Do you follow many people or few? This is the most essential question and most disputed aspect of Twitter, although it is also a huge part of other networks as well. I’ve been thinking about it alot the past month and the answer is both depending on how you want to use the service. You can go small and extract alot of data and make deeper relationships or you can go big and funnel your relationships though they would be diluted.
Why go Small?
The main reason to go small is that you can stay heavily connected and have relevant data flowing constantly with out much noise in the stream. The system was originally designed for keeping track of friends so it makes sense to stay small. There are still problems with only following a few people and the main problem is based on the reciprocal friending that occurs on the service, if you are followed by someone they want you to follow them back. Having only a small group makes it hard to get a large set of advice and responses when you ask a question.
Why go Big?
The main reason to go big is to spur on the reciprocity that I mentioned above that allows you to poll your followers for answers. Also with the reciprocal reaction that gives you lots of followers it allows you to market yourself and your products to them. Another plus that comes with the mass friending is if your able to monitor and track the data that is coming through your stream you can pull out large amounts of focused data.
Now the downside of big is that you can’t build meaningful relationships easily with your friends based off of their tweets. You are opening the door to spammers by (auto-)following everyone back. It makes it harder to use apps because of to much data coming into the API for your user.
My Choice: Small
To me I’d rather have a large group of followers that I could ping off of but only be following a subset of them so that I can have a wealthy stream of information that’s relevant to me. To me I don’t want to have a lot of crap, I want to have valuable wealth inducing assets in my stream. It’s up to you whether you are marketing or there to extract information and build relationships to decide which path you want.
Note this is something that is equally applicable through the broad area of Social Media and it’s up to you. Twitter just takes this single aspect and inflames it in how their service is used making the way you use the service change based on the numbers. One site that has a similar set of changing data based on the numbers of friends & followers is Digg in that you have the ability to shout a story(currently being analysed for removal) to your friends to get dugg up.