Why People Don't Follow Back on Twitter


Twitter Banner BirdThere’s no unwritten rule on Twitter that says you must do unto other followers as you would have others do unto you. When you click that “follow” button you’d like to think that the person will want to follow you back. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I met a new Twitterer who commented that she thought it was a compliment to follow people, so she followed everyone. That sounded like good ol’ common sense, but Twitter has its own unwritten rules. She didn’t realize that following a high number of people while having a low number of followers hurt her chances of people following her.

Wondering why people don’t follow you back? I asked some Twitterers their reasons. Perhaps you’re breaking one of these Twitter commandments.

Thou Hast a Bad Profile

avidwriter: I don’t follow back people who are following 300+ people with no bio, URL or haven’t bothered to post a tweet.

debworks: No face picture, no real name, not following anyone.

overthinker: I won’t follow people without bios.

adenin: I tend not to follow people with a lopsided following/followers/updates ratio.

Thou Hast a Case of Bad or Irrelevant Tweets

thursdayb: I can’t stand people who do nothing but post quotes. There are so many accounts that are nothing but pages of quotes.

Yelwrose: They are not interesting; they are teenagers that tweet about teenager things.

goodwolve: I don’t follow back if we really don’t seem to have anything in common.

scoblitz: I don’t follow back if someone posts incompatible content or broadcast-only tweets.

LoriLowe: Usually look self-serving, XXX-related or not a real person. I look for people with common interests.

mikecompeau: Because their stream of tweets is off the mark for my interest or attention requirements.

geekygirldawn: Too self-promotional. You should use your Twitter account to promote your activities; however, it should be a part of what you do. If every post talks about how awesome your company is, people will lose interest fairly quickly.

Thou Art Spreading the Information Overload Disease

SMBRob: Too much info already. I only follow those I know I will get good info from.

MerylORourke: I simply don’t like too many tweets on my page.

amylillard: I don’t follow back if someone updates too often. I don’t want my Twitter stream to turn into one person!

spiky_simon: I don’t usually follow people back unless I recognize them from elsewhere. I try to keep my Twitter stream pretty pared down. I do use Twimailer so I can quickly check out people who follow me.

Thou Sounds Like a Snake Oil Salesperson

Yelwrose: They are pushing get rich quick or MLM schemes.

scoblitz: I also tend to dismiss those who proclaim themselves Social Media or SEO experts. Not a rule, but usually the case.

AlexFayle: I don’t follow Internet marketers back because I often get hit with DMs like “Get 10K followers in 2 days with my report.” No thanks!

Thou Faces Twitter Limitations

meancode: The utter lack of organization that Twitter has. If you could set up groups, like in TweetDeck, it would be different.

bobbiegoheen: I am limited on the number I can follow.

Thou Blows It

Vocino: I auto follow back and then when I see their updates make a decision. I give them a shot rather than spend time investigating.

Thou Plays Games

scoblitz: Those who are obviously playing the follow/unfollow game to boost their own numbers.

Thou Dost Not Interact

andrewghayes: Mainly if they don’t respond to my “Hi, thanks for following, how are you, interesting profile” message. I’m on twitter for conversation and interaction. If you don’t bother to say hello back, why do I want to hear what you have to say?

overthinker: I drop people who only post monologues and have no @ convos.

We all don’t like everyone we meet, no matter how nice we are or they are. Even nice people have enemies. Focus on quality not quantity, and building relationships with the right people, and the followers will come. Find us on Twitter @webworkerdaily.

What are your reasons for not following back?

Image from Twitter Buttons.


Meryl Evans

@Yelwrose, wow. You don’t like the Twittering in Facebook? I am one of those people who added Twitter feed into FB. I don’t update my Facebook too often — so I let Twitter do it for me. Same with FriendFeed. It’s how I maintain balance in staying involved without spending too much time in SM.

@Rich, you’re right that YPMV. That’s why there’s nothing about “the person only has 20 followers and follows 15 people” — everyone has to start somewhere. It’s about quality not quantity.

Those spammers / marketers (snake oil ones, not the legitimate ones) are getting sneakier. Their tweets look normal at first glance — but you can almost always see an MLM or do this to get $$$ or ### followers on their first page of tweets.

Also, if you find someone you follow violates one of these commandments — (we all have an occasional icky tweet or two because we’re directing it at a person), go look at that person’s twitter page and see if she is worth keeping or unfollowing. I’m more selective now and watch for useless twitterers.

