The more I use Twitter, the more I notice the variety of people using the platform, as well as their tendencies for sharing and interacting. Even something as integral and basic as following is performed quite differently by different people, depending on what they want to do on Twitter, their sense of fairness and etiquette and their working knowledge of the Twitter ecosystem.
I enjoy observing Twitter following tendencies, and I’ve noted that an individual’s following tendencies often give a sense of how that person will interact and tweet. For others curious about Twitter follower types, here are 12:
1. Reciprocal followers
These Twitter users behave with graceful simplicity—you follow them, and they’ll follow you back. Many reciprocal followers even identify themselves in their bios with the #TeamFollowBack hashtag. However, they will quickly unfollow you if you unfollow them.
2. Followers of the attractive
There are many people who will follow someone largely because of that person’s profile picture (or AVI, in Twitter terms). In this sense, Twitter merely reflects society’s superficiality, but the tendency is there. Realize people may follow or unfollow you because of your appearance. Of course, many people post fake or altered profile pictures, so there is some ironic superficiality to the whole thing.
3. Algorithmic followers
These are the followers who don’t follow-at least not in an organic or manual sense. Algorithmic followers use software to automate who they follow based on scripted rules for affinity (if you use a certain word or phrase in a tweet) or relationships (if you follow certain people, then you too will be followed). To me, reducing following to a science feels cold and utilitarian, but to each his own.
4. Strategic followers
These Twitter users are similar to algorithmic followers, except they deliberately choose who to follow based on a person’s influence or followership. The intent may be to gain a wide following or simply make contact with a specific person, perhaps for a job or business deal. In any case, the strategic follower has a goal, and follows with the intent to reach it.
5. Friends-only followers
Some people primarily use Twitter for quasi-private group chats with friends, and typically only follow people they know. These users don’t go so far as to protect their accounts, but they are generally reserved and unlikely to follow a lot of people. The rise of Snapchat and other similar social networks may lure this user away from Twitter.
6. Protected-account followers
Twitter users with protected accounts can follow anyone, but you can only see their followers if they approve you. This could matter if you choose who to follow based on who someone else follows (think political bedfellows or tweets that aren’t suitable for work).
7. Non-discriminatory followers
Some people will follow anyone who interacts with them, be it an @ reply, retweet or favorite. These users crave active followers and will default to following those who interact with them.
8. “I don’t follow anyone” followers
Some people don’t follow many people at all. These users are often celebrities and thought leaders who have fans and followers independent of Twitter. Many of these people are very busy and have limited time to use Twitter, or have even engaged an agency to tweet for them. Others use Twitter simply to put out information.
9. Random followers
Some people follow randomly and haphazardly. They’ll read an interesting tweet, follow the person who posted it and then follow someone who posted on that person’s timeline. Then they’ll follow two or three new people based on Twitter’s suggestions, and so on. This activity provides some of the natural disruption and chance collisions that make Twitter fun. You never know who will find and follow you.
10. Brand followers
People followed brands long before Twitter, but the platform provides a novel way to stay in touch with and derive value from them. Twitter allows you to interact directly with brands. Nike, Zappos, Chipotle and Redbull are just a few brands with strong Twitter followings.
11. Celebrity followers
Similar to brand followers, celebrity followers love following famous people, including entertainers, athletes, high-profile CEOs, entrepreneurs and politicians. When I wrote this article, only two of the 10 most-followed Twitter accounts were not celebrities (@YouTube and @Instagram).
12. Local news followers
People love getting community information, and many people follow local news stations, journalists and accounts that tweet about the best things to do in town.
Twitter is an ever-expanding network. I’ve enjoyed observing the many ways people use it. What do you find interesting about how people follow on Twitter?