Recently, my coworker Taylor asked me how I decide whether or not to follow someone back on Twitter. While this process might seem simple, for many,  it can be a confusing process. While everyone’s different, here are the steps I use to determine whether or not I want to spend quality time with someone in the Twitterverse:

1. Check the picture: It’s true, they’re worth a thousand words. If someone has the default Twitter avatar picture of the egg, beware. It’s possible  they’re new to the service, but at the same time, it takes approximately ten seconds to upload a photo. If they do have a photo, ask yourself if it looks like a real person, or a model. Unbelievably pretty people or the scantily clad are usually good tip-offs that they’re spam bots.

2. Check the bio: Is their bio devoted entirely to telling you how you can make money fast working from home, or does it actually talk about their job, their family, their hobbies, or something else remotely of interest? Did they even bother to take the time to fill out the 160 character bio? If they’re too lazy to do that, they’re probably too lazy to tweet anything of interest.

3. Check their location: Twitter is wonderful because it’s a global community, but at the same time, if someone is always tweeting about restaurants or events in St. Louis, it’s not of much use to me here in Indy. So I do discriminate based on location: being from Indiana significantly increases your chances of getting a followback from me. That’s not to say that I don’t follow people from Australia, England, Hong Kong, and all over the US, but keeping it local helps me keep Twitter manageable.

4. Check their stream: This is, undoubtedly, the most important step. There are many people with real pictures, real bios, and in my geographical location who just don’t interest me. Maybe they only broadcast messages without ever interacting with anyone. Maybe they only tweet about something that I’m just not interested in, like sports or inspirational quotes. Whatever the case, I can usually tell within 5-10 tweets if it’s a good match or not.

The most important thing is to never feel obligated to follow someone just because they followed you. You’ll wind up cluttering your stream with items that don’t interest you, and just being generally irritating.

How about you? How do you decide who to follow?