Barriers to Tribe Building

Here are some simple ways to get past the limit, and still build a real tribe without gimmicks or spamming.

The Problem

As you may have learned, Twitter likes your following to follower ratio stay at 1:1 or lower. We all want to be that guy like Seth Godin with a 0:310,000 ratio, but hey – you have to start somewhere right? Twitter will pretty much let you go crazy following folks until you hit the magic 2000 limit. At the 2000 mark you start getting the message “You are unable to follow more people. Please read about our follow limits.” 


The Solution

The solution is simple; get more people to follow you. But how?

You can do it in Twitter using Twitter’s tools, but it is very labor intensive, so I use one third party tool called “” This one tool is all you need to get past Twitter’s glass ceiling in a few short weeks.

Step 1

Sign in to with your Twitter account. This website will quickly create a database of all your followers and everyone you follow. You can then easily sort your followers and see some very interesting details.

On the left side of the screen are the various ways you can analyze your own data. The one I find most useful when trying to grow my list and stay within the ratio limit is the “People who don’t follow back” option.

Once you have clicked the “People who don’t follow back” button, and the site has searched your data, you can sort it anyway you like. Here I use the “Follow order” – “Ascending” combination.

UnfollowersScreenShotCredit: BenNelson

What this does is list everyone that you follow who does not follow you back starting with the very first person you followed.

Starting with the top, scroll down the list and “unfollow” anyone you don’t know and who has not followed you. Now if you are like me, there are some folks you are following because you care about their content and want to continue following them, even if they never get to know you and won’t ever follow you. These folks will end up on the top of this listing, as you begin to eliminate the people you are following with whom you don’t have a connection.

You can eliminate 200 of these people per day with the free version. That will give you plenty of room to follow others. If you follow too many people too quickly Twitter assumes you are just spamming, and may cut you off. 

Step 2

Once you have dropped away from that ceiling you can go back to following new people, but what you really want is tribe members. The next step is to connect with people who will actually care about what you have to share.

I do not recommend simply following randomly. Your numbers will increase, but in reality, they will not be meaningful numbers. Followers who don’t care about what you have to say, are not really tribe members, they are just numbers.

If you are like me, it is not a numbers game. You are trying to add value, to influence, and to connect with real people who will care about what you have to offer.

There are a number of ways to connect with people who want to hear what you have to say. You can go to the people who are famous in your tribe, and see who they follow, and who is following them. You can go to the people who are already following you, and look at their profiles and their connections. 


The most successful method I have found is using lists. It took me a long time to discover lists. Twitter users have the ability to create lists of people. Many folks create lists of people in categories. Here is how I use these lists to find tribe members.

Go to the profile of someone you respect in your niche. By default, Twitter will show you lists to which this person is subscribed. This can be helpful, but the real gold is in lists that include this influencer. You have to click the “Members of” link to find these lists. You can even check your own profile. I was surprised to find myself on a number of lists even before I knew there was such a thing.

Credit: Ben Nelson

Scan through these lists and see if there is something specifically related to your tribe. For example, I write and tweet about Christianity, so I was looking for lists like “Christian Tweeters” or “Christian writers” or the like. Select a list and click on “List members” and start following these folks.

The stats say that approximately 60% of the folks you follow will follow back. This may vary depending on your niche.

Now you are connecting with folks that care about what you care about. You will find that you will enjoy what they are sharing, and many of them will connect with your message.

Step 3

Engage! This should be obvious, but it’s not. Following the steps above, it’s pretty easy to get followers, but in order to keep people connected you must interact with them. Jesus said it best when He said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and that goes for Twitter as much as it does in any other relationship.

Why do you want to connect with folks? It’s to get your message to as many people as possible, right? Well, that is why they are there too. So here are a couple of ideas that have made twitter a great place for me to play, and they will help you too.

1) Don’t make it all about you. If every tweet is a link to you, people will loose interest in you the same way that if you stand in a group at a party and talk about yourself, you will soon be standing alone.

2) Be generous. If someone says something that supports your tribe, “Retweet” it, and reply to it. Talk to someone!

3) When you are following someone, make a remark about his or her profile, especially if it has a direct link to your tribe. This is huge! It totally affirms your new friend, and says, “Hey, we have something in common.”

4) Beware of total automation. You can use tools like “Buffer” or “Hoot Suite” and I do, but if you over automate, people will know you are not actually interacting. You will loose followers over time.

If you will follow these three steps, in short order you will see your tribe emerge. There are tons of tools out there that can help enhance your twitter experience, but these practices will keep you connected to real people who care.