The Art of the Unfollow


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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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