Why do people follow you on Twitter?

Have you ever wondered what motivates a person to click on the “Follow” button on your Twitter profile?  Some are genuinely interested in your tweets/updates. Others want to expand their social reach and a few may follow you for a free “follow-back.”

A simple way to express this can be:


What’s a Follow-back?

A follow-back is when people follow you in the hopes that you will reciprocate their actions by following them back. People use the “follow-back” concept in the outside world too. Imagine you take someone’s business card, you expect them to ask for yours in return.

The Follow-back Test:

I wanted to see how the follow-back concept works on Twitter. I created two “almost” identical accounts on Twitter and set them up with auto tweets about marketing. The only difference was that one account had “auto follow” and the other didn’t.


Results of the Test:

I ran this test for the last 10 weeks with both Twitter accounts. At the end, I have the following results:


Since both accounts acted in a similar fashion we can assume the “social reasons for people to follow” (i.e. RTs, socializing, interaction, etc.) are nullified in this test. Then looking at the numbers we find out how many people follow for follow-backs.

This turns out to be 442 follow for follow-backs. That’s nearly 20% of DrSocialMedia’s follower-base!


What does this mean to a web marketer?

We know that having an auto-follow increases your follower-base, perhaps by 20%. But does this increase the quality of visits to your website? Good visitors will affect your lead generation and your sales figures.

Web-analytics reveal the referrals back to ShouTex.com from MarketingX’s twitter profile yield much better traffic than DrSocialMedia. The stats are shown below:


Also, bit.ly URL click thrus posted on the tweets are nearly 35% higher for MarketingX than for DrSocialMedia. It is clear that MarketingX follower base is actively more interested in digital and social media marketing. So auto-follow is a good way to increase a follower-base but it does not necessarily yield an active social network.

Zaki Usman

Hello, I'm the founder and CEO at ShoutEx. I like to blog about marketing, mobile and web topics. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Comments (13)

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    Gábor Kovács


    Good post on why even after you have big number of followers on Twitter, you can not get good website traffic. It is more about having good quality of people on Twitter, not so much about quantity.

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    Jan Tallent


    I have noticed that as my follower number goes UP the quality and interactions of my streams go DOWN. More and more people follow those with bigger follower lists so they can have access to our followers or just to raise their numbers.

    I was totally interacting with 100 and even up to 1000 but can hardly even FIND my original “tweethearts” when they post anymore unless they direct it to me. I have started unfollowing any who do not interact and especially ones I “talk” to three or four times and do not ever reply OR those with 20 AD tweets and then maybe one connecting or retweeting one.

    Twitter IS my fav social medium, though and I have gotten most of my clients for my VA services through twitter.

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    Heather on her travels


    That’s a really interesting comparison you did there – I’m slightly surprised that the autofollow only gives you 20% more followers, I thought it would be more than that. Personally I just don’t feel I could bring myself to do that autofollow thing – it feels so fake and seems to miss the point.

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    Great post! I agree with you. I am not ashamed to say that i want to be followed back.

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    Pralay Kumar Tewary


    Good reasoning. Inference: Auto follow is not for targeted Marketing.

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    Delfin Vassallo


    Interesting experiment Zaki. Over all thinking to use Twitter as an automated tool to drive traffic to your web. But what about quality against quantity?

    If a brand wants to engage its customers (or prospects) this system may not work, clients don’t want to interact with a bot.

    Normally I don’t followback blindly, because I prefer interaction, dialogue with persons with same interests/profession. If you can have this empathy with your target, maybe Twitter could become your brand’s CRM tool.

    Have you thought about a quality-follower analysis? Would be interesting.

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    Mohinder Singh


    Yeah Zaki Usman good analysis there enjoyed reading the same and also it made me more aware about your great works that is for sure thanks to Tweeter.

    Whatever be the reason for people to follow tweeter, once they get to see anyone’s link they click and if things appear to them good and genuine even if not related to their field, still the moment they meet a person who happens to be related they surely refer from their read about the site and person to their friend by word of mouth. This is how an endless and never know who might recommend whom chain forms. This is called tweetering.

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    Thanks for posting this article. I just would like to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very out of the ordinary and informative. I can not hang around to read lots of your article.

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    How do I set up a similiar experiment? What tools do I need?

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    Interesting experiment. But these numbers are from last year. I think now less people follow for how you said “follow backs”.

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    This is a few years old – it this the same in Twitter now? I think there are more serious conversations on Twitter than before…

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