Why Rand Fishkin Doesn’t Follow You

I love twitter. I mean I really really really love twitter. It’s so much fun and really quite useful. Twitter is fully a part of my days and is quite fully integrated into my life at this point. Being this addicted to twitter makes it hard to step back and understand how others use the service. I’d say it’s a safe bet that applies to a lot of us based on the barrage of crap and criticism Rand Fishkin (@randfish) takes everytime he raises his head on twitter.

Let’s face it, there’s probably nobody else in our little corner of twitter, that gets more crap for not following everybody back. As of right now Rand has 4740 follwers and only follows 9 people himself. What does this mean? Well, it could mean that Rand is using twitter as a broadcast medium and not a conversation medium like the rest of us. Is that true? Let’s look:

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hmmmm – looks like any other twitter stream out there. Actually, it probably has more @s than a random page of my tweets. 

I hopped on IM with Rand today and we got chatting about twitter and how he uses versus how I use it and I think I get it now. Read on for an examination of how we use twitter differently and how I think Rand could engage better on twitter with out it costing him too much time and focus. 

Let’s talk about Rand first because it’s easy to break down his twitter methodology. Rand follows 9 people that important to him personally. He only follows those nine because he doesn’t want to miss anything they tweet and if he were to follow hundreds of people his important 9 would be too easily lost in the flow. Rand also has most everybody he follows sent to his phone. Imagine if he added just one more follower: me. I alone would mess up that system entirely.

Rand also doesn’t use any tools. He used his mobile, and the web interface. If those are the only tools you use and want to actually keep up with anything then yeah, 9 follows is pushing it. 

Rand’s basic twitter philosophy is to follow a handful of personally important people fully and then use search.twitter.com to look up anything else. That’s fine. I get it. It’s just exactly opposite of my philosphy. My philosphy is to follow a ton of people and then go to their individual feeds as necessary to back read and catch up when needed. I use twitter to see what people are talking about right NOW and then jump in. Rand uses twitter to see what his circle HAS BEEN talking about.

I follow a bit over 600 people right now and it’s always growing. I have one rule about following people: If you @ me I will follow you back once I verify you aren’t a bot. It’s that simple.  How do I manage to follow that many people and not miss too much stuff? I’ll tell ya and maybe Rand will even adopt some of these ideas and have more fun with twitter.

First off I use TweetDeck on my desktop and run twitter on a second monitor along with IM and email. Communications is a monitor to itself. TweetDeck rocks because it allows you to group and segment your twitter feeds in a variety of ways and display the custom feeds in side by side panels. My TweetDeck has several panels:

  • All Friends
  • Replies – all @oilman responses
  • Group: Oilman – gotta keep track of what I’ve tweeted
  • Search: MrsOilman – keepin and eye on the wife
  • Direct Messages
I could make it more detailed but that basic config works for me. Here’s how I suggest someone like Rand could use TweetDeck:
  • All Friends
  • Replies – all @randfish responses
  • Group: Randfish- gotta keep track of what he’s tweeted
  • Group: Rand Clan – put your 9 in here 
  • Search: SEOmoz – track mentions of the company
  • Direct Messages
Here’s my TweetDeck:
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ok – let’s move on to Mobile.

When Rand says “mobile” I’m assuming he means SMS only because he has a Windows Mobile phone and there is crap for apps for those things. Possibly he’s using the mobile web version of twitter but is pretty awesome suckage as well. Rand, if I’m wrong let me know and I’ll update this section. Using twitter via SMS alone sucks. I don’t blame anybody that has a low follow count if this is the case.

I have an iPhone and I died a little inside when I bought it but I love it for twitter. There are a ton of decent twitter apps that make using twitter on the road a breeze. I use twitterfon as well as bookmarking some custom search results in Safari. I use the custom search results in a effort to avoid bumping up against twitter’s annoying API limits. I don’t have a single person I follow sent to my phone via SMS but I do have all Direct Messages sent to my phone. I do that mostly so I can entertain you all by tweeting my cell phone number when I’ve forgotten to add the “d username” to the SMS. All in all I much prefer using twitter from the desktop of laptop vs my iPhone but it’s very managable either way.

So why doesn’t Rand Fishkin follow you? Honestly? Cuz twitter simply doesn’t factor into his life the same way it does into yours and mine. If you think that because he’s not following you he’s not paying attention you are sadly mistaken. 

