Using auto following tools and applications on Twitter carries major advantages and disadvantages.
Auto following literally means automatic following. In its simplest sense, it refers to the controversial practice of automatically following back everyone who follows you on Twitter.
Auto following also refers to various methods and tools used for following large numbers of people on Twitter automatically, with the hope that a certain percentage will follow you back and boost the size of your following.
Pros of Auto following on Twitter
The biggest advantage of auto following is convenience -- auto following tools save time and effort on your part. They make it easier to expand your following on Twitter without having to do as much manual clicking.
It's considered polite to follow back many, if not most, of the people who follow you on Twitter, which is known as reciprocal following. But it can be very time consuming to weed through all your new followers to manually click the "follow" button on a regular basis. Using an auto follow-back tool speeds up that process by making it happen automatically.
Using other automation tools to help identify new people to follow on Twitter also can be a time-saver. Many of the tools automatically select other Twitterers based on certain keywords which they tweet about. After you provide the keywords that interest you, these tools crawl through Twitter lists and sent tweets, analyzing them in order to provide you with a list of potential candidates to follow. Some will even automatically follow the people they find who potentially match your interests on your behalf.
Cons of Auto Following on Twitter
But there are many disadvantages to using auto following and other Twitter automation tools, and more often than not, the cons outweigh the pros.
One big disadvantage is that using auto following tools makes you a target for spammers, who are constantly trolling for new customers to market to on Twitter. They like to follow anyone who has agreed to follow back their followers, because doing so can quickly boost their number of followers. The result could clutter your Twitter stream or timeline with a ton of annoying, spammy marketing tweets.
Another downside is that using auto following tools may cause some of your Twitter followers to view you as a spammer or someone whose main interest is in marketing and amassing a lot of follower, rather than as an interesting person worth following. It could cause a lot of people to stop following or "unfollow" you.
Your Twitter Account Could Be Suspended
But by far the biggest downside is the risk that you could run afoul of Twitter's official rules, which forbid the use of aggressive auto following.
Twitter does permit you to automatically follow back anyone who follows you, so some basic autofollow tools are acceptable and won't get you in hot water on Twitter. The service publishes pages outlining its following rules and its automation rules in some detail.
But other auto following tools are more problematic. Twitter explicitly forbids the use of auto follow tools that work by automatically following large numbers (hundreds) of people quickly (in a single day, for example). If your Twitter account engages in such behavior, Twitter could suspend it -- and has been known to do so.
If you fork over your account username and password to an auto follow service, you may not even be fully aware of how frequently it is following other users or whether all of those people are actually following you. So if you do opt to use a controversial autofollow service, just be sure you do a lot of research into its methodology to make sure it is not doing things that violate Twitter's rules.
Auto Following Tools Can Degrade the Twitter Experience
Why would Twitter suspend anyone for using time-saving tools? The reason is that as Twitter has grown and become a major platform for marketing, many third-party automation tools are becoming more and more about spam and less and less about improving the Twitter experience. There's a fine line between genuine communication that tells people things they might want to know and unwanted, intrusive commercial messages that annoy people.
Twitter's rules are designed to enhance the user experience for everyone on the micro-blogging platform. It is philosophically opposed to the heavy use of automation on the theory that it undermines genuine conversation on Twitter to have software "bots" controlling Twitter accounts and doing such things as writing tweets and making random follower connections.
So as a rule, the cons of using auto following tools outweigh the pros.