Twitter Followers vs Following: What is the Ideal Ratio?

Twitter Followers vs Following: What is the Ideal Ratio?

The never-ending question of quality vs quantity of Twitter Followers is similar to the argument of how many people you should connect with on LinkedIn or “friend” on any of the social media platforms. Without enough connections on LinkedIn, you might not show up in as many search results as a 2nd degree connection. With Twitter, the Followers vs Following ratio is an important one that will also speak volumes about your Twitter Brand.

My basic framework for how to strategize what you do on social media is the same regardless of social network. It all comes down to your objective, your brand, and implementation of these through the unique functionalities and environments of the different sites. When I see people who only want to connect to a limited amount of people on LinkedIn yet want tons of Followers on Twitter, I see a contradiction, not merely selective people in search of the best. 

Why do Followers count on Twitter? Because the more people who follow you, the higher the chance that more people will read your message, assuming it is an engaging piece of content. If your message is a good one, a positive ratio of followers will make it more likely that someone will ReTweet it in their own feed, generating the viral marketing that Twitter is famous for. People with more Followers also seem to have more credibility with some people. Wouldn’t you rather have thousands of followers than a follower count in the hundreds?

Understanding the value of having thousands of people reading your words, as well as the fact that your Twitter Followers vs Following ratio will affect your Twitter Brand, let’s look at what the different ratios below say about people.

Following Someone vs Being a Follower of Someone: What’s the Difference?

Following is external; it means you are reaching out to someone else and taking in their tweets, or disseminating their information. A follower is someone who is taking in the information you are presenting, or following along with their tweets. The differences between the two are important in terms of branding; although you are not required to follow thousands of people to establish yourself as an authority, it can look strange to only have a handful of accounts that you follow, when you have a massive social networking following. Followings can also be important for branding, as the people and businesses that you follow can give your followers an idea of who you are and what your brand is all about, while the people who follow you may, industry influencers though they may be, may not speak as loudly to your brand.

Why Does the Twitter Following vs Followers Ratio Matter?

There are two reasons why maintaining a healthy ratio is important:

1. Personal Branding

This ratio is not merely a vanity metric; it can do wonders to boost a followers campaign. For instance, if you follow a slew of social media companies, brands, and influencers, but only have friends and family members following you, you cannot expect a high engagement rate, or to be seen as an industry authority. This kind of negative ratio can harm your personal branding, as it suggests that you do not have many things of value to say, but have plenty of time and energy to consume what others are saying. 

2. Twitter Limitations

New Twitter accounts can only follow up to 5,000 accounts on the platform, and cannot follow more until you yourself have 5,000 followers.

Not that I recommend you follow people for a follow back, but if you want to be able to follow more people on Twitter and increase your chances of a follow back outside of your engagement, you need to be aware of and properly manage the Twitter following vs followers ratio.

Twitter Following vs Followers Ratio and Your Personal Branding

This ratio will indirectly become an integral part of your personal branding on Twitter and will thus subconsciously influence whether people follow you back, add you to a list, engage with your tweets when they see it on their timelines, etc.

Let’s dig deeper into how this works and the benefits of having a positive ratio.

1) 10 Following 100 Followers = 10.0 Ratio

10 Following 100 Followers = 10.0 Ratio

This person has a 10.0 ratio of Followers to Following. This appears to be an ideal ratio to achieve, in that this person evidently has something to say that a lot of people that he doesn’t know find interesting. Thus the large ratio number. If you are looking for people to follow in hopes that they will follow you back, however, you may not want to follow this person unless they have something really important to say. Achieving this ratio can be difficult. If you tweet good content, your Follower numbers will organically grow over time, but what about the potential opportunity cost of late time-to-market for your message? So, your Twitter Brand here is either a Rockstar or someone trying to do things the old-fashioned way without maximizing what they could be doing with Twitter. I will also add that this Twitter Brand could be a negative one: Why doesn’t this account follow their followers? Are all of their Followers spammers?

2) 100 Following 100 Followers = 1.0 Ratio

Some people say, “Yes, of course, they are just following everyone who follows them back, so a 1.0 ratio is an easy number to achieve.”  Well, if you have ever tried it, you will realize that even if you follow 100 people, chances are on average that only 10 to 20 of those people will follow you back.  Add in the fact that many spammers who auto-follow you will stop following you once they have sent you a Direct Message, and you can see how this is not an easy task to accomplish.  I believe that this is a healthy ratio which also tells new people that if they follow you chances are you will follow them back.  It displays a Twitter Brand that says “We are in this together so let’s get to know each other.”