Sorry to all you that thought I was going to slap Rand around hehe. Sure, I’d love to see him engage more on twitter. It often feels like twitter is the bar at a conference and we’re all mixing and mingling and moving around have a good old time and Rand is standing by the entrance trying to decide if he should come party with us. Rand, come on in. The beer is cold and people are friendly. Oh, and my twitter id is @oilman if you ever want to follow me back 😉


  1. Great post – this is a great guide for the twitter newbies out there who think that Rand’s way is the only way.
    I wanted to throw out a pretty decent twitter app that I use for my windows mobile phone – well, two actually.
    The one I am currently using is called PockeTwit – it has a pretty slick interface that is fairly iphone-like.
    The other one I’ve used, and that is pretty good is called TinyTwitter.

  2. Good post, I guess it kinda makes sense, kinda.. There are just so many good resources out there to use twitter like it ought to be used!

  3. A good post, the question I have for you is how you watch the 600 people that you follow properly? Especially the loud and obnoxious ones like me.

  4. I had the same dilemma and thought process as you, Oilman and I ended up going with following a bunch of people (287 people currently – not quite as many as you) and dipping in and out of the conversation stream as I need to much like you do.

    I do wish I could have my “9” though sometimes and make sure I catch everything they say. I’m going to try tweetdeck for that now.

  5. Donovan Roddy says:

    Wow, if you don’t get a follow for that oilman… is it fair to say nice tweetbait!

  6. Rhea Drysdale says:

    I want to have babies with TweetDeck. My husband asked me last night what that big black thing was with all of the Twitter icons and I dove in with a similar explanation. Twitter is overwhelming at a certain level and tools make it manageable. I track everyone, replies, DMs, the Outspoken crew, local friends and family. It keeps everything on MY terms and that reduces that overwhelming feeling I have when I think I’ve missed out on something really important like a conversation about Top Chef or Rand’s misuse of Twitter.

    Good stuff, love your voice in it. Please blog more often, Rand does have a point about that. 😛

  7. Good write up Oilman. I admit to falling too much into the Rand category. I follow a lot more people than he does but I don’t have it set up on a separate monitor or use a tool like tweetdeck so I’m always forgetting to check it. I’ll take a look at tweetdeck so I can pester you more on twitter.

  8. Very good post – and it illustrates that even though Twitter may be just one platform, its usage varies across the board.
    Feeling offended by not being followed by someone you happen to follow yourself is essentially childish and disrespectful, at least until you’ve established why they’re acting as they do.
    True, there’s many people on Twitter who seem to view it as a macho contest: “my list of followers is bigger than yours”. And many who are simply trying to gather marks they can sell to, no more.
    But that’s what comes with any medium of this ilk – live with it, or move on.

  9. Very interesting. It is quite obvious that Rand doesn’t use Twitter the way most of us do; the question is, is there a right way and a wrong way?

    Now, Rand knows that I think the world of him and SEOmoz. It feels strange to take the opposing viewpoint here, but I really do feel like he’s missing out on all that Twitter can be.

    One of my biggest “things” is that I like people to speak based on actual experience. If Rand followed, say, 200 of his friends/colleagues on Twitter and used Tweetdeck as you describe, but found it unmanageable or unhelpful, then I would say “Absolutely, Twitter doesn’t work for Rand in the same way it does for others”.

    …but he hasn’t tried that yet. So he can’t really know if it would be great or not. That’s what bothers me the most, I guess.

    Also, if you are viewing Twitter as a broadcast medium, and the 4000+ people following you all use it as a conversational tool/relationship builder, there’s going to be some disconnect, hard feelings, etc. because of it. Maybe it’s not possible to successfully use it *only* as a broadcast medium anymore.

  10. I started in on Rand last night about his ratio of follows to followers. That may have helped lead to your conversation with him, and as a result, this post.

    If so? Awesome.

    I love it when you blog because it’s normally reserved for a strong marketing lesson like this.

    Twitter is a marketing tool for me. Shit, the whole Internet is. If Twitter were around in 2001 I’m sure I would’ve been using 1,500 profiles in a Marty Weintraub fashion to push Phentermine at women who thought they needed to lose weight but otherwise looked nothing short of beautiful to normal people like us.


    Successful marketing translates into dollars. Don’t get me wrong, either. I love people in this industry more than any other. But don’t think I’m here for buddies. I’m here to score some loot and make a living.

    That said, Twitter has proven to be much more productive when I start ranting and raving about things related to our industry while also providing insight to my personal view on things.

