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Automated Twitter following is prohibited

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Read my lips: no more automated following

Automated Twitter following is prohibitedIn a statement spelling out the end of automated following (amongst other things), Twitter’s Sylvain Carle explained “Today we are publishing some changes for our Developer Rules of the Road and Developer Display Requirements. The main goal behind these changes is to better clarify our guidelines for using our API and other platform tools, based on your feedback and comments.”

…automated following or bulk following is also prohibited

In an email from social tool provider, SocialOomph advising on their position, they state “Unfortunately we have no choice but to modify our system to comply with Twitter’s new rules.”.  SocialOomph has long provided tools to allow the automated following back of an account when they follow you.

We’re as dumb-founded by Twitter’s decision as you are.

Obviously unhappy with the microblogging giant’s decision, SocialOomph go on to say that they’re “as dumb-founded by Twitter’s decision as you are.”. In a move that is surely going to result in lost business for task automation providers, Twitter’s move here is clearly to make the process of who and why to follow, a much more personal one.

Not a popular decision…by some

In response, Twitter user @chiax writes “For people who use twitter for their brand, its important for them to treat all followers same, and i am pretty sure, none of those users read tweets. They have to followback all users, without picking one over the other.”

So it’s really worth evaluating why you follow someone, but also, what following them really means. If an accounts ‘follows you’, do you have an expectation of them actually reading your content? It seems logical, but what if that account follows 112,492 people already? Is the 112,493rd follower the one that breaks the tweeting camel’s back?

Twitter lists, the saviour to high-following accounts

For any account that follows more people than is possible to read (there is some dispute on what this number is, but I’d say circa 250), the Twitter list is a life saviour. Allowing you to break up the people you’re following into either public, or private lists of accounts. You can then use a management tool such as HootSuite, to monitor your list(s).

For example, have a list called ‘Social Media Geeks’ and add people that talk about technology within the social media world (note: public lists are exactly that, public; be sure not to name them anything that may cause offence), you will then be able to see content from them without it being lost in the white noise of the rest of your timeline.

Is this the end of tool assist following?

Not necessarily. SocialOoph have stated that the manual vetting option of new followers will be automatically enabled on all accounts that currently have the auto-follow option enabled. So, the details are still there, but you are going to have to manually review the list (or indiscriminately click on them all). But yes, the sun is setting on the days of setting it up to automate the following on new followers.

Does it really matter?

To tool providers like SocialOomph? Absolutely. To Twitter users? Perhaps. A move to make Twitter more personal, to ensure that when someone’s followed you that it’s because they’ve read your tweets, find what you have to say interesting and want to subscribe to your content, this surely can’t be a bad thing; can it?

I make no secret as to my love of Twitter’s asynchronous relationship model, I enjoy that I can follow you and you don’t have to follow me (and vice versa), but a ‘you follow me and I’ll follow you’ culture has developed and if we’re all trying to build engaging communities on our platforms (and we are), then reciprocal following may actually be hurting that.

So there you have it, arguments for and against. At the end of the day, it’s all just opinions; the real question is…will you miss it?

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James Lane
James is an EMEA Ambassador at HootSuite and Google Partner. He writes about social and digital media, marketing, HootSuite and Google.
James Lane


James Lane is a social media focussed marketing & PR philanthropist, lover of technology, supporter of charities, fighter of evil & @HootSuite_UK Ambassador
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