Why are/aren’t we following you on Twitter?

Who do we follow on Twitter? Here's why we follow people and why we don't.
iPhone with Twitter on a desk
Copyright: rvlsoft / 123RF Stock Photo

We’ve had some queries about why we follow who we do on Twitter, as we follow quite a few people. We also occasionally get asked by some people why we’re not following them. So here’s some explanation.

There a couple of reasons why we follow people on Twitter. One is to keep track of the zeitgeist. We track what is getting shared on Twitter to see what matters in botany. When n people share the same paper or news item a scanner sends a ping to us. That way we don’t have to be awake if a story catches some people’s eye when we’re asleep. Making that sample as bigger rather than smaller means that a small interest group isn’t going to skew what we find.

Who we follow

People who tweet links to news stories with some botany interest, or links to plant science papers. First though, we have to know that these people exist. The way we tend to find these people is they follow us. If we get a notification abc123 is following you, then we’ll look to see what abc123 is interested in, and if we see some botany links near the top of the profile we’ll follow them.

Another way to catch our attention is to retweet something we’ve posted. It doesn’t have to be one of our tweets. It could be something we’ve retweeted. That’s a little less likely to catch our attention, but it happens.

Who we don’t follow

People whose tweets are mainly politics. We actually think it’s a good thing for scientists to be politically engaged, so socially tweeting politics is good. However, Twitter is a tool for botany for us, so filling the scanner with political tweets is just going to make finding the botany more difficult.

If you have a new account, maybe just a name and a tweet saying “Hello World!”, then we won’t follow you because we don’t know who you are. There are a fair number of bots that follow people in the hope of getting an automatic follow back. We’d like to think we’re following humans.

Another kind of account we don’t follow from @botanyone is an account that mainly tweets photos of plants someone has seen. Again, that’s not supplying links into the system. On the other hand, we would follow an account like that on Instagram, where we have the handle @botany_too. If you think we should be following your Instagram account, then leave a comment below – or on one of our images on Instagram.

Finally, we tend not to follow gardening accounts. We like gardening and think more gardeners would be good thing – but gardening tends to be quite local interest. For example, I have a friend in Arizona who is interested in xeriscaping, to avoid using additional irrigation. In a Welsh garden often the problem is an excess of water instead of a lack. We probably don’t have much in common in the garden. However, a lot of gardeners have an interest in plants beyond their own patch, so being a gardener doesn’t you out from our follow list. It just doesn’t automatically put you on it either.

If you’re not followed, please don’t take it personally. @botanyone doesn’t follow either of my personal accounts because I’m far more likely to tweet about Formula E, or Welsh politics than botany on them.

What do we do with these links?

Not as much as we should. When I’m not busy and paying attention to the windows in the background, I’ll retweet things that are becoming popular. I’ll try to find the original tweeter to retweet when I see that.

We also compile the most popular links into our weekly email, The Week in Botany. On a Monday morning, I send out what we’ve posted to Botany One, the most popular news links, and paper links in an email. If you’ve seen an alert about an email list on the site, that’s what it’s about. Somewhere on my to-do list is find a way of getting breaking twitter news on to the site in a timely way. That’s not a small task.

The second reason is that by choosing the people we do, if I’m having a lousy day then I don’t have to look far in the @botanyone stream before I find someone who’s doing something interesting.

There are many ways of using Twitter. If we’re not following you, it’s not that we think you’re using Twitter the wrong way, just that we’re using it in a different way to you. Of course if you think we’re using Twitter the wrong way, you’re welcome to leave a comment below or tweet us.


Also published on Medium.