    Like Rand’s ratio of follows to followers.

    Within 10 minutes of that status update I had a half dozen DMs from others applauding that I said it. Others most certainly shared that same perspective but for one reason or another didn’t want to take the time to say it. Their loss?

    Since last night the reaction has been mixed. I’ve seen some agree more and others with a past or alliance with SEOmoz jumping to defend Rand and seemingly targeting me as being worthless, classless, greedy and selfish.

    I guess I shouldn’t use Twitter to share my opinion on something that proved valuable to the industry, right? It’s not like it provided a great marketing concept to review or made others think to reach out to me in agreement.

    Oh wait, it did.

    I applaud Rand for sticking up and explaining his take on things. I never said he was right or wrong. All I did was disagree in a way that fueled more attention to the conversation.

    Anyone in the industry knows that Rand busts his ass, be it traveling, marketing or simply running his business. My giving him grief is done half in jest to keep the mood light. He and SEOmoz are both phenomenally successful. No Twitter rant or marketing spin takes that away from him.

    For anyone who thought I was simply poking fun at Rand’s character and complaining about him, please do not be so quick to assume. I’d like to think that this Tweet from last night was telling enough to show what I was really up to:


    Finally… I want to point out that a tweet from Rand earlier today made me feel a little badly. He said “Seriously? I reply to 99% of my email personally, blog constantly, travel relentlessly & I get crap for not being social enough on Twitter?” — No Rand, you were being used as an example. Keep doing what you do and you’ll be fine.

    • Way behind the NASA opinion of days but my twopenneth is, who cares if Rand updates or no, sure i follow him and i am in it for the same craic and i follow you too, but if we are going to get an inside edge why not use the universal platform? Rand for all his mastery is still high up on the league of gentleman but he is only a cog in the sum of parts as am i as are you, together we twitter divided we fall.

  11. Twitter is like self-medicating for ADHD. I don’t think anyone should be made fun of for not using it that way certain people do *cough* but everyone gets teased once in a while.

  12. Love the post title!

    I think best keep in mind your readers! If they are efficiently set up, then blast away with your tweets but if they are like Rand, excessive tweeting will make them unfollow you even if they would prefer to keep in touch.

    I keep a few accounts, and consider them to be like parties. I have this small group party over here, where I visit to chat with my friends, and another small party over here with some local friends who aren’t search geeks, but sometimes I walk over to this massive search industry party on this other account, to check in….

  13. Todd – seriously great post 🙂 I’m going to try Tweetdeck out tomorrow if possible.

    Andy – I really appreciate your comment as well. I mentioned to Todd over IM that I thought the criticism was mostly meant in jest, so really glad to hear it was. I can definitely take a ribbing, so keep it coming 🙂

  14. Mystery Guest says:

    Todd – you are being way too easy on the guy. He’s an complete asshole. The reason he doesn’t follow people on twitter is because he doesn’t have time – you’re correct on that one. But why doesn’t he have time? Because he spends all his free time doing the following:

    1.) Eating kittens. I’ve seen it. It’s horrible. He laughs through a grimace of kitten fur and blood. Laughs a deep, horrible, soulless laugh.

    2.) Beating his employees with reeds. He also removes their fingernails with pliers. It’s true. Honest.

    3.) Pushing old ladies into traffic. He pretends he’s going to walk them across the street and then, BLAMMO!

    4.) Lobbying to decrease benefits to veterans.

    5.) Working tirelessly to get “The Simpsons” off the air. Just to be a jerk.

    6.) Removing paper and plastic items from recycling bins and putting them in the trash.

    7.) Encouraging small children NOT to brush their teeth.

    That’s all I can think of. Bottom line, the rumors are true. The guy is bad news. HE EATS KITTENS, PEOPLE! KITTENS! BURN HIM AT THE STAKE!!!!

  15. That’s what I get for not helping my wife pack up our apartment and paying attention to Twitter… doh.

  16. Mystery Guest – That’s damn funny.

  17. that was hilarious. love the comments. good wholesome kitten-devouring entertainment.

  18. For a long time I didn’t want to get involved with Twitter – most centrally because I foresaw it as a potentially disastrous waste of time.

    Then, I tried it – and a few weeks later decided, “I was right – this is a disastrous waste of time.”

    I stopped using it much for 2-3 months. Then I came back. The reason? I had a valuable experience or two. I’d gone into it for the wrong reasons early on – actually, I didn’t have a reason.

