I’ve been on Twitter long enough (980 days) to notice a trend in how people are followed and unfollowed. At a superficial level, there are plenty of relatively new Twitterers who seek popularity by following lots of people, in the hope that these people will reciprocate.
In most cases, this tactic works. Because most people on Twitter are ordinary folk, and it’s polite to return the favour.
The less Twitter-savvy observers may think that those people have always been very popular. But you should look at the number of people they follow in the first place.
A profile with many followers that follows few people: Usually a celebrity or famous businessperson or author who follows only his/her own clique.
A profile that follows many people but has very few followers: Possibly spam. Or it may be another of those self-promoting marketers who are trying to get onto everyone else’s Follow list.
What I don’t advocate is following people just for the sake of looking good. Twitter isn’t just about showing how many people in the world like following you; it gives you a platform to engage other people in a succinct way. It provides the opportunity to have a conversation that can be directed at someone, yet be accessible by everyone else. And, unlike a blog feed that people subscribe to, you can put names and faces to the people who follow you on Twitter. In short, Twitter can make your world smaller but friendlier.
So my advice for Twitter is: Don’t just follow. Lead.