What’s the Magic Number?

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Updated January 28, 2020

Following too few people can reinforce a narrow point of view and keep you stuck in a monoculture. Too many people can have the same result, in which you only see a handful of those people based on engagement. Following over a 1,000 people likely means you’re missing much of the activity on your timeline.

There’s little consensus about exactly how many people you should follow. Much of the advice surrounding follower counts is related to brand and company accounts or influencers, and not particularly relevant for regular individuals.

However, there is consensus about ideal following ratio. It’s desirable to have more followers than people you follow. This is a positive ratio. The larger the ratio, the better. This serves as a signal that many people are interested in hearing from you and you’re worth following.

​caution​ This is something you may eventually work toward, but be careful about intentionally creating or artificially inflating this number. People desperate for a positive ratio may pay for followers—which presents specific dangers to your brand and account—defollow two people for every one who follows them, or follow hundreds of people and then immediately unfollow when they get followed back. Rather, a positive ratio is often just a consequence of fame.

If you’re just getting started on Twitter, don’t try to avoid a negative ratio, in which you follow more people than follow you. In the beginning, your aim should be to hear many interesting perspectives from many people, so use the follow button liberally. As you hone your list and learn the people you want to hear from, you can unfollow people and aim for a positive ratio.

If a person has more followers than they are following, they’re probably a good person to at least consider following. If they are following more than they have followers, the opposite may be true. The greater the discrepancy between the two numbers, the more likely each of those is true.M.G. Siegler (@mgsiegler), General Partner, Google Ventures*

Use Twitter Lists

There’s very little transparency from Twitter regarding exactly how the algorithmic (where you see the top tweets) or chronological (where you see the most recent tweets) timelines on Twitter work. However, if you follow a lot of people, you’re bound to miss tweets from a number of them.

Twitter lists are an underused but powerful way to dip in and out of different Twitter universes (“#cypherpunks,” “#keto,” “#mindfulness”) while maintaining a fairly uncluttered feed. Create new Twitter lists, or follow existing ones, so you can stay up to date with a number of people without directly visiting their pages.

​confusion​ Twitter lists are distinct from the list of people you follow. Tweets from the people on the lists you follow will not show up in your timeline unless you actually follow them.

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