Twitter, Follow-limit and How to Get Around It

by mkhmarketin (cc)

by mkhmarketin (cc)

A quick post about Twitter and the restriction that the company has chosen to put on its services regarding the number of people you as a user can follow. I guess this is kind of a Twitter hack without actually hacking or breaking the system.

Twitter is by nature a non-reciprocal social network, where you can follow people/companies/media without them having to grant you permission or without following you back (Facebook has since copied this in adding a follow-function on their service). *this is true re public accounts, private account you need to be granted permission to read a person’s tweets*

Back in the beginning of October 2011, I ran into the problem that I was followed by 1058 accounts but I wanted to follow more than 2000 accounts. I was then denied following further accounts. Googling around I found out that Twitter has a number of follow-limits, some of them make sense, such as not being able to follow more than 1000 accounts within 24 hours (stops some spam behaviour). But I do not understand why Twitter has chosen to limit the number of accounts, that we as regular users can follow to 2000. You can find Twitter help centre’s explanation: but not the same entry which I read in 2011 though spirit is the same. “help us improve site performance and reliability and help us make Twitter a nice place for everyone.”

Twitter has developed into a natural add-on or an integral part of the online presence of media, actors, politician, singers, news presenters, researchers, philosophers or sports people (you get the picture). This has changed the nature of Twitter has an online network. Before it was possible (but not mandatory) for people to have an equal communication with a wide range of people with whom they would not “normally” have access to. Now there are twitter celebrities for whom it is difficult if not impossible to have normal conversations on Twitter with people following them. See Jon Worth‘s blog post from August 2012 about one aspect of this.

It is also near-impossible for them to follow everybody back, so if you as an individual wish to follow a number of media outlets, a number of brands and a number of twitter-celebrities. (Some people even recommend using twitter instead of an RSS-reader) Then you quickly end up with having more people that you follow without having the necessary number of followers to be able to follow more than 2000.

I have ranted and complained about this situation on Twitter to Twitter, but to no avail. Only so far that ranting can get you, and in the long run not recommended by physicians… For the rest you need to get clever.

On Twitter, you can make lists in order to organise the tweets you read. It is as Mashable wrote when the service was launched back in 2009 ” a way … to bunch together other users on Twitter into groups … Lists aren’t just static listings of users, but rather curated Twitter streams of the latest tweets from a specified set of users”.

The advantage of lists as a tool to circumvent the follow-limit is that you do not need to follow the accounts that you place onto your lists. This means that you can follow what the accounts are writing without “spending” a follow on the account.

On or most app, it is rather hard work to add individual accounts to lists as you need to do it one by one. If you have reached your follow-limit, you will probably have about 500-1000 accounts which you need to deal with. This is where the service SocialBro comes into the picture! There is a paid-for and a free version. I have upgraded to the paid for, as I like the product. The free version does the job fine for sorting accounts you follow (“friends” in SocialBro lingo) and the ones who follow you (“followers”) by a number of criteria.

For the follow-limits issue, the important one is whether or not they follow you back. Then you can add the accounts onto a list and unfollowing them. In this way you can look via your lists to see what the accounts you enjoy following are writing, but still follow people you want to discuss with or enable to send you DMs.


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