Thanks for sharing your perspectives, folks.


@andrewghayessaid : Mainly if they don’t respond to my “Hi, thanks for following, how are you, interesting profile” message. I’m on twitter for conversation and interaction. If you don’t bother to say hello back, why do I want to hear what you have to say?

Andrew,if someone has bothered to type out a personal message to me, and I can tell it’s personal, I always respond. By the same token, if it seems auto-generated, I never respond or follow back. Like you, I am looking for interaction.

Lesson? If I send a new follower a DM (rare), I always try to include some personal comment, so that the know it is not from a bot.


I’ve gotten really ruthless of late about not following back, unfollowing and even blocking the self-promoters. I don’t have confirmation, but I was told that blocks of these “snake-oil” types accumulate black marks against their accounts.

My next mission is to get people to stop posting their Twitter feeds to Facebook, or to lobby Facebook to give us a choice whether to accept these Twitter feeds. For now, I’m pretty much blocking people on Facebook that do this. If I want to see their Tweets, I’ll follow them on Twitter or FriendFeed! Does anyone else feel this way?

Thanks for the article, Meryl.

Ya need a “tweet this post” button here.

Have a great holiday weekend!


I love how Vocino says he gives people a chance yet he has almost 10 times the number of people following him as he follows.

(…and no I didn’t try to follow him to get rejected, it just struck me funny)

Josh R

When I get a new follower, I look at their page, and if something seems interesting I follow back. Usually I don’t follow back until I see @ replies directed towards me.. I don’t really want to follow thousands. hundreds is plenty.

Mike Compeau

wow– How’d I get the brush off so fast when I only started all this a month ago at most? :) Still, your comments are dead on– I only follow folks who have relevant things to say that consistently meet my interests… and in some cases that has meant UNfollowing friends that have a high volume of tweets that include 30-40% off on topics I don’t find of interest.

I don’t take personally your not following me– any more than Guy Kawasaki would take personally someone not following him due to his use of Annie and others. I use Twitter as *I* see fit– value gets to be determined by the market. If I were using it only in a mercenary manner like some, I might try to exert more control over what I tweeted (no ‘cat rolled over’ posts) and perhaps less mobile industry commentary and more straight up marketing and new product development content. But, frankly, there’s more to me than only that.

Twitter is a reflection of me, not a construct of a fragment of me. But everyone gets to define their OWN persona. That’s the beauty.

Follow, or don’t. It’s all good.


Half the time, I can’t figure out why someone would want to follow me. We don’t seem interested in the same things. Those are the people that I don’t follow back.

Rich Brooks

B/c I often write about social media and Twitter I get about 25 – 30 new followers a day; that number has risen as Twitter has exploded, and with it, the number of snake oil sales associates who plan on getting rich on Twitter.

I won’t autofollow back, so I look at every new follower. If you can’t catch my interest in about 15 – 20 seconds I’m gone. I’m already following too many people as it is.

Turn-offs include people who are doing the follow/unfollow game, people with dollar signs as avatars, and people who’s location reads “The World,” “The Internet,” or everywhere.

YPMV. (Your peeves may vary.)


Interesting info!

By following like minded people I’ve found twitter to be a great source of info and I’ve met some friendly helpful people too :)



Thanks Meryl for sharing such useful information with us, generally people don’t follow to others on Twitter but now they will.

Trina Roach

Whom you follow on Twitter is certainly strongly related to what you want to achieve there. If you are using it as a quick and uncomplicated way to stay connected with a fairly finite group of people, your following practice will be significantly different from someone trying to simply drastically increase awareness of themselves.

I personally shy away from the usual suspects: porn stars, kids bragging about their weekend drinking, MLM specialists and the like.

On the other hand, I don’t have a huge community of people with whom I regularly share @replies (yet). Most often I talk about my consultancy by linking back to relevant blog entries or insightful things I’ve discovered on the web and would like to share.

Being a relative newbie to both Twitter and Facebook prompted me to write about my own initial experiences with both – and compare them to what I’d experienced elsewhere – at the end of April here: http://tinyurl.com/c6skdk


I do not twitter anymore.

I simply got exasperated, frustrated and tired of the numbers of idiots who have nothing to say except to blitz us with quotes and tech news.

My opinion is that there is nothing that Twitter does that email, a forum or a blog can’t achieve with better and more meaningful results based on quality interchanges between individuals.

