Though the Twitter “follower” types I present here can be extrapolated to a greater context than Twitter, especially within other social media venues, my use of Twitter has helped me to analyze the benefits and drawbacks of those who follow, mention, list, like, retweet, or reference you and your Twitter account and content in some other way.
For those who are just embarking upon Twitter, it may not occur to you to consider that who you follow, like, or retweet is only a small part of the larger context that Twitter presents for its users. Unless you “protect your tweets,” you and your account are subject to the positive and potentially negative aftermath. Even after protecting your tweets, certain activity can open your shared content to possible criticism or public distribution.
This goal of this blog post is not to intimidate users but to better reveal some of the possible underlying reasons that people or institutions follow one another. With each brief follower description, I present a possible means for identifying and addressing these particular followers. Remember that these are my independent means of profiling follower categories, not specific, well-known or widely accepted types.
Before presenting the types, however, I want to explain briefly how I came to make my informal analyses and make everyone aware that there are some specific, simple ways to manage followers the moment that you become aware that they are following you:
My analyses are based entirely in my own experience and do not reflect the views of others. Having been using Twitter since 2009, I feel independently qualified to respond with descriptions based on my experience without further research; ratings are based on my interpretation of benefits and possible drawbacks of people following me as I have already encountered.
In addition, Twitter presents three different ways to deal with followers who you want to prevent from acting maliciously with respect to your account.
1. Block user: If you do not want a user to follow your account, you can block the user as soon as you become aware of the follower. Keep in mind that followers can track who has blocked them and possibly create other accounts if they are persistent in wanting to access or follow your account.
2. Mute user: You can prevent content from the user from appearing in your timelines and interactions by selecting this for your followers.
3. Report user: You may report users who you feel are in violation of Twitter’s policies by selecting this option.
Twitter has produced this video to briefly explain these three options:
Following are 21 types of Twitter followers to consider as you develop a new Twitter account or review those who currently follow you, as well as general respective levels of threat to your account (on a scale of 1 as beneficial and 5 as detrimental), and ways to identify the type and address it:
“Faux-lowers” are fake accounts. This means that they do not actually represent the person or organization name used as the handle or identity, so they have a higher possible threat rating because it is difficult to determine whether they are maliciously or whimsically created to misrepresent the entity by which they are named. One can typically identify these by their profiles which have photographs or pictures that are not likely those which would be presented by the authentic individuals or organizations and by particular trends or randomness in the users they follow. The tweets, themselves, also might reveal some likelihood that they do not accurately represent the views of those named as their owners.
If the intent appears to be malicious with these accounts, use one of the previously listed responses in hopes of protecting your account.
Some individuals use Twitter as a venue for expressing vulgar language and ideas or for transmission of inappropriate images. These, which I have dubbed “foul-lowers” may carry different levels of danger dependent on your ethical values in using Twitter; however, they are often professionally detrimental and can often put young and ethically conservative participants in less than desirable situations as they encounter them. Sadly, these users often pollute the Twittersphere for those interested in engaging in professional and educational discourse without the threat of what would typically be considered inappropriate, even by legal descriptions, for those under 18 years of age. They are easy to identify by their posted content.
Though I choose to block these users, they do not always carry a particularly malicious intent and may be unaware of the offense taken by some of their posts.
These users are often rather benign but may post foolish and nonsensical tweets. The cat videos and memes that are rather amusing and carry little to no offensive content are among these users. Some present philosophical quips that are simply ridiculous. They do not necessarily add anything positive except perhaps a humorous or light approach to a topic, but they are very infrequently negative.
Typically these followers pose little threat to your account unless they intend to sabotage your tweets by replying with oddities or by misrepresenting your content, so there is typically no reason to react to their choice to follow you unless you are trying to maintain that only positive and beneficial accounts follow yours.
These users are generally following you to fill a role on their following list. Sometimes it is not so much to even watch your tweeted content as it is to be connected to you or to publicly reveal their interest in what you might present online. Sometimes, in education, especially, these users are very positive and are looking for your account and content to present to others or to inform their own practice. Many times, they do not have a lot of their own original content and may use Twitter primarily to aggregate and organize resources and thoughts related to their interests.
A typical response to these followers might be to generically thank them for following and express an interest in continued collaboration, either in an auto-response or mention publicly.
These followers either met you once or twice in some context and realized that they would be interested in what you had to tweet or discovered your Twitter content through someone and now find what you tweet interesting. These can be very beneficial in spreading or applying the content that you share, especially if you are one of the few whom they follow.
It is good to encourage these “fans” and try to identify the content that you have provided that contributes to learning and growing as a result of your interactions.
These are the followers who have elected to follow you because of a fellow interest, as identified in your profile or tweet content. These are usually the most beneficial followers to have and typically result in the development of great relationships that may even manifest in face-to-face interactions and collaboration.
Follow these followers back, and express something sincerely based on their influence on you via Twitter or elsewhere. They will often help you to better connect with other like-minded resources.
“Phase-lowers” are the followers who are in some particular phase of their interests or ideas on Twitter. They are not really beneficial, nor are they detrimental in any long-term sense. They are also not likely to be followers for a very long time. They are interested in something temporarily that is contained in your tweets, but they may shift their focus for their use of Twitter at any time.
It is difficult to identify a “phase-lower” until he or she has un-followed you and possibly re-followed you later. You may follow back or simply wait to see how the interaction unfolds.
These are by far some of the most malicious and difficult types of followers. Also known elsewhere as “trolls” on the Internet, they seek to cause problems, often hinging their attacks on misunderstandings, logical fallacies, and manipulation of information to promote discord and confusion to distort the intent of users.
