Guy Kawasaki, I’ll Say It

I just saw this post from a week ago by Andrew Goodman on Traffick asking “Is Guy Kawasaki Singlehandedly Ruining Twitter?“. Some context: Guy Kawasaki gave a keynote at the New York Search Engine Strategies conference last week in which he discussed the tactics he uses to “use Twitter as a twool“.

Of course, what galls me, at least if Goodman is reporting his speech accurately, is this:

he castigates people who don’t follow everyone back because they’re arrogant. By not “reciprocating,” non-followers are showing they “don’t care about their followers.”

Well, Kawasaki follows over 100,000 users, so he practices what he preaches. But, as Goodman points out:

The thing about Kawasaki’s follow-back habit is: it’s fake reciprocity. He isn’t actually following. Following everyone back is like the old idea of exchanging links with everyone and anyone, in the hopes of gaming Google. You don’t actually have any hope of really following 100,000 people, so instead, you hide behind TweetDeck and other apps. As Kawasaki points out, he does read all @replies and Direct Messages. But don’t believe that the “purpose of following everyone back is so people can direct message me.” The purpose is to get people used to the idea that a follow should be reciprocated with a follow. That way, folks who go out and follow 200,000 people have a greater chance of being followed by, say, 160,000.

Can you say “attention Ponzi scheme“? I sure can. I may have criticized A-list blogger Loic Le Meur in the past for suggesting that follower count implies authority, but at least he doesn’t play this fake reciprocity game–the 500 people he follows may a bit more than Dunbar recommends, but are at least within the bounds of plausbility.

According to Goodman, Kawasaki kept trying to ingratiate himself by saying “well someone out there is going to say I’m a dick for saying this, but…”. Well, Guy, I’ll be the blowhard and say it, you’re being a dick. Every Ponzi scheme has its winners, and you’ve clearly cashed in on this one. I don’t begrudge you the attention you’ve accumulated. But please have the decency not to give advice that, as Goodman puts it, would turn Twitter into a “digital trailer park”.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

17 replies on “Guy Kawasaki, I’ll Say It”

I suspect that large number of “friends” + high ratio of friends to followers is a pretty good filter for spamminess. But someone like Kawasaki has a large number friends and a roughly even ratio of friends to followers. He may be engaging in fake reciprocity, but I wouldn’t put him in the same spamminess category.


What I meant is that others expect me to auto-follow them, but they are more interested in my attention than I am in whatever they want me to look at. They’re almost like ads. Many of these people have no similar interests to me and I wonder why, out of the millions on twitter, they chose to follow me…


I blogged about the difference between Twitter and LinkedIn several months ago, arguing that there’s no incentive for an individual to reject a spammy LinkedIn connection request. I still feel that way, and I think it’s a problem for LinkedIn. In fact, I’ve told folks at LinkedIn as much, on several occasions. I’m curious if they’ll ever do something about it.

In contrast, there is a cost to actually following someone on Twitter–that is, if you actually follow the people you follow. If not, then Twitter’s social graph degenerates into dense meaninglessness. At least on LinkedIn, spammy links help you find people that would otherwise be outside your visible network. On Twitter, they just signal to the world that you follow anything that moves.


Re LinkedIn and rejections – I think there is cost. Not in attention, but potential cost in quality when accepting invitations from unknown people. I’ve even told friends who used LinkedIn to find me on Facebook instead of using LinkedIn.

Is TunkRank a little flawed when it puts guykawasaki in the 100th percentile? Clearly, he is not following *any* of the people he supposedly follows. Should TunkRank algo not punish that?


TunkRank doesn’t even look at whom you’re following–it only looks at the people who follow you. That said, it’s reasonable to ask if people only follow him in the hope of reciprocity.

According to TunkRank, the answer seems to be no. He has 100K followers and a raw TunkRank score of 2K–about 0.02 * # of followers. That’s not bad. They’re not as attentive as Barack Obama’s followers (723K followers, raw TunkRank score of 23.3K), but they’re more attentive than TechCrunch’s (352K followers, raw TunkRank score of 2.4K).

Asymmetry is a funny thing–clearly a lot of people do pay attention to Kawasaki, even if he only pretends to reciprocate. Of course, they gain almost nothing from his reciprocation, at least in terms of TunkRank.


In regards to the comment that suggests larger number of followers means less spamminess? I would disagree. It is fairly easy to get about 2,000 followers by gaming the system in order to get followers.

The spam problem is only going to get worse in some cases because of the hype involving Twitter search. … Though that may end up being an incentive to stop with the attempts to get other follows that are meaningless. If you can dump 5,000 keyword searches to urls on Twitter? And Twitter search drives traffic? Then why do the gaming traffic route via followers when you can do search? And I’m digressing.

I agree with the idea of filtering. I can’t get meaning. The voices who keep saying follow everyone, everyone! make the experience less pleasant to use. There is a weird social vibe that encourages casual users to participate less in that case. Not everyone wants or can handle that many followers. When dealing with that sort of unwanted additional stress, abandoning the tool is one of the better option for the user. That option doesn’t bode well for Twitter.


Laura, that’s a fair point, and I should clarify. While I clearly don’t like what Kawasaki is doing, I don’t think he’s a spammer, and measures like TunkRank (particularly the ratio of his raw TunkRank score to his follower count) reinforce my intuition that people actually pay attention to him, rather than just following him for the reciprocity.

But I think we agree on the main point: those who follow everyone, follow no one. And I suspect you arrived here recently because of my comment on the RWW post, where I rejected the claim that Twitter staff were being untwittery by not following hundreds or thousands of users.

Also, I agree with you that the increasing use of Twitter search may move the spam problem around a bit. It will be interesting to watch that play out.


I use Twitter the same way that it was described in that article that Twitter’s employees use Twitter. For my personal account. If you follow 3,000 people, I’m not going to follow you back because my base guess is that you are never going to read my tweets and the chances of you replying to them when I have not @ replied to you are slim. (I’ve found a few exceptions. where our interests overlap and they seem to reply.) Thus, I follow 286 and am followed by 444. I just don’t like the scorn from people who suggest that we should follow everyone, spammers included. Let me use a tool like I want to.

I would disagree regarding Guy Kawasaki being a spammer. But that comes down to my needs and what I want when I follow some one. He doesn’t engage large number of people. He has very few tweets that don’t contain links. Most of the links are back to his own site. He autofollows. For me? That’s a spammer. Or at least, his tweets are spam where I’m concerned. It is why I don’t follow him. So much of the definition of spam comes down to what you’re looking for.


Laura, you’re preaching to the converted–if you read the “similar posts” at the top right of this page, you’ll see that I advocate–and follow–a similar approach. I maintain a cap of 100 people that I follow, regardless of how many people choose to follow me.

I think we’re quibbling over what constitutes spam. Like you, I take no interest in Kawasaki’s tweets. But clearly many people do. I think he serves a need for the people who follow him, even if his following them back is a sham. But I make a subtle distinction between sham and spam. 🙂


I agree with not following everyone just for the sake of it. Laura makes a valid point that some people have thousands of followers that they never read or actively engage with. In this instance, surely it is better to aim for quality over quantity and the be read by fewer followers, rather than ignored by many?


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