3) 100 Following 10 Followers = 0.1 Ratio

100 Following 10 Followers = 0.1 Ratio

This one is an obvious red flag.  Evidently this person thinks that following many many more people will lead to more Followers, but with this sort of ratio, not only will only the spammers be following back this person, but Twitter may soon close down this account!  Suffice to say this is a lopsided ratio that you never want to display unless you want to get your Twitter account restricted!

Further Reading: 13 Best AI Twitter Generators for Tweeting

So what is the Ideal Ratio? 

It will change depending on how many Followers you have. The more followers you have, the easier it is to keep the ratio above 1.0.

If you are under the 5,000 follower threshold,  you’ll want to keep the ratio in a range near 1.0 (0.75 to 1.25, we’ll say) if you want to grow your Twitter Followers. Anything above that shows that you may not have anything interesting to say and below that range may indicate that you don’t care about who follows you and may not follow them back, anyway (of course, if you are a famous celebrity, you can get away with following nobody).

For those who scoff, I’ll ask this: “You are on Twitter with hopes of increasing your followers, right?” And there are so many great people to follow on Twitter! Twitter has hundreds of millions of Twitter users that you can follow and potentially develop a relationship with, both from a personal accounts and business accounts perspective.

When someone doesn’t increase their LinkedIn Connections out of their physical network, I let it be known that they are wasting their time on LinkedIn. I think the same can be said for your Twitter Following vs Follower ratio. If your ratio is too skewed from the 1.0 standard, unless you have already grown a large enough follower base where it doesn’t really matter, it could be sending the wrong message that will adversely affect your Twitter Brand. You could potentially be wasting your time on Twitter following too few and be seen as someone with nothing valuable to say if you follow too many. It is healthy to follow people you don’t know if they are speaking on a subject that you are interested in. And I assume these are the people that you also want to follow you. So why not display this brand in your ratio of Following to Followers and attract them?

What are the Twitter Following vs Followers Ratios of Twitter Influencers?

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If you want to see ratios in action, here’s the current follower / following ratio for some of the Twitter influencers in marketing that have large followings. In sharing this, I hope you can understand the current ranges and use them as inspiration! Note that I made these as percentages of following to followers, with the lower the number the higher the above ration would calculate to be:

If we remove the two extremes (2 highest and 2 lowest), we can see there is a range from 5.4% to 37.6% with an average of those 6 tweeters of 19.1%. Hopefully this serves as a guide as to what ratio you might want to aim for.

I’d love to hear about your Twitter Followers vs Following policies!  Please tell!

Hero photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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27 Comments

  1. This is a great piece. I was curious to know how I was doing. I have about 12,000 followers on @mrshanemcdonald and I follow back 10,4K of those. So it sounds like I’m doing ok. Thanks for this.

  2. My strategy.

    Before I even launch my business, I create a somewhat general account (maybe same niche, etc, etc)…

    Mass follow, wait a bit, unfollow people aren’t following back .. I interact with my followers while doing this

    With IG, i follow the maximum 7,500 people first (I FOLLOW PPL IN AN UNRELATED NICHE), but using photos that I could generally keep when I rebrand… then unfollow whoever isn’t following back)…. i repeat this 3-4 times and have 3k+ real followers at this point. From there, I rebrand the page to what it is originally meant to be and continue building from there with relevant content.

    Mindstate behind this … i want people in my niche to first see my page when there is already interaction and already followers.

    Twitter too.

    I keep a 1:1 ratio always. I support and engage with people who are in a different niche, and they return the favours.

  3. Thank you Neil, I found your advice coherent with your own approach. I definitely feel more comfortable now with a 1:1 ratio.

  4. Neal, would you say the something applies for instagram? lets just say or argument sake we are a restaurant…shouldnt we want as many followers as possible and ideally unfollow those who don’t follow back?

    • Yes, Victor, I do believe it applies for all social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google Plus Pages where you have the ability to follow others. Obviously at the beginning you’ll be following many more than follow you, but I recommend after reaching certain goals you discipline yourself to follow fewer and maybe even considering unfollowing others that might not be as relevant to you. Hope the advice makes sense and helps!

  5. I follow back everyone with a photo and a bio and unfollow if I get a spam DM and I do not know them

    • That’s definitely one good rule Michael – thanks for the comment – and Go Nadeshiko Japan!

