In the past few weeks I have seen several discussions on how to deal with an increase in Twitter follower requests stemming from unknown people or from ‘spammy’ sources. I think finding your own guidelines in how to deal with following and followers can be straightforward if you look at how you want to interact through Twitter.
For me social media is all about conversation. True conversation in the definition of Habermas, but also by everyone’s experience, is symmetrical. It is an even exchange of ideas, views, where both have the same level of effort to be able to take part, and the same power within the exchange. I bring that notion of conversational symmetry to tools like Jaiku and Twitter.
It means that my postings there are not public, but only visible for contacts thus ensuring that we can see eachothers postings.
It means that if you request to follow me, and there is a large unbalance in your number of followers and the number you follow, I will deny your request.
If you follow orders of magnitude more people than follow you, one on one interaction is not your goal apparantly. You’re building a phonebook, or you’re soaking up a large collage of everything that’s being posted, as a large antenna array. It’s a way of usage, but it’s not conversation.
If you follow orders of magnitude less people than follow you, you’re someone others like to keep track of. Kind of like the A-list bloggers of old. It’s the celebrity profile so to speak. You can use it as mass media then. If you also want conversation as a ‘celebrity’ it might be useful to keep a seperate, non-public, Twitter account for that, while maintaining a public one to inform people of your public actions.
If the number of followers divided by the number you’re following is near 1 chances are you use Twitter for conversation style exchanges. It’s what I do.
I respond to what others write, and write stuff that might trigger conversation. Much like particles that help freeze water quicker, or create more bubbles in your soda.
Also I seem to have different circles of people active in Twitter compared to Jaiku, different circles of conversation.