What Are the Differences Between Following & Followers on Twitter?
By Micah McDunnigan
Interaction on Twitter is based on accounts following one another. Following accounts means you're publicly subscribing to see the short updates which the other accounts produce, while people who follow your account are publicly subscribing to see the updates you post. The ratio of followers a Twitter account has to the number of accounts it follows can also give you an idea of what its purpose is on Twitter.
When you follow an account on Twitter, your feed will include tweets by that account and your account will show up publicly in the list of that account's followers. The point of following an account is that you're interested in that account's topic or are a fan of the account's owner. Following enables you to see all the new tweets from that account without specifically seeking out the account's profile each time you log on to Twitter.
People follow you on Twitter for the same reason that you would follow them: because they want to see your tweets when you make them. When you have followers on Twitter, you know that there will be an audience for your Tweets. Many companies, authors and bloggers use their Twitter accounts for both informational and promotional purposes. For this reason, most Twitter users prefer having more followers to fewer.
Following to Get Followers
Twitter doesn't have a feature where you can invite other users to follow you. However, many accounts will respond to you beginning to follow them by becoming one of your followers. Some accounts that are primarily interested in attracting more followers can use this technique as a ploy to get you to follow them. After you start following them, they will un-follow you. Twitter frowns on this behavior, and if used excessively can result in Twitter sanctioning the offending account.
The ratio of the number of followers which an account has to the number of accounts it's following can tell you a lot about the account. Accounts that both follow and are followed by a large number of accounts tend to be active members of the Twitter community, both producing popular tweets and actively engaging with a number of other users. Accounts that have a very large number of followers yet follow only a small number of accounts tend to exist primarily to broadcast tweets to the community, such as a company advertising deals or new products. Conversely, accounts that follow a very large number of accounts but have relatively few followers tend to exist primarily to view tweets and not create them. The user could simply be more interested in what other people are saying than tweeting herself, or she could be a front for bots that aggregate data from Twitter.
Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.