Funny things happened when I stopped following people on Twitter

I recently hit the milestone… following 2000 accounts on the Twitter. Little did I know, but there is some algorithm that doesn’t let you follow any more than that if you don’t have enough followers yourself. So, if I found someone really cool that I wanted follow, I had to unfollow someone else first. That wasn’t too big of a deal, because there were people I followed early in my Twitter-hood that I didn’t necessarily want (or need) to follow any more.

So, for a few weeks I would unfollow people one at a time as I wanted to follow others.  That was annoying.  Last night I decided I would go through all of the people I follow and figure out who I could unfollow, all at once. This way, I could easily and quickly follow new accounts as they came across my consciousness. As I combed through my previous follows, I noticed a few things happening.

First, I became very aware that there were A LOT of accounts that I didn’t need to be following anymore. Some were inactive, some had no tweets, and others were just of no use to me.  I also saw that I was still following defunct accounts of people who now had a new active account that I was following, too. Jeepers.

Second, a criterion developed for whether or not I would continue to follow them. This is not scientific nor algorithmic, but it makes sense to me. Here is the hierarchy that organically made it’s presence felt.

  • Did I know the person? Above all else, this was the MAIN reason I continued to follow people. If I knew them in real life, I continued to follow.
  • Do I recognize the picture? Branding experts will love this one, because a large part of my decision to continue to follow was based on whether or not their picture was familiar to me. Even if I didn’t know the person personally, recognition of their face meant I had seen their tweets, and if I hadn’t unfollowed them because of their content, I would continue to follow them now.
  • Were they following me? Okay, it’s a little about me… :o) but this is supposed to be about relationships, which are two-way. I guess I just wanted to know that there was mutual investment in the relationship.  Now, if it’s a large company I like, for example ProMark drumsticks, I do not expect a follow. But, Johnny Appleseed musician/writer/speaker/biker, etc., if you can’t engage with me (beyond your auto-reply message – which will cause me to unfollow anyway), I’m not sure I have much use for you.
  • Do I like their description? If I don’t know them, don’t recognize them, and they don’t follow me, BUT I find their description funny, insightful, or unique, I continued with the follow. Benefit of the doubt and all that. If I read about one more social media expert who is a coffee addict, I think my head will explode.
  • Have they provided value? Even if they are following me, I unfollowed some people for being too much about themselves and pushing their product. I admit that at times I have probably used social media more like blast advertising, but I am working on that. Even when I send something out, the intent is that someone will find value in it beyond an offer or sale. I do appreciate the follow from people like this, but I do not follow back just because you follow me. Twitter has made it known that these spots are very valuable.
  • Do I want to connect with them? Is there something they offer that I want? Content I care about, ice cube recipes or a chance to connect with a possible client… I will continue to follow them. You can learn an awful lot about a company through their social media channels, and sometimes that leads to an opportunity to work together.
  • Are they a real person? As opposed to a group, a company, an association, a consortium, etc., I will give the benefit of the doubt (and a follow) to real people over a “brand”.  AND, I place a high value on people having pictures of themselves in the profile pic, not a company logo or cartoon.

The grand benefit to this exercise is that now as I look through my timeline, I find myself not scrolling past so many tweets that are meaningless to me. I am following less people, but am finding greater value in the people that I still follow.  Quality over quantity.

So there you have it. These rules are by no means hard and fast, they are not definitive, and they are not essential to your success on the Twitter. This is simply what I noticed about the evolution of a communication tool and how I use it.

How you use it is up to you… and that’s the beauty of it.

So how do you use Twitter, or any social media channel, for that matter?  Has your use of the technology changed over time?

Thanks for reading!





About the author: Matt has been on Twitter since January 2010.  He generally tweets about customer service, employee engagement, and leadership, but has also tweeted about being a drummer and a Seinfeld aficionado.  His tweets are his own and he does not drink coffee.

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