Loading Twitter to reveal pages filled by one or three people’s tweets on nothing but quotes and inane self-indulgent crap is very difficult for me to justify spending any further time on Twitter.

So I think I’ll start a good old-fashioned forum where you can come and participate in meaningful communication with no 140 character limit on what you wish to write about!


The problem with a large amount of Twitter users is that they are all peddling these Twitter systems and ways to broadcast on autopilot.

The medium is about communication… and that involves listening too!


I follow people I find interesting, amusing, have useful(to me) information, fun. I also try and prioritize by the amount of time I want to spend on Twitter.

As it is I spend WAY too much time there already and if I followed all who follow me, I’d never get anything else done. I also don’t expect everyone I follow to follow me back, e.g., Will Wheaton. His tweets are hillarious, but with 40K+ followers can I seriously expect a return follow?

Twitter is for my benefit, not to stroke someone else’s ego.

Nadhiya Mali

Mmmm, i follow people based in India and who share common interests as mine. I m totally new to twitter but i have managed to find 50 interesting people to follow.. i dont follow ppl who are hyper active, ppl who would flood the page with their tweets. And sadly twitter does not have an option to delete updates that does not hold any interests for us!!

Alex Trup

I can’t stand all these SEO/make money from your blog “experts”! It seems like they are the largest group of individuals on Twitter.

I primarily look to follow people in Asia as that’s where I’m based, but I did find that my following/follower ratio was becoming too skewed and I think that makes one look a bit desperate/salesy, so I think I’m going to be a bit more like @Camilo and just look for new people to follow every now and then…

Another thing that immediately turns me off usually is custom Twitter background that have a large information box of self-promotional text…


Thank you for posting this. I’m fairly new to twitter and was wondering how when & why I should follow people. Thanks to you, now I have a much better understanding .. x

Meryl Evans

@NealG, right on. No rule says you need thousands of followers / followings. Do what works for you.

@Kim, it’s interesting how something offline affects your online interactions. Hang in there. We try to have fun and be positive here at WWD.

@Camilo, that’s OK, too. As long as the numbers don’t look like 10:200. You get the idea.

@Julie, the DM thing has passionate proponents and opponents.

@Elizabeth, any picture other than the default brown one is great. You may be surprised how people respond to a photo, though.

@Genevieve, I think the key is participating rather than trying to sound like the leader. Look at Guy Kawasaki. Obviously, a known expert — but he participates like the rest of us.

@Katy, sounds like you’ve got a great twitter stream going on your side!


I only follow friends, people with the same interest or people with witty and humorous tweets.

Elizabeth, Hamilton, Ontario

I don’t use my photo on twitter because I am ashamed of how I look so I use an bonsai tree instead. I follow about 80 twitters because they have the information I like to hear and I have about 18 followers.




I like to follow interesting people. If someone gets too self-promoting, I’ll generally unfollow. I’ll respond to a “thanks for the follow” DM if it doesn’t appear to be automatically generated. If your “thanks for the follow” is a sales message or a plea to join your Facebook fan page, I’ll probably unfollow.

Camilo Payan

I won’t lie, I try and keep my following count under my follower count, so there’ll be long stretches where I won’t look to follow anyone unless I personally know them (in one of those stretches right now, actually).

The exception in these periods is when I decide to hook on to some new group of people (lately, I decided to make a tweetdeck group of Twisters and the like, and more recently with the fake #lostarg, which was fun anyway).

Besides that, keep away from internet marketers, SEO Geniuses and Myspace Pornstars.


There is great follow, no follow game going ON on twitter! I really hate this!
Therefore i used to follow only those guys who are sincere and have something in common with me!


As a rule of thumb I stay away from people who:

-broadcast their tweets (no @ msgs=no follow)the purpose of twitter is to engage in conversation. Isn’t broadcasting for traditional media like TV and Radio?

-fall into the “Thou Sounds Like a Snake Oil Salesperson “-I don’t want to find out how to make money from my blog, the reason I have a blog is for personal growth.

-People that exude overt negativity, I have to deal with this in person all day everyday, I don’t want to see this on twitter!

-any weird/sexual/porn type spam. I can’t stand checking my followers to find some disgusting picture. This is always followed by a “Block”

Neal G

I choose to follow only people I’m interested in. This basically amounts to only a dozen or so high-profile community members. That and I simply can’t handle all the noise that would be in twitter from all the mutual people had I followed them.

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