Twitter dumps auto-following — but not auto DM’s

Twitter has turned around and tightened up restrictions on its api. It has announced that automated following or bulk following is now prohibited. From the following rules and best practices document it says:                                              

"Aggressive following is defined as indiscriminately following hundreds of accounts just to garner attention. However, following a few users if their accounts seem interesting is normal and is not considered aggressive."


Twitter removed the automated feature that permits automated follow-back for a reason. Twitter prefer that users ‘manually review their new followers and then choose whether or not they would like to follow back individual accounts’.

It also has prohibited the ability to automatically block numbers of accounts as a method for unfollowing them.

Application developers can provide follow back features – provided that they are totally manual. Twitter says that this will improve control:

‘This allows for greater granularity and control for brands and users, and greater opportunity for developers to build social analytics around potential followings: by highlighting the best, most relevant users to follow-back manually this provides a greater potential user benefit than indiscriminate auto-follow-back’

This is good news for curation apps such as Storify which requires manual intervention to create a story and publish it – less good news for hundreds of app developers that sold services to buy you new followers

Twitter is not reciprocal by default. It offers users the choice to decide whether to follow another user back. Some users do feel pressured to follow back, but if a user follows everyone that follows them, their feed would soon be filled with content that is not particularly interesting to them.

You might be trying to buy followers to make you look more interesting to your followers.  However, if not all of the accounts which followed you contained content which was interesting, then you would soon become disenchanted with Twitter and its useless noise.

It is important to choose carefully who to follow and prohibiting auto-follow back will stop the ‘ I follow back’ crowd.

Auto following isn’t a good idea. People who tweet should have some value to me. I don’t want spam or abuse.

I want to engage with people who tweet regularly, say in the last 45 days or so. Manage Flitter helps me to keep track of who does not tweet .

I want to engage with real people.They should have an interesting Twitter bio, profile image and link to another site. It’s an added bonus is if they have a background

I want to engage with people that can respond to my questions within a reasonable amount of time. Automated quotations lessen the value of the whole of your Twitter stream. Give me commentary, links and interesting observations, not just quotations – no matter how good they are.

Have a look at the Developer rules of the road and Automation best practices for more information on developing your app..

Image Credit: Dennis Jarvis                                                                           

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.