    There is no inherent value in following X people on Twitter – that number means nothing without engagement. To follow as a gesture is empty – it’s akin to accepting a Facebook friend request from someone you don’t know all that well. You do it not to be a dick – but are you really friends? Does it mean anything?

    I’m not big on telling other people what they should/shouldn’t do – especially when those other people are successful in their professional lives. Everyone must find his or her own formula for involvement – social media can consume your schedule if you let it.

    I also prefer not to speak for how “offended” other people must be not to get a return follow.

    I know I’ve gotten tremendous value out of Twitter. I’ve also wasted time. There are days when I don’t look at it at all – because other things take priority.

    Seth Godin doesn’t use Twitter – in this interview he gives his reasons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6vpBDFoMqc (jump to 9:10) – I think this is relevant to the discussion.

    So perhaps we should let people like Rand sort out their own priorities and give them the benefit of the doubt – their lack of engagement doesn’t imply pomposity.

  19. The fact that there is a blog about a person not following proper “blogging etiquette” is in and of itself, bad blogging etiquette, is it not?

    Is there a guide to proper blogging etiquette? If not, I call dibs! “Tweeting for Dummies” – (Imagine all the pot heads that will pick that up, oh well, it’s $). “Ms. Daisy’s Prim and Proper Do’s and Dont’s in the Blogosphere” – (To include her recipe for her tuna casserole as a bonus), or “Ask NOT what Twitter can do for you, but what YOU can do for Twitter”

    I’m with either options 2 or 3.

    Pax Frater

  20. That was funny as hell Mystery Guest…

  21. The best strategy with any channel is to adapt it to your strengths.

    Most people on twitter / social media do the reverse, which leads to less than optimal results (for the person and the medium).

    Rand is following the first path, adapting each medium to his strengths, and I am positive that he is going to be a huge success (as he as been in all other things he does).

    Then there’s the other thing: he is a super person!
    [Not withstanding what this utterly rude Mystery Guest person has said! :)]


  22. Despite the fact that Rand doesn’t mind the ribbing, some of which was made in jest and some of which was not, I tend to find criticisms of how someone uses Twitter pretty stupid, and akin to finding something–anything–to complain about. Shit, we’re done picking apart the guy’s company, his work philosophies, his personal appearance, various other aspects of his life, friends and personality traits, so let’s bitch that he’s not following enough people on Twitter.

    The fact that we’re talking about Rand in relation to Twitter proves that he uses it somewhat effectively.

  23. Seriously funny.

    It was my fifteen seconds in the sun when I got an email alert that he was following me on Twitter.

    I called my mom, called the wife, told my kids, showed the alert to co-workers (all of whom I might add were far less impressed than I was)

    Then it hit me. I was going to have to pretend I had a life worth following. The weight of it was heavy.

    So, I did what I always do in a time of such crisis. I turned to the greats. Groucho Marx, Dave Barry, Patrick McManus and Yogi Berra.

    Armed with their wit I logged on to my account only to find that in less time than it took me to do all this, Rand had lost interest in me before I even got to thank him.

    Someone else might have been hurt. But I was not someone else, I am me and I am Not that interesting.

    I was relieved.

  24. I love twitter too! it is really freakin awesome… tweetdeck is great too! to organize everything and what not.

    I do think though that twitter is a great way to converse with people quickly and get to meet a lot of people…

    It puts a personal touch to business….

    If your only following a couple people then your only conversing with the people that you already know.

    Mine as well go to fb chat or google chat for that….

    I think that if you want to connect with people… whether it be “fans” or people who want your advice…

    That’s where I think the true power is… It’s amazing how fast you can build relationships with twitter! I love it! I’m hooked!

    Great post! thanks for the viewpoint!

  25. I think we, as US Americans, need to therefore, such as:

    Use all the different SNetworking sites for different reasons, have it planned out, explore the synergies and exploit the power of the blogosphere!

    I’m a pro at Process Maps if anyone needs one? 🙂

  26. Funny, I used Rand as an example of twitter extremes with @scobleizer recently. Following 68,000 people on Twitter? Really? No, not really.
    Also thanks Todd, until I read this I didn’t understand the differences between twhirl and tweet deck because no one that I asked could give a decent answer. Now I feel stupid for not looking into it myself. TweetDeck it is from now on (hopefully starting tomorrow err later today).

