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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference If you were stuck on a desert island, and could only follow 150 people on Twitter, who would you follow and why?:

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Rachel Happe

I love this question...something I see again and again across a lot of areas. How do we get quality, not quantity. Quantity is so appealing because we 'look' more influential...but does that really help us achieve our objectives. It's easy to stimulate a lot of chatter...much harder to influence behavior. In my mind the question is - who do you follow that you actually end up *doing* something with the information they provide?

CogDog

I must be close to living on a desert island (well I am in Arizona) at about 170, less than 10% of my followers... I am wary of formulas, however, and suggesting "right"/"wrong" ways to operate. One could have many followers and not pay them much attention (using twitter more as broadcasting).

A continuing problem is the sloppy way twitter organizers your followers. I can sense no pattern as to which ones appear in the little icon grid of the sidebar, and there is no logical order to the listing when you browse them, so management is tedious when you decide to review or prune.

I'm really selective and ignore 95% of the "XXXXX is following you message" -- I do not even look at their account unless I can recognize who they are from the user name. But it is important to respond when people twitter your name, so I use an RSS feed from the search on my handle (the old summize feed now inside twitter) so I can respond if someone tweets me and I am not a follower -- this is nicely built into TweetDeck, which has won me over.

I also look for the half conversations when someone I follow is going back and forth to someone else I don't follow; sometimes I look at the reply string and decide, "Hey this person sounds interesting". Some I follow are colleagues, some are just people who are interesting and funny, some are purely informational (like I get tweets from the Arizona Department of transportation about highway closures). I subconsciously note when people I follow are peppering way too much non-essential or stuff I scroll past, and sometimes prune them.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 150 seems manageable, especially if it is a mix of voracious tweeters and lighter ones.

So I would say I would prune 24 and take my current list ;-)

Christian Kreutz

Probably mostly people I know, so I can continue the discussion and exchange further online and discover synergies, because it goes in most cases further in terms of collaboration. Also I would follow some few people I would like to get to know.

There came out an interesting paper today on First Monday: Social Networks that matters, which underlines that most interacting happens between people with stronger linkages such as "real" friends.

Here is abstract:

Scholars, advertisers and political activists see massive online social networks as a representation of social interactions that can be used to study the propagation of ideas, social bond dynamics and viral marketing, among others. But the linked structures of social networks do not reveal actual interactions among people. Scarcity of attention and the daily rhythms of life and work makes people default to interacting with those few that matter and that reciprocate their attention. A study of social interactions within Twitter reveals that the driver of usage is a sparse and hidden network of connections underlying the “declared” set of friends and followers.

Chris Blow

I'm increasingly a believer that any social network that scales is broken -- I've recently protected my updates and deleted a bunch of followers. (also left facebook when I started getting so many templated messages from my family.)

Really, it makes me insane to try to optimize relationships in this way. We are people, not machines, and the more we get caught up in designing a "strategy," the more we lose sight of the ideas that engage us in a genuine way.

Bah, productivity and efficiency.

Maggie

I follow 89 people, and I'm trying to figure out if that's too many or too few for me. The positive side of following relatively few is that I can mostly stay on top of all the tweets; the downside is that out of those 89, there are maybe 5 who post pretty much constantly so I'm basically following the conversations of only those few people, which gets kind of boring. Those people all have thousands of followers, so there are a lot of conversations between them and their followers. I have to say it can get kind of depressing to follow the "popular" kids--it kind of makes me feel like like a tiny bystander watching their party but not being part of it.

So I'm trying to decide--do I find a bunch of new people to follow and add them to the mix, or unfollow the people who I don't really feel I have a connection with?

As far as value, the main value I get from Twitter at this point is that it's an RSS feed of sorts--I always know when there's a new blog post from one of the people I follow. I guess that in itself actually isn't such a bad reason to be on Twitter.

One unfortuate side effect of the giants vs. little guys on twitter dynamic is that I think lots of little guys--e.g. those who are not social media gurus with thousands of followers--end up feeling like nobody's reading their tweets so they stop. It's unfortunate because often those "little" people have the most interesting, entertaining or informative tweets. I liken it to all things mainstream vs. indie; you really miss out on a lot if you only read Oprah's book of the month or see blockbuster films.

Rose Vines

Diversity is the key, something Twitter and most social networking sites are not intrinsically conducive to. Most of these sites emphasise what we have in common, rather than our intriguing and informative differences. That leads to a lot of redundancy and overload.

Creating a diverse network requires small acts of swimming against the flow.

For me, I've found that "hotspots" often introduce me to people whose viewpoints differ from mine but who still share a common interest/goal. For example, my support of RAWA.org and the Afghan orphanages that RAWA runs has linked me to soldiers who have been based in Afghanistan and who are also orphan sponsors.

A spatial representation of Twitter followers showing different circles of connection would help identify how homogeneous or diverse our following is. Couple that with Tweetdeck and you could create a manageable list of people to follow who provide a really broad range of viewpoints, information, news and ideas.

Robin Parker

Oddly enough, I've been thinking about this very issue for the past few days. Something reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell's assertion in The Tipping Point that 150 is the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a "genuinely efficient work relationship."

Of course this referred to actual physical workplaces with real-life coworkers. But I believe that real-life social principles apply online.

Right now my organization is doing a lot of following. We'll filter that down once we figure out the key folks we need to hear from consistently. (As a matter of courtesy I wish we could follow everyone who follows us, but there's just no human way to listen to everyone's words all the time.)

Of course, even after we whittle our list down, we will continue to keep an eye out for anyone talking about things relevant to our mission.

Sue Waters

Sorry but adapting some of the comment I left on Vladis Krebs and posting here:

When I originally started using Twitter I applied similar rules of minimising the number of people I followed.

Numbers of followers increased slowly with time -- definitely wasn't a situation where I decided today I will add 500 people to my account. People add me and I choose to follow most people unless they obviously are spammers, their interests are too different from mine or they mainly use twitter for announcements and don't engage in conversations.

Time wise there isn't necessarily much difference between 100 to 1000. Weird as it sounds I'm considerably more time efficient following more than I was with less. What changes is the nature of the conversation, less than 200 feels considerably more intimate but more than 200 provides more diverse idea exchange plus greater chance of faster assistance.

Also gets back to why/how you use twitter. For me more people saves me time and makes me more effective at my job.

My advice to people would be think carefully about the reasons why you use twitter and what you want to get out of using it. You can still be effective and time efficient following large numbers. Like checking out how other people blogger its worth taking the time to check out how the different people who follow lots of people use twitter -- there is quite a difference in how each engages and works with their communities.

Tony Karrer

Great post and comments! I've personally struggled with the balance of number of people who I follow. So this is good to see.

But, I'm a bit surprised that no one has answered the question in the post -

If you are stranded on an island, but miraculously have access to twitter, then I would suggest you follow people who can come get you off the island. ;)

John Haydon

Beth,

This post re-enforces the business value of TweetDeck.

Most folks think it's a convenient Twitter client, but if you use it to create diverse groups of a few key users within each group, you end up creating a bigger impact than if you just tried Tweeting to whoever you happened to connect with. My groups include business bloggers, non-profits, political folk, artistic folk, musicians, business leaders, students and buds.

John

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