The Art of the Unfollow

Woman Holding Up Her HandEven though I know better than to wonder why my follower count is what it is, and I’ve come to let it rise and fall on its own accord, I couldn’t help but be a bit irked by its vacillation between 699 and 700 multiple times over the course of just one afternoon. Was it something I tweeted? Something I hadn’t tweeted? In the end who knows and who cares. That said, it’s still fairly annoying, especially to someone who dislikes odd numbers.

My own ridiculousness aside (yes, Cog, I did read and do recall your post about Twitter 101 and getting over the importance of the follower count. And, yes, I do agree that Mack Collier’s recent post ‘The Fast Food Approach to Social Media’ said all that needs to be said about counting your followers) there must be an art to the unfollow. I’ve done it on occasion, mostly to correct what I consider to be an error or my early days – following celebs. I’m not talking one or two, I’m talking dozens. Now that I’ve defined the role that Twitter plays in my personal and professional lives, I realize that their content isn’t important to me. And, if I really want it, I don’t need to follow to get it.

My personal rant aside, I think there are legitimate circumstances for choosing to unfollow someone. And so, I present to you, my top five reasons to unfollow a tweep:

  • Unveiled sales pitch, party of one: If every tweet is sponsored and/or highly promotional, it is bound to get a bit annoying. Nobody likes an unending sales pitch – in person or online — plain and simple.
  • Auto DMs: I realize that this is an inherently controversial topic, but I (personally) cannot stand the auto DM. It seems impersonal and goes against the idea of community and relationship building. (Not to mention how much CTMichaels loves the Auto DM).      If you are drowning in a sea of auto DMs, feel free to unfollow at will.
  • Do(n’t) do the robot: I fully understand the purpose of feed oriented platforms in supplying Twitter content. What I don’t understand, is why individuals choose to rely on them as their sole source of content. Mix it up. Add an @ reply or a link to an interesting article. Heck, toss an appropriate personal tweet into the mix for a change of pace. If you are a robot or automaton, it’s likely that people will tire of your contributions to the twitterverse and maybe even unfollow.
  • Everything is private, shhhh: Yes, there are times when a conversation should be taken to a DM. When one can’t publicly comment on a topic that a tweep has posed or a dialogue is getting lengthy. But these are isolated circumstances – i.e. every tweet that asks for feedback shouldn’t be answered in a DM. It negates the purpose of engaging in an open forum and deprives you of the opportunity to engage with new tweeps and expand your network. This may warrant the mighty unfollow, but I think it best to approach the tweep beforehand to see if you can work things out in a more effective way.
  • Meet bragsaurus rex: I consider self promotion to be a necessary evil and am fine with it in moderation. Excessive bragging and self promotion doesn’t make people want to approach you and engage in dialogue. It makes them hesitant to engage. As I’ve said before, you need to be a source and a resource, and sometimes, that means dialing down the self promotion a notch. If you’re overwhelmed by the volume of some tweeps self promotion and their content isn’t relevant to you, it may be time to unfollow.

While I am sure my criteria for administering an unfollow will stir a bit of controversy, and possibly cost me a few followers, I’m fine with that. Because at the end of the day it’s not about the size of the audience/community, it’s about engaging with the right people.

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  • Great post Danielle. I totally agree. There is just some Twitter etiquette some people need to learn. Auto DM is everyone's enemy!! Thank goodness I learned to take mine off after I accidentally started sending them out. If the conversation is private then it should be taken from Twitter and into an email that way there are no restrictions. Also if one is going to promote themselves, it's always best to promote others as well (twice as much). I recently prevented a future unfollow when I received a tweet basically having someone demand me follow them, something else I think people need to realize may not always happen.

  • beccameyers

    I also unfollow when:

    People constantly have full on conversations with someone else. Don't understand why they can't take it to DM, text, BBM, email… no one wants to see that.

    I give a full effort to engage someone and enough is enough when I repeatedly get ignored and nothing back from them. I don't mean like stalking a celeb, but just someone I found interesting for a while, but really has no purpose for me to follow otherwise.

  • stephmajercik

    Great post Danielle!
    I too have unfollowed a few people, for your above mentioned reasons. I usually give people a bit of a chance to redeem themselves. But if after awhile I'm seeing the same old stuff I'm inclined to unfollow.

  • I know it can be too much for some to handle, but using separate twitter accounts for personal and business tweeting is neater and polite to the Twitter community. I believe this point was touched on before. Be mindful of who is reading your tweets. As you said, somethings are better left for other forms of communication.

  • This is so timely for me! I just unfollowed a couple people last night. I completely agree with your stance. It's a big turnoff to get sales pitches and auto DMs.

    I chose to unfollow some people last night who I continuously tried to reach out to and connect with who didn't seem interested in me. It's disheartening to try to create a connection with people who don't care.

    I think this is a great reminder to be mindful of who you are talking to and make sure your connections are genuine. It is an ongoing process and no one can be perfect, but it is SO important to try. Otherwise, you'll lose people in the process.

  • traceyjefferies

    A good comments. The one thing guaranteed to make me 'unfollow' is swearing. I'm not a prude but the written word seems to carry so much more clout and I find it offensive to read tweets which include the 'really' naughty words beginning with F or C. We have a beautiful and varied language, use it!