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Why It Pays to be a Twitter Snob

A Twitter snob is someone who has a large gathering of Twitter followers, but yet is too “uppity” to follow many of them back. So is this going to hurt your brand on the micro blogging platform? Not really, and here’s why…

So in recent weeks, there’s been a spate of discussion about “Twitter Snobs” – twitter users who don’t follow many people back. Maybe following 200 people and have 20,000 follow them.


Todd Friesen AKA Oilman was analysing how he could get into SEOMoz’s Rand Fishkin’s twitter cliche. Rand  follows 11 twitter uses and has about 5,200 followers.

Likewise, other bloggers have been pontificating why it’s bad to be a twitter snob and how you should fix it (follow more of them back, make friends, etc). See the references here, here and here.


So where do I stand?

I follow 217 users and have 1,374 followers. Or about a 15% follower rate.

Which is closer to about 12-13%, since I have a number of fake twitter profiles among my followers.

Here is where I think it’s good to be a snob – I read every update each of the people I’m following

As my twitter profile page says “If I follow you, I read every update”


It’s just like the traffic generation game, although quality (raw numbers) is good, I still focus on quality (lead generation/traffic quality) over quantity any day of the week (or month).

Assuming you’re in this business to do more than just generate eyeballs and plan to convert or monetize them, I’d say quality is darn important.

And there’s a difference between a snob (someone who’s selective and realistic about who they follow) versus someone who is just out to be a “faux twitter rockstar”, gathering a following of 100,000 and just seeing everyone as just another number.


There’s a difference between being a participatory and non-participatory member of twitter.

You participate when you use DMs (direct messages), @user (to reply to a specific person, while everyone can read your twitter stream) and selectively RT (retweet) and broadcast/syndicate quality content.

As the folks at Bruce Clay note: you could go the Guy Kawasaki route and use twitter as a broadcast medium – funnelling traffic to your own site (in this case Alltop) and not responding to replies or messages, that’s your perogrative.

It shortchanges the social media channel in my opinion and relegates Twitter to being in the position of just a digital signboard in the middle of the virtual deserts, when it could be used as a channel of online conversation.

And ultimately, the best customers are the ones who feel they are appreciated.

So I’ll keep my twitter snob hat on my head, until it isn’t working for me anymore.

Oh yes, and you can join my followers at http://twitter.com/andrewwee.

13 comments on Why It Pays to be a Twitter Snob

  1. @MattWilsontv
    March 11, 2009 at 1:23 am (4252 days ago)

    Andrew, I think you are missing a huge opportunity to develop relationships with people. If you are not following someone, you can’t develop a relationship with them. You’ll never see their posts, they can’t DM you and they think you are a snob.

    It’s really hard to be friendly with people if you don’t accept their business card when you meet them–in fact to me, there is nothing more insulting than being turned down when I give someone my card because I thought they were interesting and wanted to stay in touch.

    I do believe that Twitter is a platform that should be used however you want, with no rules… I just like to think of it as developing relationships with people and snubbing them isn’t my style.

  2. Virginia Nussey
    March 11, 2009 at 2:18 am (4252 days ago)

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for pointing out the discussion happening over at the Bruce Clay blog. From the looks of it, you’re not alone in demanding that your Twitter community use the give-and-take approach. But I can’t discount the marketing opportunity illustrated by Guy Kawasaki’s approach – the traffic to our site after he tweeted about the post tells the story. Of course, the argument could be made that Guy’s approach works for him because he’s already got the brand recognition. But in general, I like to think that the possibilities are endless. :)

  3. Dan Stack
    March 11, 2009 at 12:11 pm (4252 days ago)

    The concept is simple… short spurts of information frequently. The more the better, as long as it’s relative.

    You have to contrast the purpose of your twitter account though, personal or business? How often do you need to know someones personal status, I mean really?

    Now that’s an idea, a biz only twitter site….

    Any out there?

