Here’s how annoying that limit is: That post is now my second most-read post, with more than 19,000 views. Day after day, nearly a hundred people come to my post, invariably from Google, looking for help with Twitter’s follower limit (97 came on Thursday, 83 on Friday).
Twitter allows anyone to follow up to 2,000 other accounts (although you can’t follow more than 1,000 in a day). I think it’s good for Twitter to have some measures to curb excessive following. It limits what spammers can do. But it’s ridiculous that Twitter hasn’t developed a way for an account to prove it’s legitimate and then continue adding followers.
The limit is not a problem for me. If you have more followers than the number you follow, you’re fine. I have more than five times as many followers as I follow, so I have well over 2,000 followers and have never hit the limit. (I’m trying to trim my follower list, just to lighten my timeline; please don’t take it personally if I drop you).
But for many journalists, trying to follow people in their communities, most of them will follow you back, but some won’t, and at some point you can end up following more accounts than follow you. Once you hit 2,000, the number of accounts you can follow is limited by a secret formula. Here’s how Twitter explains it: “This number is different for each account and is based on your ratio of followers to following; this ratio is not published.”
I touched base with some of the journalists who called the problem to my attention last year, and a couple reported they are managing to follow new people by culling the herd of those that aren’t as useful. One still hits the limit occasionally, the other hasn’t had a problem for a while. But it’s absolutely ridiculous that working journalists seeking to use Twitter effectively have to deal with this foolish limit. (I won’t repeat my tips here, but last year’s post had tips for using Twitter effectively in spite of the limit.)
Twitter has been quite successful with lousy customer service. I don’t expect them to change. I invited comment from some Twitter staffers I know and will add the comments if they respond.) The latest figure I’ve seen for active users is 241 million, so the thousands of people who’ve found my post in frustration are not even one-hundredth of 1 percent of Twitter’s total active users. The company probably sees this as a minuscule problem, so I expect people to continue visiting last year’s post.
But here’s my question: Why would a product limit its use by people who find it useful?