    Catch me @timstaines if you’d like.

  27. Could someone please post a guide on how to use my phone? I thought that it was justa communication tool, with no right or wrong way of using it, but it seems I was mistaken.

  28. It was completely unnecessary to use an individual example in this post, and to be honest, what could have been an interesting ‘Several Ways To Use Twitter’ post comes off more like a personal attack (whether meant in jest or not).

  29. his way make perfect sense based on his circumstances..

    but that kitten thing… i’m not renenwing my SEOMoz PRO subscription now.. i’m not paying for kittens to be used as food.. i just can’t contribute to that type of activity with a conscience.

  30. I hate that Jane hates me. I bet I won't even be allowed to sit on the sofa next to her should she ever guest on #TTwT.

  31. FYI, I don't mean to link drop, but TweetDeck is slurping up memory faster than I can chug down slurpees. One dude had it go up to 1.4 gb Ram. I'd suggest using the Window Task Manager to check it's ram usage in "processes" if yr uber-machine seems sluggish.

    And those TweetDeck users hungry for more self-flaggation, can come by and revel in your dislocated memory: http://www.whoisandrewwee.com/social-networking/t

  32. Tweetdeck is pretty sweet! I might have a prayer of actually using twitter from time to time with this, thanks for the tip!

  33. Nice post – this is a great guide for the twitter newbies out there who think that Rand's way is the only way. As for me I think that excessive tweeting will make them unfollow you even if they would prefer to keep in touch.

  34. I wanted to throw out a pretty decent twitter app that I use for my windows mobile phone – well, two actually.

    I love twitter too! it is really freak in awesome… tweetdeck is great too! to organize everything and what not.

  35. Mary Ulrich says:

    I still don’t know how to make the separate “group”, “friends” categories. Please explain. Thanks.

  36. Bah.

    Most of the followers are spam followers. They follow people and their twitter page is full of links to a viagra site of some bullcrap.

  37. There is a lot here for use Twitter-phobic types. OK, maybe not phobic but still don’t get it. But if it gets traffic I need it.

    Thank you for all the tools listed, I will have to try them out.

    Best part of the post- a second monitor just for communication, I love it! Now, I just need a second monitor.

  38. Tweetdeck is a lifesaver. I especially like the groups feature. Only, it seems that you can’t save them – so once a group is closed, you lose it. Is this right? In any case, I have found the tool to be the best overall. Have tried Twhirl and TwitterFox, but have stuck with Tweetdeck for its overall versatility!

  39. Awesome! I really should try this Twitter stuff.

  40. Great analysis of 2 very different but also very effective in their own way methods of using Twitter.

  41. Thank you Mystery Guest! I’m glad someone out there is speaking the truth!

  42. Very nice post. Just be careful and watch those who follow you on twitter they are usually spammers.

  43. I setup a twitter account few days ago, after creating my own SEO blog and noticed the same issue. Then again, it seems many people on twitter just follow you, so that you can follow them back. Honestly I don’t see what is all the hype about twitter myself.

  44. Some of those tools I was unaware of. Thanks for the information, I’ll have to check them out.

  45. Twitter is such an unbelievable phenom. Already completed integrated in our culture but only started 3 years ago. I think there is still a long way to go before we see how much it will revolutionize our society. At some point it might be as prominent as the telephone used to be. And profiling users is also one consequence.

  46. Both you and Rand have good arguments for the way you use Twitter. My style is actually very similar to yours. I have recently began using TeetDeck and I enjoyed your mini tutorial. By the way my Twitter ID is @garypool 😎

  47. F- rand Fishkin – he is self-centered

  48. Nice article. I must admit that I haven’t fully embraced the whole Twitter thing yet, but I have just tried using TweetDeck having read this and it makes the whole experience much nicer. I don’t find the web-based Twitter.com interface very good.

  49. twitter is full of spammers, right. people like rand fishkin are using it for smo-puporses. so don´t expect their posts to be decent, valuable or important in any meaning

  50. Andre, Spammers are everywhere and internet is full of them. We always have to take security measures to save ourselves. I think twitter is the best tool to communicate and to keep your connection with this world live.At least we just can type and send a tweet someone with whom we can’t talk all our life.

  51. I have found the tool to be the best overall. There is no inherent value in following X people on Twitter – that number means nothing without engage men. I follow a lot more people than he does but I don’t have it set up on a separate monitor or use a tool like tweet deck so I’m always forgetting to check it.


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