Jedi Mind Twits: Follow Limit on Twitter

Photo by tychay

It’s like running a race; you’re hitting your stride, settled in and making good time.  Suddenly out of nowhere, a block pops up out of the track, you trip over it and end up stumbling and twisting all around trying not to end up face down in the dirt.

On Twitter you’ve been tweeting good stuff about you and your work, sharing interesting links, retweeting things for others and your following has been steadily building up.  You found another great person to follow and clicked the button.  But suddenly a window pops up and says “Looks like you’ve hit a limit” and it won’t let you follow this great tweep.  Why NOT!? 

How It Works

It’s called a Follow Limit, and it is actually a good thing if you study out what it does and why.  The limit kicks in on every account once you are following 2,000 other accounts.  At this point you are allowed to follow only 10% more people than are following you.  To help get that to make sense, let’s use a real-life example.

As of 9:00 AM today I had 2,625 followers.  10% of that would be 262.  2,625 + 262 = 2887 people that I can follow.  At that time I was following 2,870 twitterers, so I could follow 17 more before the limit would engage and shut me down.

Why a Follow Limit?

The follow limit is kept in place to prevent egregious abuse by spammers who would follow thousands of new accounts a day in hopes that these accounts would follow them back, thus granting them access to their twit steam and possibly their inboxes.  Those using auto-follow software certainly would and would never know that they’re walking into a cesspool of spam. 

There are no limitations on how many can follow YOU.  I once saw an account where the fellow had over 15,000 followers and he was following 97.  Obviously he had some interesting stuff to say!

Can I Get Around It?

No.  Twitter support cannot and will not remove the limit for any account, no matter how important you think you are.  To follow more people there are two things you can do:

1)      Get more followers.  The “Followers+10%” figure increases as does the number of your followers.  Sometimes this is as simple as asking.  I mentioned that I had hit my limit (again) and could not follow new #WW finds for a while  – unless I picked up some more followers; which I did thanks to folks like @jfieldsjr, @TheFourOrders, and @SpittoonsSaloon. who went right to work and in short order the numbers freed up to allow me more elbow room.  It’s great to have friends!

2)      Unfollow some of the accounts you are currently following.  That sounds cold, but if you look at an analysis of those you follow you will find a surprising number of them are accounts that have gone inactive, or are bots churning out automated tweets and RTs, or worse.  Some of the people you follow have unfollowed you.  How do you know all this?

TwitCleaner

There are a number of utilities, but I use www.thetwitcleaner.com, a free utility that examines your Followers/Following lists, analyzes the behavior of those you follow and gives you a report on what it found.  It looks something like this:

TwitCleaner screen shot
Click to enlarge

The summary block at the top gives you some information about its findings, the action screens below group twitter accounts by the behavior it found.  Those with the green, twin arrows follow you back, those with the single red arrow are accounts you follow but they don’t follow you.  These are often the first to be trimmed away to free up space for new follows.

There are multiple blocks, some list accounts for dodgy behavior that indicates they are automated, or spammy.  One lists accounts that have had no activity for 30 days or more and may be abandoned.  If you need to carve out more room, go through those listings and look for accounts that are following you but maybe are of no real importance so you can give someone new a chance.  Hover on (place your cusror over) a picture and a data window opens up telling you why TC thinks it’s a dodgy account.  Click the picture to flag it for unfollow.

Twitter does not like it when one account dumps a whole boat-load of followers then proceeds to fill up again with new ones, so TwitCleaner stores your unfollow selections and feeds them to Twitter slowly.  Because of this you will not see a dramatic reduction immediately upon your return to Twitter, but it will happen.

As a bonus TwitCleaner.com gives you an analysis of your own twitter behavior and warns you if you are doing anything that would cause you to be reported as Dodgy on someone else’s report.  I’m happy to report that I’m clean, in fact it said I was “awesome”!  (blush)

Summary

Twitter following is limited to prevent abuse and spamming.  The follow limit is applied to everyone and cannot be removed, but as your number of followers increases, the bar goes up and allows you to follow more people.  Or you can prune away the deadwood in your Twitter Tree and free up space for new growth.

I hope this has helped you to understand the Follow Limit.  It can be aggravating, but  I think it is a good thing in the end.  What do you think?

Other articles in this series:
For Twitter Newbies: Nuts & Bolts
Follow, Follow, Follow the Twitter Brick Road
Juicing Up Your Twitter Power
Jedi Mind Twits: #Hashtags
Jedi Mind Twits: Messaging

About Doug

Jesus follower, writer, gardener, Sci-Fi fan, Beagle herder, occasional author, mountain man. My dogs think I'm a super-hero.

25 thoughts on “Jedi Mind Twits: Follow Limit on Twitter

  1. Thanks for the tips, Allan. I am a relative newbie to Twitter (Feb 2011) and only following 1100 at present.

    However, I’ve started unfollowing the non-followers NOW, because I know I’m going to get to your situation before too long! It takes me so long to unfollow, because I look at each person’s stream and try to decide whether I really want it or not. The stupid things we agonise over…

    I’ve been using who.unfollowed.me.com but this TwitCleaner looks like it might be better, so I’ll check it out.

    1. You’re welcome, Belinda. I think you’re on the right track; good house keeping is a practice to get into early-on. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, Twitter should not be about numbers but interaction. Having 100 good followers will help you more than 1000 people who ignore you. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Thanks for the explanation! Have not reached that point yet, but have heard of some sort of limit that was annoying some people. Thanks for the tips! New visitor via Triberr! 🙂

  3. To be fair, the limt makes sense. I follow about 600 people and I already miss a lot of the great stuff they are saying, how can you actually follow thousands with true conversation?

    1. I don’t think you can, Andrea. I find that using lists to keep up with those I am particularly interested in helps, other wise I’ll catch something someone says – almost at random – reply and sometimes strike up a brief discussion with that person. But this is more like small talk at a party. For steady, ongoing discussion e-mail is better.

      Thanks for visiting!

  4. You explained it very well Allan. Now I know that there’s a limit when following a certain account in twitter. I will use your tips to avoid that stumbling block. Thanks!

  5. Great information Allan. I knew the rules about dropping people but I didn’t know the rules about how many one could follow, mainly because I’ve deliberately kept myself lower than the number of people following me, using Twit Cleaner of course. 🙂

    By the way, it looks like your CommentLuv isn’t working, since it’s not connecting with any of my blogs.

    1. Thanks, Mitch. Thank you also for the heads-up on CommentLuv. Things have gone wonky on both of the blogs where I installed ComLuv Premium. I think I’ll just disable the thing until Andy gets it working right.

  6. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone else encountering problems with your website. It appears as though some of the text on your content are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too? This could be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Appreciate it

  7. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your site and detailed information you provide. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

    1. Wow, Stephen, you must have really ticked off the Twitter Bird! Obviously the lame account isn’t the one you’ve linked to here (@chemer2010) because you’re following 2,025 whoians on that one.

  8. Hey Allan, just now saw this. Thanks for the tips and talking about twitcleaner. That was an eyeopener. I was using another site to help analyze, but the detailed report from twitcleaner was really interesting. It’s going to take me a while to figure out what to do with some of the info, but hopefully that results in better interactions down the road.

  9. Awesome breakdown! I’m nowhere close to the 2K limit, but I’ve heard people complain and I wondered what it was all about. Now I know 🙂 Thanks!

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