When I was cleaning up my Twitter account recently, I clicked on an analytics button I hadn’t used before. It showed me the number of people who recently unfollowed me.
What I saw made me gasp:
First, let’s state the obvious. No, I’m not going to tweet that.
Second, let’s put this situation in perspective.
I currently have about 60,000 followers on Twitter. To the best of my knowledge, all of them are real people. They found and stuck with me over the last four years. This graphic implies that in just a few months nearly 100,000 people found and dropped me.
My initial reaction was, “Whoa. Do I really suck that badly?”
The unfollow phenomenon
No, I am not that sucky, and neither are you.
No one could possibly suck at Twitter so badly that 100,000 people followed and then dropped him moments later. Even Guy Kawasaki has kept people around his account while tweeting about socks and the sex life of plants.
So, what is going on here?
There are a lot of people out there who game the system or try to look cool by getting a lot of people to follow them while they follow few in return. They try to look like a celebrity who is so in demand they can’t keep up with their fans.
Perhaps this pumps up a fragile ego, or makes them look cool for job interviews or something. They may even employ automated programs to help them accomplish this.
It’s rude and stupid, but apparently, judging by the number I showed above, there are a ton of people trying to lure me into their ego traps.
I’ve had a couple people ask me about this phenomenon, thinking they were doing something wrong because so many people unfollow them so quickly.
You’re not doing anything wrong. It’s probably just spammers or people trying to look like big shots.
But, of course, there is the possibility that you are legitimately losing followers, so let’s look at that, too.
The agony of delete
Maybe, just maybe, you stink at Twitter.
To find out, I asked my wonderful and legitimate Twitter followers to tell me why they unfollow people. I received many great responses, and they fell into a few distinct categories.
Here is a representative sample of the responses (I edited slightly for punctuation and grammar):
- “I may follow people for a specific event and unfollow them after the event ends when their posts aren’t as valuable to me anymore.” – Kevin Manne
- “My ‘Twitter Why’ has changed over the years (yes, years). As ideas grow stale and overshared, I weed out the sources. – Kelli Schmith
- “Five to 10 posts in succession is too much when you only post for 10 minutes a day.” – Brenda McDonald
- “My main reason for unfollowing is when someone posts endless sales pitches.” – Lois Martin
- “I unfollow when someone repeats the same handful of tweets over and over and over.” – Joe Kelly
- “I always unfollow people who use TRUETWIT validation. They are lazy for not checking people out themselves. – Gina Schreck
- “My main reason is if someone complains too much or disappears for months at a time.” – Allison Stoodley
- “I unfollow anyone too transparently promotional-even if the content is not that bad.” – Lori Wizdo
- “I usually unfollow if someone’s stream is nothing but retweets of the same articles everyone else is sharing.” – Ben Johnston
- “Two reasons: dormant account for 90-120 days, or unacceptable posts (racists, vulgar, etc.)” – Marv Dorner
- “I unfollow people if they have shown no interest in interacting with me-if it’s obvious I’m just a number.” – Jeff Machado
We can sum these up in a few “maxims for Twitter non-suckiness”:
1. Take control of your tribe and find/follow real people who will interact with you. It’s OK to give everybody a chance, but you don’t have to follow spammy, rude people forever. Create your own experience.
2. Be kind and helpful. If you get into an argument, take it offline.
3. Share diverse, interesting content and try your best to space the tweets. Actually, research shows an hour apart works pretty well.
4. Retweet now and then, but add original content, too.
5. Focus on building relationships and making friends instead of selling your wares. It’s OK to find business benefits through Twitter, but business comes through relationships. Trust me, this really works.
In retrospect, I need to fine tune my Twitter presence, too. My Twitter tribe has taught me something through this little exercise. I’m sure most of the 100,000 people who unfollowed me were not sincere, but some of them were, and I could do a better job to respect my Twitter audience.
I end this post with an awesome quote from Twitter friend Timm McVaigh: “Twitter is a numbers game wrapped in a relationship.”
I kind of like that.