Deciding who to follow on Twitter

TwitterI’ve been using Twitter more and more over the past year. Especially at conferences like those run by the Advanced Learning Institute, Canadian Institute, and OpenDialogue, as well as Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa.

I’ve replaced live blogging with live tweeting. It’s very satisfying – connecting me directly with other attendees and people who care about the same subject.

The more I’ve put into Twitter, the more I’ve received back. At the same time, the number of people following me has increased. And the pace at which new followers are added has increased.

This presents a problem.

I set up my Twitter profile to notify me via Gmail of each new follower. When someone follows me, I visit their Twitter profile to see if they share my interests. I follow people who write about things that interest me or who have blogs in their profiles or stand out in some other way. As I’ve done this review, I’ve found myself following about 1 in 4 of the people who follow me.

Why don’t I follow more people?

Well I don’t use Twitter as a publishing platform.  Instead, I use it as a “town square” – a way to connect with my “community of interest.” And to really connect, I need to keep the number of people I follow in the hundreds, not the thousands. (That’s not a criticism. I admire anyone who can attract more than 60,000 twitter followers. But that’s an audience, not a community.)

Recently, the pace at which my new Twitter followers has been increasing has been greater than my ability to check out everyone’s profile. (I realized this when the number of my pending Gmail emails exceeded 900!) So, I’ve settled on a new way to decide who to follow.

Instead of visiting every follower’s profile (which at the rate of 20 -30 new followers a day takes over an hour), I’ve decided to watch for new people who either retweet one of my tweets or respond to me with an @thornley.

I’m doing this in the belief that these people who actively engage with my content are more interested in me. And these are the people who I should be checking out and probably following.

What do you think? Is this a reasonable strategy for identifying people to follow in Twitter? What approach do you use?

UPDATE: Jay Goldman offered some great advice on how he decides who to follow in Twitter. I missed this in my Google Search. Sorry Jay.

Kelly Rusk also had a post about what she looks for when deciding who to follow on Twitter.