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Should I follow back everyone that follows me on social media?

My goal is to build a higher number of followers on social media channels like Twitter and Instagram. I also feel it is rude or not proper social media etiquette to not follow someone back that follows you. However, I've read that it looks better for a brand to have a higher ratio of followers to following. Is there a right answer to this?

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Hi Cynthia ~

This is tricky, because while you are correct about etiquette (and good for you for caring!), some people will follow you simply to build their own number of followers. People who play the "Follow/Unfollow" game will follow a lot of people, then unfollow them as soon as they've gained the follower. One way to avoid such scammers is to regularly check who you are following to see if they've unfollowed you.

In addition, because Twitter now enables many ways to track topics (e.g., hashtags), if you Tweet on any subject with a hashtag (such as #holidaymeals, even if cooking is not your usual topic) all sorts of people who Tweet about food or holidays may suddenly follow you. They will often unfollow within a few days if you don't follow them back :-)

One thing NOT to do: don't buy Followers! These accounts are usually not even real, or are inactive. It's like speaking to a room full of empty seats; pointless.

Beyond these caveats, to build your following, start by following Influencers and people whose content you admire. You can also search for people you'd be interested in following by using appropriate hashtags. The more helpful the content you post in your field, the quicker people will follow you. When someone Retweets or Likes your Tweets, be sure to acknowledge them publicly; this type of etiquette goes a long way towards boosting credibility and followers.

Happy brand building!


No - do not follow everyone back.

The answer may be obvious but you'll be surprised how your social ethics will make you do the wrong thing.

Here's the thing Cynthia - As a whole, we are a very narcissistic species. We, even while saying otherwise, compare ourselves to those we are connected with, come across, or see. Those who are looking at your social profiles are comparing you to them. If you have a high number of followers but not following many back, what does that make people think? "WOW - this person must know what's up they have a poop [MH wont let me use my "magic words"] ton of followers but they only follow a handful - who are they???" It sparks interest and then, subconsciously in their eyes, you become an expert and the content you push is more valuable.

If you simply follow everyone who follows you, you are just like everyone else. Just another cow in the field as it were. To attract the attention of higher profile people, being selective in your following and not following everyone will start to land you more and more influential followers. Those influential followers are your key to a much larger audience than you will create yourself. Here's a scenario:

You notice that John Q begins following you. He is a motivational speaker for business owners - your target market. You do your research and see that John Q is big on small business stats and also big on info graphics. So - you come up with a great infographic idea, use some talent from Fiverr or Freelancer to put your data into a beautiful infographic and then you write John Q a message that goes like this:

"Hey John - I saw you followed me recently, thanks! I wanted to check out what you are offering the world so I went to your website and saw that you and I share a common interest - helping small businesses grow. I recently created an infographic that your followers might enjoy. Let me know if you want me to send it over. I would be happy to create an intro for it as well if you want to post it on your site. You just let me know and I'll make it happen.

Thanks John and again - glad to be connected"

That's it! John takes a look, he's impressed, he wants to share it, your graphic and website link (of course you better plug yourself into the intro) are on his site which probably has a much larger visitor base. So what happens? You now see 30-40 more people visiting your site each day because you decided not to be "nice" and follow everyone.


Anonymous User

Hi Cynthia

I think you should not become obsessed by numbers, and focus on defining your target and the outcomes you expect from your Social Media activities.

After all said and done, you must remember Social Media should be part of your Holistic Approach to your marketing and not the sole tool in your box. It must dovetail with all your other marketing activities and complement the overall approach to your Web Presence including your Website, Newsletters, Email Marketing, PR and general Advertising. Social Media is not a replacement for a sound and well-thought through marketing plan.

Here is the article I submitted on MosaicHub on this subject which I hope will help you in your thought process. http://www.mosaichub.com/resources/resource/how-to-harness-the-power-of-social-media-without-g

Hope this helps.


Hi, Cynthia,

Twitter is really the only one that has a culture of thanking people for following, retweeting and mentioning. You don't have to follow EVERYONE back. In the beginning, when you're trying to build a following, it will help especially to follow and follow back people who are influencers in your industry, who your target market trust and have a lot of followers. Also people who share good content that would be of interest to your target market. You don't have to follow people who seem don't tweet, are following thousands, but have few followers and those who are following you only because they want to sell you something -- like more followers.
Having an even balance of followers to following shows you're a relationship builder.

After you've grown a following, say after 500 followers, you can be pickier as to who you follow. At one point you'll become a newsmaker with more followers to following.

On Instagram, follow people back if you like what their sharing.
I have a blog post on my site that goes into more detail: "Does the Ratio of Twitter Followers & Following Matter?"
AZSocialMediaWiz dot com

Follow me on Twitter: @AZSocialNetWiz


Research those who follow you to see if they fit into your business model. For example, if you are only interested US contacts, figure out how much you can get by following someone in Europe or Asia. If you gain nothing other than a number on your count, probably not worth following back.


Increasing the number of followers you have on selected social media channels is surely not a goal in itself Cynthia, as it has no apparent purpose. Maybe the question to ask is; “To achieve a defined goal, is there any value in recruiting followers on Social Media?” Some of the loneliest individuals have huge followings on social media, no-one quite understands why.
Social media etiquette is only relevant when there is a purpose (and genuine goal) behind the tactic of attracting additional followers. There must (one would hope) be a purpose behind your stated desire, your ultimate goal alone will determine who and why a reciprocal follow back is warranted or beneficial.


Hi Cynthia,

I'm the Community Manager for Business.com. Your question sparked a great discussion in the community, with several differences in opinions. Even the Business.com team shared their opinion in this recently published social media guide, How to Determine Who to Follow Back on Social Media.

There are limits to how many accounts one is allowed to follow on each social media platform. For Twitter, it is up to 5,000 accounts. Then, once an account has reached 5,000, the limit to how many additional accounts they can follow is enforced.

Even if limits did not exist, it is best practice for businesses to not follow back everyone that follows them on social media. The guide above tells you which types of accounts to follow when trying to build your online presence on social media. I hope this helps!


Yes, follow back to as many as you never know when they will need your services in future


I find the answer something that should be unique and personal. DO what you find best and discover brings you more traffic. Depending on industries, there are so many different ways to approach followers. Some account became popular and other just 'exquisite' but it also depends on marketing plans and ideas that are align with what you have in mind. In my case, I run 3 twitter accounts for a couple of small business ideas that I am testing. In each one I approached differently and the responses are very interesting. Based on your followers and ways of communication you can get to target a really interesting and potential network - and not just wasting your time retwitting other people messages.
Do as you find best, measure monthly, delete and try again as many time you find your best approach. In social media and base on business, time, days and key follower/following matter.


Yes, it's a great culture on Twitter and Instagram that If anyone follows you then follow back him/her. But it's not necessary to follow everyone who follows you because we have also keep in mind that we build relationships with a purpose on social media.

If someone follows you then just check his profile and some of Tweets, Then you get some ideas about him/her, if the audience sees potential to you the follow him/her.


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