TwitterfriendsSome of the biggest names on Twitter say in order to really participate on the site, you need to follow everyone who follows you. These people follow thousands and thousands of followers and deftly manage complicated lists to interact with as many as possible. And the more they interact, the more followers they get. And the more followers you get, the bigger your reach, and the bigger you get, etc. You can see how this is great advice, right?

For the past couple of years, I’ve tried to do what they say. I’ve followed back countless self-professed SEO experts, marketing gurus, extraordinary life coaches and super-motivating speakers. I’ve followed back dogs, running events, community fundraisers and more. I drew the line at the Reverse Vasectomy Clinic that wanted to be friends, as well as anyone whose avatars showed nothing but cleavage or dollar signs.

As a result, I ended up following almost 2,000 people. Have you ever tried to keep up with the chatter of 2,000 people? Better yet, have you ever tried to carry on meaningful relationships with 2,000 people? When I first got excited about Twitter, I followed maybe 350 people. Many of them were fairly quiet, so I had a great opportunity to have real conversations with the ones who were chatty. They asked about me;  I thought about them. They made me smile when I saw their Tweets.

As my list of Twitter contacts grew, my Twitter friends’ posts slowly got lost in the ever-growing ocean of Tweets. All of a sudden, most of my Twitter updates pages were filled with comment after comment from people I didn’t know. The people who started following me were frequently people who used Twitter software to find new followers. They’d follow a few hundred new people at a time, give them a few days to follow back, then dump the ones who didn’t and find more to follow. Their following/follower relationship was usually something like 1.1/1 because they were always trying to grow their numbers.

As my Twitter friends disappeared, replaced by SEO tips, motivational quotes and retweets of other people’s motivational quotes and SEO tips, I had less and less to say. And the less I talked on Twitter, the fewer real people followed me, and the more I lost my real relationships. I could use Twitter lists and other tools to track “real people” versus Twitter machines, but I find those difficult as well, and I’d have to sort through my hundreds of followers to put everyone in their basket.

I miss my friends. I miss real Twitter conversations. Thus, I’ve decided to take Twitter back. I’m slowly unfollowing people I don’t have much in common with. When I go to their profile and see that I’m one of 31,000 friends, I don’t think I will be missed. In a few days, they’ll use their Twitter software to unfollow me back, so my Twitter reach will shrink considerably. I bet some people may be miffed that I’m dropping them from my roster, and I guess this move may hurt my chances to promote the book. But I’d rather have a smaller reach and better conversations than a tremendous following that I can’t relate to.

What’s your social media philosophy? Do you use Twitter to grow your business? If so, how do you manage the volume?