  6. Great article as usual Neal. I love Twitter and it is probably my favorite social media platform. But building a network on Twitter takes time, strategy and patience. Unlike Linkedin where one can get 500+ connections within their first week, there is no such magic pill on Twitter (unless you’re a celebrity or a Fortune 500 corporation). But the wait is very rewarding.And what makes Twitter great is that is a simple, yet very effective tool that can easily be used for both professional and personal use.

  7. I try to keep around 1:1 on my main Twitter account. I view SM as a means to interact with others, so I generally look to rfollow, but if that follow is out of the sphere of the interests I pursue with the account I do not rfollow and since I have been on Twitter for sometime I can quickly feel up if an account is legit or not. Plus every now and then I use an online tool to find those who got an rfollow from me and dumped me and I return the favor.

    I would not mind a ratio seriously larger than 1 because I would take that as a sign my effrorts are paying off.

    • I also have the same belief about Twitter, that it is a tool for interaction and to meet new people with similar interests. What happens, over time, is that so many irrelevant people (or bots?) end up following you, that by not following them back, you can get your ratio under 1 over time. That being said, there are times when we tend to be aggressive in following people (like when we first start out on Twitter!), so it takes patience to wait for others to follow us before we follow others. Seriously, as your account grows into the hundreds and then thousands of followers, it gets easier to accomplish ;-)

  8. Pft. Where is it written that you must follow everyone who follows you? It all comes down to quality, whether your account is business or personal. If you what you tweet interests people, the followers will come, and it won’t matter to them whether you follow back or not.

    • Definitely no need to follow everyone that follows you – especially with all of the fake accounts out there. On the other hand, there is a concept of “reciprocity” in social media which I think is important, and thus provides the background for my logic.

      If you don’t care about having more followers, you can completely ignore my advice. Many people and businesses I meet, however, want to know how to increase their relevant followers, and I believe this advice will help them.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  9. Your article on twitter followers following quality is very interesting and appealing to readers. Thanks and wish to post you more article about it.

  10. Hey Brent,
    The intent of the article was really not to say that the amount of followers you have is important. What I wanted to indicate was that the number of followers and following, together with its associated ratio, will be looked upon by others and will partially define how people perceive of you and whether or not they want to follow you. I personally believe that Twitter should be a two-way street, and if someone decides to follow me (similar to sending me a LinkedIn Invitation and accepting it) I will follow them back. That is, if they are real and genuine people.
    However, there are many people who will follow you just to get you to follow them back and then unfollow you to maintain a ratio or aggressively build up their following. Twitter is not happy about people who do this aggressively, but they exist.
    From your perspective, if someone you follow doesn't follow you back, what does it say about the relationship? I unfollow people who don't follow me back after waiting for a period of time, but once again, Twitter does not like people who “purge” a lot of people aggressively, so I try to do this in moderation.
    There is no single “right” answer here, but I try to maintain a near 1:1 ratio to show people that I will follow them back should I find them to be “real” tweeple. But if they start unfollowing me or if others that I found interesting do not follow me back after a certain period of time, I will unfollow them. By keeping this combination, I can maintain the near 1:1 ratio which I think is ideal. Plus I am confident in that my followers have a mutual relationship with me in that we follow each other.
    Would love to hear your additional comments on the above should you have any. Sorry for a long-winded answer…hope it all makes sense.
    – Neal

  11. Interesting post. I was hoping it would answer the question of why the ratio is important. After reading your article I can't help thinking that the only thing that matters is how many followers you have. My account has had a dramatic increase in followers once I started talking about how to make Twitter work for you. The ratio isn't anywhere near where it should be though. Does that mean I should “unfollow” those that are not following me back?

  12. Hey Brent,
    The intent of the article was really not to say that the amount of followers you have is important. What I wanted to indicate was that the number of followers and following, together with its associated ratio, will be looked upon by others and will partially define how people perceive of you and whether or not they want to follow you. I personally believe that Twitter should be a two-way street, and if someone decides to follow me (similar to sending me a LinkedIn Invitation and accepting it) I will follow them back. That is, if they are real and genuine people.
    However, there are many people who will follow you just to get you to follow them back and then unfollow you to maintain a ratio or aggressively build up their following. Twitter is not happy about people who do this aggressively, but they exist.
    From your perspective, if someone you follow doesn't follow you back, what does it say about the relationship? I unfollow people who don't follow me back after waiting for a period of time, but once again, Twitter does not like people who “purge” a lot of people aggressively, so I try to do this in moderation.
    There is no single “right” answer here, but I try to maintain a near 1:1 ratio to show people that I will follow them back should I find them to be “real” tweeple. But if they start unfollowing me or if others that I found interesting do not follow me back after a certain period of time, I will unfollow them. By keeping this combination, I can maintain the near 1:1 ratio which I think is ideal. Plus I am confident in that my followers have a mutual relationship with me in that we follow each other.
    Would love to hear your additional comments on the above should you have any. Sorry for a long-winded answer…hope it all makes sense.
    – Neal

