I’ve got around 2200 followers on Twitter. I also have a followback policy, though not a 100% policy, which puts my “following” total in the 2400s. My policy is that I will follow back anyone who is not obviously a bot or a troll. Bots tend to not have many tweets, and the ones they have often don’t make sense. Trolls have more tweets, but either tweet nasty stuff (my discretion, of course, and I don’t pretend that I don’t have biases about such things) or are just trying to sell followers.
Now I’ll admit that a large part of why I follow people back is that it tends to breed followers; people are more likely to follow you if you’re likely to follow them back. For those of us who are not famous outside of Twitter, this is a cool thing because it’s a way to start building an audience. (The downside is that I’m pretty sure that a vast majority of my followers don’t actually read anything I tweet. Their loss.)
And it would be impossible to read everything that all 2400 of my followings tweet, either. My strategy for this is to set up Lists of those I really want to follow and just read the Lists. I keep track of about 300 people that way, which is much more reasonable in terms of time spent per day.
Followbacks are practical when one has a couple of thousand followers. But I follow some people who tally in the millions, and I think it would be ludicrous to expect them to follow me back. Simply put, not everyone uses Twitter the way I do (as I’ve said before, I’m in it for the conversations), and expecting William Shatner (for example) to use Twitter the same way I do is silly. He’s using it to keep his fans informed of his schedule, and he throws a few other fun tidbits out there which are entertaining. He even converses with some of his fans on occasion (though not enough to warrant following them), and he even has friends that he picks on (good-naturedly, of course). And that’s all assuming that he doesn’t have people doing it for him (not an accusation, but it’s not like he would be the only one doing it).
So it annoys me when I see people (trolls, if you ask me) trying lamely to hit up those power tweeters for a followback. For one, it’s pretty obvious by looking at their following number that they’re not going to follow you, so asking is meaningless. You’re just mooching, no different than if you were standing on a street corner in LA wiping off their windshields and holding out your hand for a buck or two. Also, if they chose to follow back two million people, they could never pay any attention to them individually. So you’re still gaining nothing more than a lame claim that “X is following me.”
My suggestion: try to make them laugh. It’s a lot more fun for you and for them, and while it still may not get you the follow, you’re much less likely to get blocked for trolling*.
*Unless you really are a troll. But that will become obvious pretty quickly.