitter feeds – I also unsubscribed from those a while ago. I pretty much only follow people.
    As for the professor, this year I’m going to give a list of 10 people to start following so they can see some useful stuff. Also maybe the likes of Tweetburner so they can see useful links being shared.

  8. Peter King

    I find it ironic that you neglected to engage me after I asked you to help me see Twitter through your eyes. I’m fairly new to Twitter and I’m still trying to get my arms around it. Seems like a lot of other people have a similar experience (ie, tweet overload) when they first start, too. What I thought was the start of an interesting conversation ended up with you scurrying off to your corner of the web to rant about me. It would’ve been terribly easy for you to point out TweetDeck and the other apps you mention here in this post. After putting those into use, I can see how I can follow much more people in an organized way. But, could you not have pointed that out to me via Twitter before dumping on me here??

    Kinda lame.

    Our world is so filled with snap judgments and noise, it’s very rare that people take the time to really listen. Especially when communicating solely with text – where we lack the visual and tonal cues audio, video, and face to face conversations give us – it’s important to go beyond surface reactions and ask to make sure we really understand where the other person is coming from.

    So, am I really out on a crusade to cap followers at 10% of who you’re following? No. That was just one slice out of a larger conversation I was having with a friend in which we were discussing ways we could better utilize Twitter. I don’t really care if people use Twitter for chatter, meaningless or otherwise. I do it myself sometimes.

    But, do I see Twitter as a place for leaders to lead? Absolutely. I can’t say for certain, but one could deduce that that’s what Jack Dorsey’s intentions were when he originated Twitter. After all, it’s not “friends” or “associates” or “invitations.” It’s “followers.” And, by definition, followers need a leader.

    So, if you’d like to start the conversation over, you know where to find me.

  9. Paul Bradshaw

    You are so fucking right. And I hang my head in shame that I didn’t find the time to respond to you directly or tell you about the post. I’m finding it difficult to maintain conversations like I used to, and seem to be acting more as a ‘conduit’. That’s not good enough, and I need to go back to basics. The reexamination starts here. [What a fuckwit thing to say. Excuse me for my overinflated ego and feel free to punch me in the face some time.]

  10. Nate


    Does the word “EGO” mean anything to you? This post was really helpful. Your reaction not so much. Much lost respect for you if you care, which you probably don’t.

    I’ll be sure to unfollow you after this banter.

    All the best,


  11. paulbradshaw

    Thanks Nate, I do care. Perhaps I expressed myself badly, perhaps it just is what it is. I don’t know because you don’t give an indication what precisely it is that screamed “EGO”. Please do.

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  13. Andrew

    This is like those surveys about sexual promiscuity that are all demonstrably lies: it’s mathematically impossible for the criteria to be met.

    If you could only follow 10% as many people as follow you, then the total number of followers would have to be less than or exactly 10% the total number of followees, and since they’re necessarily the same number, that number would have to be at most zero (or it could be infinity).

    Are you sure he wasn’t joking?

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  15. @yacht_charters

    I was grateful for the education (from @bobgarrett) that the way to follow more than 2000 people on twitter is to get 1800 followers, yourself. Once you get that many, you can again follow more than 200 people. Who knew!

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  17. Pt

    But honestly, is tweeting really about the numbers? Maybe. I think the number of followers may be a source people use to determine who they follow, but of everyone I follow, I don’t have time to read what they twitter about. I glance once in a while, but honestly – there is a part of me that thinks that if a person spends a bunch of time tweeting, they will probably hit diminishing returns rather rapidly. How many people are really reading what you are tweeing, if you are not one of the already established starts before you tweeted? I think businesses should be in the twittershpere, but I dont think that very many can actually get much out of it. Its become a “me-too” strategy. Thoughts?

  18. @juliandobson

    The great thing about Twitter is that you can use it in so many different ways – it merges public and private, work and leisure in a very intuitive fashion. Does it matter how many people you follow? Not really. What works for me is to follow a reasonable crowd of people, and from those select a group using Tweetdeck whose tweets I really don’t want to miss. That way I get to see what the people I particularly value are saying, but get a flavour of what the others are doing too.

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  20. Chie

    I think it all depends on what you use Twitter for. I don’t agree there should be a “cap”, but it is up to individuals if they want to follow a policy of not “over-following” so they don’t get overwhelmed. A lot of people I follow, and even regularly engage with, won’t follow me back because they want to restrict to following only people they know, and that’s fine by me; I don’t take it personally. The only annoying part of that is I can’t ever DM them.

    I find Seesmic more user-friendly than TweetDeck so I stick with it. At the time of writing I’m following about 400 people – not too many, but enough. To make tweet management easier, I split them into 10+ categories and I tend to read my tweets by category.

    My top category by far (the one with highest number o tweeps) is “journalists”, which actually includes journalists, editors, writers, copywriters, PR people,bloggers, etc, because I want to know what’s going on in the industry I’m interested in. The “journos” column is permanently up on my Seesmic Desktop as I check it throughout the day. But I also have lists of “friends” (closest tweeps),”publishing” people,”inspirational” people, “eco” people…etc, and I catch up on their tweets by list.

    On a very busy day I have to prioritise, so I may only glance over “journos” and “friends”. On calmer days, I will check each list one by one.

    Some people get listed in two different categories, whereas others don’t get listed at all and stay in the “general” stream, which I glance at in-between scanning the journos’ tweets.

    I also have a handful of “faves” – people I KNOW tweet gems all the time…. (You are one of them. ;)) So if I haven’t been online for a few days, I’ll specifically check those people’s tweets to see if I’ve missed anything I shouldn’t have.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever dare follow people in their thousands, but, for now, the method above is working for me. Thank goodness the Web view of Twitter now allows you to put people in lists as well. I used to work as a PA, so catogorising, prioritising, etc is my natural way to organise my work.

  21. Stephen West

    i think that having a limit on followers is bad, i have reached my 2,000 followers limit and therefore cant folloe any more people, i am getting other people follow me and because i cant follow them back they anre unfollowing me, if you could make the first limit higher or remove limits that would be amazing but if you cant then could you explane to me how i can get more followers with out having to remove followers or having to follow anyone….
    thanx stephen, 17

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