  13. Interesting post. I was hoping it would answer the question of why the ratio is important. After reading your article I can't help thinking that the only thing that matters is how many followers you have. My account has had a dramatic increase in followers once I started talking about how to make Twitter work for you. The ratio isn't anywhere near where it should be though. Does that mean I should “unfollow” those that are not following me back?

  14. Andrew,

    Thank you for your thorough comment. I agree with your points, especially the fact that businesses could care less about their ratios. For personal users, thought, it is unfortunate but we are judged by how many followers we have as well as that ration. The point I wanted to make is that being cognizant of that ratio is an important aspect of your Twitter Brand. The ideal way to network would be, as you suggest, to not even worry about this ratio and do things organically. Unfortunately, this could lead to a misconception that you are either a spammer or someone that doesn't care about others. That's why it's important to keep these things in mind.

    – Neal

  15. The ratio's usefulness is of course relative to how it's being used. If I'm looking for spammers, then a ratio less than 1:1 can provide an excellent marker. There's also a certain level of confidence that goes with that assumption, though that level is not universal to the other types of ratios and how they're used.

    As with followers, you can not control how people perceive your ratio, and as such, perceptions of your ratio could be as diverse as those following you. But that perception is not just formed from the actual ratio, but perhaps whether the person being followed is seen as a large company, or an individual; whether the perceiver is angry or happy, male or female, etc, etc. As with anything that is on a web site, or newspaper, or other form of media, designs and colors can distract a user away from even noticing your ratio if you're that horribly worried about it.

    If you're building a personal brand, or one that is designed to be seen as individual focused, then I think simply keeping that focus in mind is what will come through. I've made no attempt to keep my ratio in balance or slated to one side, I follow who I think might provide me with a valuable addition to my feed.

    Businesses too greatly benefit from that mentality, do you think Scott Monty and the rest of the Ford SM team worry about their ratio? Perhaps a better measure of an individual focused business would be how many replies they have to other people. Those companies who have a fairly defined SM presence generally have multiple channels for those who are interested.

    On one had you describe how to use the ratio as a gauge of your own social media outreach, but on the other you talk of how to use that ratio as a gauge of another user's relevancy. It seems counter-productive to make an observation on something when the very purpose of that observation is to affect that something. All the while, this same something is being modified and perceived by those you really have no control over.

    A very well put together strategy will not need the observation of a ratio metric, really the only concern is how many people are listening to your message (followers) and how you engage them (replies).

  16. Thank you Debbie! Yes, the more targeted your followers the better, and that is subject matter for another blog post ;-) At the end of the day, the more relevant your content is, the more relevant your followers will be! It really is that simple!

  17. Great Post…I would only add that ratios and follower/following numbers are important, but not nearly as important as having thousands of “Targeted” Followers who are interested in you, your products, and services.

    It isn't something that happens over night, but can happen pretty quickly – especially if you enjoy Twitter and are truly sharing and being yourself vs. trying to sell and promote.

    Identify who the “experts” are in your niche, and check out their Twitter Profiles. What are they talking about? What does their bio say? Look at their followers and realize how lucky you are to have access to their list! The folks who are interested in them will probably be interested in you as well. Simply follow the ones that are talking about your areas of interest.

    Post quality content, and refrain from selling or promoting. No one wants to be pitched or sold by someone the first time they meet them! Simply be yourself and share quality content, and you will soon have thousands of followers.

    Twitter is amazing place to meet future customers, clients, mentors, JV partners, and life-long friends!

  18. Great post! I would just add that even though the ratio is important, the need to have “targeted” followers who are interested in you, your product and services is key.

    Plan to follow those who share your interests. Identify who is already successful in your niche, and follow their followers. Chances are that if they are following them, they are interested and will want to follow you as well if you have some key words in your bio and provide quality content in your tweets.

    Twitter is an amazing place to build strong relationships with future customers, clients, mentors and business partners. Don't miss that opportunity !

    DebbieJJohnson

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