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Brands and Twitter: The limits of following

July 28, 2014

Clean up or you're out

Photo: Michael Dolan (CC)

Twitter is a pain. Sometimes, I think this channel does everything it can to be as unpopular as possible.

For instance, Twitter has a spambot problem, as automated accounts clog chats, hijack hashtags and blanket timelines with sales pitches and viruses.

But the solution is as bad as the problem.

I had no idea Twitter was limiting how many people I could follow. In theory, this keeps spambots from following everyone and inflating numbers and luring followbacks. But it punishes legitimate accounts, too.

Twitter warning

My tactic for @YallConnect was to follow as many real people in the Southeast as possible. After following 2,001 users, I saw the warning message (shown above) that stopped me cold.

Y'all Connect on Twitter

The linked policy from Twitter outlines all the following limits:

Once you’ve followed 2,000 users, there are limits to the number of additional users you can follow. This number is different for each account and is based on your ratio of followers to following; this ratio is not published.


I have little choice but to break my rule from my previous post: Brands shouldn’t unfollow anyone.

I’m using, one of many free tools that show which followers and friends are inactive on Twitter. Since following people is now a limited commodity, I must spend my follows carefully. can scan Twitter accounts for inactive followers. can show me who hasn’t tweeted in the last 3 months: 138 users. Unfortunately, they might be using Twitter every day as a news source, but not to tweet or interact. I’ll unfollow them (I could put them on a Twitter list, but it’s not worth the effort.)

Cleaning cycle

Photo: Garry Knight (CC)

Another 20 have no profile image, but most are fairly active accounts. I’ll unfollow the ones who haven’t tweeted in a long time.

Also, I canceled all 17 pending requests to follow users who have private accounts.

And I’m following 838 users who aren’t following back; of those, 78 haven’t tweeted in a month or more. I unfollow those 78 for starters. Some 70 have less than 100 tweets, so I unfollow them, too.

A few minutes of effort has freed up nearly 250 slots.

Maintaining a Twitter account shouldn’t require this much work. But artificial limits mean periodic cleaning to keep accounts lean.

Even if it means cutting some tweeps loose.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2014 11:37 am

    It’s amazing that you write about this – I just had to “unfollow” approximately 300 people for this very reason! I was pleased to see, however, that after doing so, I was actually able to better connect with the people and brands that were more in line with my interests. I even got a speaking engagement from a person I followed back after “freeing” my follows up! Twitter still reminds me of a lunchroom full of people all talking at the same time – but it’s free…so we have to make it work right? lol Thanks for your post

    • July 29, 2014 3:43 pm

      That’s terrific, Candie! Thanks for sharing your success story.

  2. July 30, 2014 5:36 pm

    That stinks. I had heard about this before, but I’m getting worried. I’m pushing 800 or so now. Maybe I will stop at around 1,000. It gets a little unwieldy anyway.

    • July 30, 2014 11:07 pm

      My personal account is following 900, but I will prune it back soon. But @YallConnect must carefully hew to these restrictions in order to grow.

      At least now I understand why some folks buy Twitter followers beyond ego.

  3. August 19, 2014 10:02 am

    Reblogged this on Business: Signs of the Times and commented:
    Twitter has one of the strangest ways of limiting people to follow others. Thanks to Wade for sharing this information.


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