Twitter for authors: shotguns or laser beams?

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I've read conflicting advice about Twitter, so I'm asking for help! To me, the two main 'methods' seem to be 'shotgun' versus 'laser beam'.

Some people recommend following as many people as possible, and using apps to automatically follow umpteen people a day. They also automatically unfollow people who don't follow them back. The aim is to develop an enormous list of followers. The theory seems to be to send your message out to as many people as possible - after all, if there's only a small probability that your Tweet will be seen, then the more people you have following you, the more people will see it. Visibility is key.

Laser beam
Others recommend the complete opposite - only follow people that you are really interested in and don't automatically unfollow those who don't follow you back. The aim here is not necessarily to have a list of thousands of followers, but to develop a relationship with your followers. Having built a relationship with your followers, they will be more open to hearing about your new projects and more likely to buy your new book etc.

There seem to be pros and cons to each method. These are the ones that occur to me, but I'm sure there are lots more. Feel free to add them in the comments.

  • your message goes out to thousands
  • since each individual Tweet only ever has a minuscule chance of being seen by people, by having thousands of followers, you increase the chance that the Tweet is seen

  • you may not have chosen who you are following - an app has done it automatically - and so you may not have anything in common with either those you are following or your followers
  • the automation may result in following and unfollowing the same person, over and over (this happened to me and was pretty irritating after I'd been followed/unfollowed for the 5th time)
  • your message may be going to thousands, but do they want to hear it?

Laser beam
  • the people following you are more likely to be interested in what you have to say (depending on what you're saying!) and what you have to sell
  • when you go on Twitter, the Tweets you see are more likely to be interesting to you because you chose to hear what these people are saying

  • the likelihood of any of your Tweets being seen is significantly reduced if your list of followers is small
  • because the Tweets you see are more interesting, 'popping on to Twitter for a few minutes' often turns into being there for hours and a crash in productivity!

I would say that I lean more towards the laser beam approach. I want to be interested when I go on Twitter and so I follow people whose words I want to read. I don't automatically follow back, but I do look at the people who have followed me and see what kind of things they Tweet. However, I do realise that very few of my Tweets are probably being read by anyone!

I'm curious as to the approaches others take - are you more for the numbers or for the relationship? How do you feel your system has helped you (and how do you feel it hasn't?)? Please join in the discussion in the comments?

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