  4. Leo Dimilo
    March 11, 2009 at 11:47 pm (4252 days ago)

    I personally don’t understand the frame of thought where if someone follows you, then you are supposed to automatically follow them back. From my viewpoint, when you start getting into following 1,000′s of people, then you start to really have to dig to find the people that you really are following.

    I also think that the likes of Randfish and others are using twitter to actually follow folks that they are truly interested in…a concept that most of the twitter “you follow me, I follow you” folks haven’t quite wrapped their head around.

  5. Luca Di nicola
    March 12, 2009 at 12:49 am (4251 days ago)

    Great discussion.
    I’m fairly new to Twitter so I’ve been doing some reading and the oppinions are all over the place. I think that it’s a personal decision to follow or not. Let’s face it if you want to build a relationship you should like the other person in the relationship.
    Now the problem is can you tell by the profile or recent tweets if this will be a worthwhile relationship?
    Maybe the answer is to follow for a while and if it does not work out then stop following.

  6. Daniel Walker
    March 12, 2009 at 12:58 am (4251 days ago)

    I kinda agree with this in the business card sense of things, but when you think some people have 20,000 followers and post an update, 20k people read it. Say you follow 25% of them (5000) and they each tweet once a day, you’re going to get pretty overwhelmed pretty fast!

  7. Steve SEO UK
    March 12, 2009 at 1:25 am (4251 days ago)

    If everyone followed the snobs way, it would eventually destroy Twitter. It’s a terrific microblogging platform and everyone should make an effort to be REAL and APPROACHABLE.

    I think Twitter to have a spider which crawls everyone on Twitter and have a build in algorithm to detect fair percentages of following and followers on each account. If you don’t achieve an acceptable ratio, you either get a warning or get kicked off.

    Just my two penny worth.

  8. SEO
    March 12, 2009 at 1:29 am (4251 days ago)

    Well if you read every post on twitter that your followers post then you are not getting any work done. Twitters great for those who believe hype and veiled dreams but I’ll toss a few of those great dreams out there for everyone to contemplate AOL….Netscape…Myspace….Friendster….there are far too many to list here lol….good luck with the time waste!!!

  9. MLDina
    March 12, 2009 at 4:49 am (4251 days ago)

    I think the interaction Twitter provides is the most important function- not the amount of tweeters you choose to follow. Some people want to read a few updates from every single one of their followers; some are more selective about their followers but read every single one of their updates. There shouldn’t be set rules, as long as you’re happy with the level of interaction you get from twitter, follow (or don’t) away!

  10. Erica
    March 12, 2009 at 4:59 am (4251 days ago)

    I would also say that you are likely missing the opportunity to build relationships with people by “snobbing them.”
    It’s an easy way to stay in touch and way to make connections. Everyday I hear more and more about Twitter and am realizing the networking potential.

  11. ms danielle
    March 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm (4247 days ago)

    this is a tough one. i don’t think that users should feel obligated to automatically add followers. like someone else said, if i had 5000-10000 ppl tweeting multiple times a day, there’s no physical way i could actually read all of them, let along read the ones that would truly be important to me. then you’d have to cherry pick who you have to delete or not receive updates from. but not adding *anyone* based on the same principle would mean missed opportunities. i pretty much just check every now and then if it looks like a real person, or if it’s someone i already know of.

  12. Cubbie
    August 15, 2010 at 8:57 am (3730 days ago)

    This is an old topic but our company just got serious about social marketing. We follow everyone back. This is a sensitive topic and we do not want to offend any customers or potential customers. We become selective in who we choose to retweet based on their timeline. When you are building a brand image is important.

    On the flip side as a consumer, I have a personal Twitter account and I follow some major brands. There are only a few major brands that follow me back. I appreciate that and because of that I spend more with them. I know they may not read my tweets. However, the thought of them whether manually or automatically following me shows me some sign of appreciate. They put some thought into their customers or potential customers and how they chose to deal with them. Some of the brands I purchased from that did not respond to their mentions by me I stopped buying from. This is today’s consumer. Our dollars matter so take off your snob hat or lose money if you are building or sustaining a brand.

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