Their malicious purpose is usually very clear in their tweets, and they can be thwarted to some extent by muting and blocking, but if their discourse continues and violates Twitter policies, they should be reported. Often boycotts of these accounts and multiple reports can deter them from having a toxic impact, but these individuals are usually tech-savvy and will find other ways to subvert your efforts, so try to avoid engaging them, when possible.
“Fog-lowers” have a very unclear intent with respect to their use of Twitter. It may never be clear why exactly they use Twitter. Because of this, they may or may not have an impact on your account.
There is little advantage to investing in these followers unless you eventually identify a reason for their decision to follow you. There is also no reason to necessarily block or mute these users.
These are the followers who are friends in another context and may follow you, not because they have an interest in your Twitter content, but because they want to reinforce your friendship by showing an additional connection to you in the digital world. They can be quite beneficial if they share qualities of some of the other more engaged follower types, but they are not always set to grow or learn as a result of the online relationship as much as they are showing that they will be publicly recognized as those who are connected to you in some way.
Responses to these followers should reflect the same types of responses that are emblematic of your friendship in other contexts.
Unless you have major family tensions, these, too, are not negative and generally support your other existing elements of your relationships, but they allow you to see what your family members are sharing on Twitter and may provide you with something else to say at the next family reunion.
Follow back if you want to preserve your place as a connected family member, but Twitter may or may not have any impact. Consider how your family members would respond to your following back or not; this should best guide your decisions regarding these accounts.
These people usually follow you because they are afraid of repercussions for not following you or of missing out on something you tweeted. Though the motive may seem less than desirable, they are usually little to no threat and may actually turn into positive channels for collaboration once the fear subsides.
Try to reinforce positive interactions and communication with these followers to overcome fears related to not following.
Some people or organizations follow you in hopes that you will follow them back and build their follower base. You are not obligated to follow them back, and sometimes by doing so, you inadvertently or intentionally provide them with more fame or credibility to those who see following as a sign of support for an account.
Determine whether you want to follow these accounts and whether you want to be identified in relation to their objectives or goals. Many times, if you do not follow back , these will un-follow you in the future.
These followers are trying to lure you into interest in their interests, which are oftentimes negative or malicious. These come in the form of promised followers or other incredible claims that are unlikely to come as the result of a Twitter interaction with them. They use Twitter as a venue for their “phishing” schemes.
It is generally best to block or mute these users in relation to your account. If they engage in the use of malware or spyware in their links of which you become aware, they should be reported.
“Foe-lowers” are known malicious threats to your account, either because of their interactions with you in another context or because of their track record on Twitter for attacking users and accounts. Do not trust them, and you may want to monitor their interaction as it regards you.
It is advisable to block these users, but it may behoove you not to mute them to monitor their Twitter behavior, especially if it concerns you.
“Foil-lowers” seek to find ways to undermine what your goals on Twitter. They will engage in conversation and develop support to try to question and attack your views or ideas. They do not always do so maliciously but in the spirit of challenging ideas, they sometimes offend and deflate Twitter users, especially when they provide scrutiny without support.
It is best to garner support for your ideas rather than to take on this type of follower with rebuttals which will not win over the challenger. These may also be viewed through the lens that seeks to refine ideas and thoughts and may not necessarily be negative.
These followers can be very beneficial as they add value to your original tweets, flipping them like houses, but they can also sometimes distort the ideas as they mention you in responses. It is important that you are still recognized as the source of the original idea or resource in some cases, but other times, it may be just as beneficial to generate conversation as it is to retain intellectual ownership of the original idea.
Keep these followers engaged as they “flip” your ideas, adding to the conversations. Also, try to purse their ideas, perhaps engaging in Twitter chats and extended Twitter discourse.
This type differs from “phish-lowers” dramatically in that it is not trying to pull you in to a nefarious scheme, but is trying to fish for ideas and resources, often without reciprocating with new ideas or resources to share. These are followers who are collectors on Twitter, and the more that their collections lead to positive actions, the more beneficial they are.
It is good to try to follow up with these accounts and to pursue their interests to provide even more tools, prompts, and resources for developing the social media relationship.
These are among my favorite followers. They are the cheerleaders and champions for your Twitter account. They see what they like on your account and share it readily and often with endorsements or affirmations.
Be sure that you follow these followers and mention them frequently on Twitter when you know that the content of your tweets will appeal to them. They can be your biggest advocates in spreading ideas and resources on Twitter.
“File-lowers” use Twitter as a filing system, one to pull together ideas and resources. They often create multiple lists (some which might include you) and use organizational methods to keep up with their tweets and followers. They may or may not benefit you, but they are not followers who ware likely to pose any threat or risk to your account.
Allow these to follow you, and consider finding out from them what their motives are by engaging them in Direct Messages to discover how they might help you to promote and organize your own account.
Finally, “fun-lowers” are simply users who use Twitter as a venue for fun, light-hearted access to a variety of resources and ideas. Their Twitter feeds are usually eclectic collections of fun, inspirational, and largely entertainment tweets.
These followers pose little to no risk of a threat, and they are also unlikely to do much in the way of promoting your Twitter account or tweets. They may be followed if their interests or sense of humor matches yours; you might be surprised to find their value in their whimsical approach to Twitter.
This is not an exhaustive list of Twitter follower types, and it is subject to some exceptions, as are most categorical lists; neither is its intention to provide a definitive approach to using Twitter. Instead, I hope this will serve as a reminder that followers are equal in importance to those whom one chooses to follow. You can manage your followers in a number of ways, and doing so can help you to more effectively leverage your social media network for growth and learning.
Some tips for analyzing Twitter accounts to determine the types of followers you have would be to review whom they follow, who follows them, who has listed them, the content of their tweets, and their profiles. Though these may not fully reveal their motives for using Twitter or following you, it will help you to determine how to respond.