Monday, July 1, 2013

Twitter Follow Limit: 2000??!!!

Ok, Twitter.....I love you, but we seriously need to talk! Please have a seat....(locking office door)

My current (and most active) Twitter account was created in November of 2011. Despite my wordy nature in everything else I do, your platform created a welcome challenge (statements in 140 characters or less), and ironically, became my overall favorite social media tool. I may not tweet every day, but I certainly read tweets every day. However, just last month, while trying to follow a newly discovered genealogy twitter-peep, I was stopped because I had reached your atrocious 2000 follow limit! I was completely unaware of this limit lurking in the background, just waiting to catch me - kind of like a traffic cop parking his car behind the bushes, waiting for speeders. Twitter even takes this issue to that level by comparing those who try to follow more than 2000 as potential "egregious" followers. My southern, lady-like pride began experiencing something akin to the vapors! Me??!! An "Egregious" follower??!! Twitter! You Cad! You Bounder! I Protest!!

Ok, all vapors aside....I really do think this is a problem...and Twitter...I hope someone listens very soon! 

For some background: Twitter does not limit the number of followers you can receive. However,
since social media olden days (2008) they have limited the number that an individual can follow in an attempt to curb spam activity. Their thinking here, is that some businesses/spammers/fame seekers might create an account, follow thousands upon thousands of random people just in the hopes of getting an equally humongous follow-back, thereby elevating their exposure and the exposure of their message (or private bits - whatever they want to expose to thousands of people). This is not an unwarranted fear - and I'm sure this would go on ALL the time if Twitter did not impose some sort of limits. After all, if they allowed this activity without check, we would never be able to enjoy Twitter at all because we would be staring at the orange whale screen every time we tried. I understand perfectly - servers have limits - but I also understand that things have changed drastically since 2008!

Such as:
A. Server space has become ridiculously cheap....especially for larger companies who have solid business plans in place. I know that since 2008, Twitter has upgraded many times to accommodate their ever-increasing user base.

B. Twitter was created as a free social media tool, but they eventually switched to a business plan that included advertising dollars in the way of "featured" tweets. Make no mistake, they are making money now, even if it is not off of us free users. (BTW, just because we are free users does not mean you have to ignore us - our large numbers drive your advertising clout!)

C. Algorithms for monitoring spam-like behavior have also advanced. One thing that tips their hand in this crazy limit is the wording used as they explain why "everyone" is restricted to following 2000 people (which is not entirely true - I will explain in a minute):
"Limits improve site performance by ensuring that when we send a person's message to all of their followers, the sending of that message is meaningful. Follow limits cannot be lifted by Twitter, and everyone is subject to them, including verified and developer accounts. Based on current behavior in the Twitter community, we've concluded that this is both fair and reasonable." Another cute phrase they use to explain why they impose limits is: to make Twitter "a nice place for everyone".
However, they also admit imposing these limits in conjunction with monitoring accounts for spam-like or "egregious" following behavior: "We monitor all accounts for aggressive following and follow churn (repeatedly following and un-following large numbers of other users)."

Which brings me to my point:

Twitter, sweetie, you've outgrown this 2000 limit thing....yes, keep up the good work with advanced monitoring of accounts to prevent spam activity.....but take a good look at your users - they have grown - and with that growth, it's time to re-think how "normal" users behave.

Twitter states that "none of our limits restrain reasonable usage, and will not affect most Twitter users." That may have held true in 2008, but in 2013, this is no longer the case!

When I first entered Twitter, I did so with a corporate account in 2010. This made following and tweeting easy since everything was very limited to my corporate focus.....and then I found the personal appeal of Twitter in its wide range of voices to follow. Sooo....Twitter....as a normal user, who happens to be one human being with complex and varied interests....your limit DOES negatively affect me as a user!
  • I am a professional: Librarian, Genealogist, Historian, Archivist, Writer, Speaker, Marketing Specialist
  • I am also interested in: Technology, Museums, Politics, Gardening, Religion, Art, History, Archaeology, Social Media, Music, Photography, etc.
  • I like to follow like-minded individuals or corporate accounts.
  • I DO NOT, nor have I EVER followed someone simply because they chose to follow me. Nor do I bulk follow. However, if someone or an institution from one of the above interests is just getting started in Twitter, I will naturally follow them to help with their experience.
Don't forget, Twitter also has a rule against bulk following and un-following. I understand this as some folks follow a large number in the hopes of getting the follow-back and then un-follow the same number in lieu of following a new large batch, hoping for the same follow-back activity to build their numbers. I'm fine with this limit, and their daily limit of 1000. I am not a bulk follower, but when I first joined, it was fun sitting for awhile to find and follow many of my favorite interest sites.....but I was never anyways near their daily limit. In fact, just remember, it took me, as a normal, but very active user, almost two years to reach the 2000 limit.

And I cannot be the only one!

In fact, I am not....just search for this subject in Twitter or Google and you will see some pretty intense conversations that take place throughout Twitter every day when a new person hits the limit. Although, the perplexing and infuriating part about searching for this in Google is the number of articles that appear in defense of this limit - and the condescending tone of those who back Twitter's claim that this should not affect "normal" users. But then, be sure to look at the date of the majority of those "in-defense" articles....2008-2009.

Oh yeah, take another look at SOME of the articles: they have been written with the sole purpose of instructing users how to get AROUND the 2000 limit. Which makes sense, since some accounts we happen upon are following tens of thousands of users. How so? Well, the 2000 limit is only for folks under a certain FOLLOWER amount. If your followers go over 2000, there is a ratio allowance in place that allows you to follow your number of users + 10%. So, gradually, you could end up following more than 2000 if you yourself increase your numbers well over that mark.

Alright Twitter, I've spoken my peace, you may now leave....just remember, as a social media tool, putting unrealistic limits on the sociability of said tool....ummm, makes you a tool...and not the good kind!

This has also been a public service announcement or apology to those who follow me on Twitter. I have never followed someone as an automatic follow-back, but with this new limit, I have had to REALLY be hyper-vigilant about who I follow. I would say the only good that came out of my encountering the limit was that it forced me to go back through my follow list and cull the herd. I de-followed folks who had not tweeted in many months, even if they followed me and had previous content or connections I wanted to keep up with....and this brought me down by about 200. So I can follow again, but not as actively as I used to....sorry folks....this is Twitter's fault!
Maybe I'm just being oversensitive, but, culling my herd felt very much like anti-social media!
C

2 comments:

Jacqi Stevens said...

Cheri, it is indeed frustrating, but there must be a way around it. Since I remembered seeing some Twitter accounts with large numbers that they are following, I went back to make sure I saw right. Since I'm a tech dabbler, I took a look at Robert Scoble's Twitter account, for instance, and yes, he is following over thirty nine thousand people! Okay, maybe he just has the right connections, but that is certainly over the two thousand you talked about.

There must be a way!!!

Cheri Daniels said...

Jacqi,
I think you're right! I've seen some like that too...now, I have also seen that those types of accounts usually have an equally high number of followers, which they say is the key to getting around this limit. Apparently, once you receive 2000 followers, you are then able to follow 2000 + 10% of your overall follower base. So, the more followers you receive, you can then follow your number of followers + 10%...which allows the big follow/follower numbers. I am always shocked to see the huge 30K+ follower/following numbers....I find the mere 2000 restrictive, but yikes, I'm not asking for 20,000 :-)...just more room to follow the great new accounts out there that relate to my interests - since Twitter has grown a lot since they created those limits!

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