Here’s why 100,000 people unfollowed me on Twitter

why do people unfollow me

The other day, I was cleaning up my Twitter account and clicked on an analytics button that I had not used before. It showed me the number of people who had recently unfollowed me.  What I saw made me gasp.

unfollowed me

First, let’s state the obvious. No. I’m NOT going to tweet that.

Now, let’s put this situation in perspective. I currently have about 60,000 people following me on Twitter, all of them are real people to the best of my knowledge. These people found me and stuck with me over the last four years. This graphic implies that in just a few MONTHS nearly 100,000 people found me and dropped me.

My first reaction was “Whoa. Do I really suck that badly?” And your reaction is: “Yes, you really do.”

I know you don’t I?

The unfollow phenomenon

But of course I am not that sucky and neither are you.  Nobody could possibly suck at Twitter so bad that 100,000 people followed and then dropped them 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 are either gaming the system or just trying to look cool by getting lots of people to follow them while they follow few in return.  They’re trying to look like a celebrity who is so in demand that they cannot keep up with their fans.  Perhaps this pumps up a fragile ego or maybe makes them look cool for a job interview or something. They may even be employing automated programs to help them accomplish this.

It is rude and it is stupid. But apparently by the number I am showing here, there is just one ton of people trying to lure me into their ego trap.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me about this phenomenon, thinking that they were doing something wrong because so many people unfollow them so quickly. You’re not. It’s probably just spammers or people trying to look like a big shot.

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 are sucky at Twitter. So to find out, I asked my legitimate and wonderful Twitter followers to tell me why they unfollow people.  I received so many great responses but they did fall into a few distinct categories. Here is a representative sample of responses (I edited slightly for punctuation and grammar)

unfollowed me 2Kevin Manne I may follow people for a specific event, and unfollow after the event ends when their posts aren’t as valuable to me anymore.

Kelli Schmith My “Twitter Why” has changed over the years (yes, years!). As ideas grow stale and overshared, I weed out the sources.

Brenda McDonald  5-10 posts in succession is too much when they are only posting for 10 minutes per day

Lois Martin My main reason to unfollow is when someone posts endless sales pitches.

Joe Kelly I unfollow when they repeat the same handful of tweets, over and over and over

Gina Schreck I always unfollow someone who is using TRUETWIT validation. I feel they are lazy for not checking people out themselves.

Allison Stoodley main reason is they complain too much, second, they disappear for months at a time.

Lori Wizdo  I unfollow anyone too transparently promotional –even if the content is not that bad.

Ben Johnston  I usually unfollow if their stream is nothing but RT’ing the same articles as everyone else is sharing

Marv Dorner Two reasons… dormant account for 90-120 days, or unacceptable posts (racists, vulgar, etc)

Jeff Machado  I unfollow if they have shown no interest in interacting with me – if it’s obvious I’m just a number.

I think this gets down to 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 and 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 apart. Actually research shows an hour apart works pretty well.

4) Nothing says I love you like a RT now and then but add your own original content too.

5) I think this is most important — It’s OK to find business benefits through Twitter. But business comes through relationships. So focus on building relationships and making friends instead of selling your wares. Trust me. This really works.

And in introspection, I need to fine-tune my Twitter presence, too. The 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 are … and I could be doing a better job to respect my Twitter audience.

I want to end this post with an awesome quote from Twitter friend Timm McVaigh of Sydney wrote: “Twitter is a numbers game wrapped in a relationship.” I kind of like that.

What’s on your mind?

Illustration courtesy Toothpaste for Dinner

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  • Hi Mark, if you didn’t follow them back they are much more likely to unfollow you. So if you want to reduce the number of unfollows I think you probably need to follow more people and follow them quickly so they don’t get a chance to unfollow you!

    The other side of the equation is that if people are only following you if you follow them back well then maybe they are not the type of followers you want anyway! Ian

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  • Great article, I find that I get a bunch of new followers, who then ‘unfollow’ again within hours. I guess they are hoping that just because they follow me, I will automatically follow them (in genuine followers cases, I do).
    Many people see Twitter as simply a game of numbers, it’s those that see the importance of tweet quality, engagement and quality of followers that succeed.

  • That is the danger, there are so many people that simply follow you for a follow back, It’s a fine line, especially if you already have tens of thousands of followers. 🙂

  • MaureenMonte

    What would Honey Boo Boo Do? (My new decision making philosophy on life). 🙂 Would some GoGo Juice help? (Will she be at SoSlam? I would like to meet her.) Seriously, this is why I like to explore a universe before I leap into it. I’m not really a twit yet, though after attending your awesome workshop and soslam, I expect to be better informed and better prepared. I don’t turn heads when I walk down the street. I don’t expect to as a tweeter, either. However, when I’m in front of a crowd, presenting… different story. I could care less about the people on the street. But those who attend my workshops or webinars… well, they are looking for the source of their awesomeness, and in that case, I am all in. Situational engagement… and remember, twitter is only one tool. I doubt that when you race towards the Pearly Gates, God or St Peter or Confucious or Buddha is going to say, “Wait a second! How many followers did you have?” I love that you help us explore the universe so people like me can make better decisions. Thank you.

  • Delightful post, chap. Many thanks! I too find this sort of thing rather frustrating, and try not to take it to heart when chaps unfollow. One thing I do, however, is when I see someone follow me and I suspect they are a cad or a bounder, I put them on a private Twitter list I keep of suspected rotters. Then I check back from time to time and see if they have unfollowed me as soon as I have followed back. I find I am often surprised by the results, either way.

  • If I try and engage with someone and after a couple of times, get nothing back I’ll usually unfollow them. There aren’t many people putting things out there that is SO profound that they’re that special. That just tells me that it’s an ego thing and they’re not it in for the same reason that I am. See you Thursday!

  • My philosophy is this: follow the people you a) want to engage with or b) who have a message you want to hear. The hope for me, is that you will follow me back IF you want to engage with me, or if you are interested in my message. If you don’t follow me back, I would assume you are not interested in my messages or do not want to engage with me at this time. Eventually, I may unfollow you, because what is the point of following you if your not interested in my message, and so we are not having conversations.

    However, I think there are some exceptions to this- I do follow some people who don’t often follow back, or don’t have conversations- and I continue to follow these people because I am learning something from their message, so following them (despite their disinterest in me) is of some benefit to me still. Make sense?

  • Perfect timing as I recently (this past week) have renewed my interest in really making Twitter my go-to social media platform. I am rereading your book now, actually. 🙂 I tend to follow people who I know and want to keep up with as well as influencers I’d like to know better and get on their radar. It can be hard to weed through the clutter that is Twitter, so lists help! My pet peeve is people who are just way too self promotional. I can understand pumping up the posts in advance of an upcoming event or contest, but some people are on overload 24/7.

  • The quote by Timm McVaigh is indeed awesome. Yes, Twitter is a numbers game but best if it adds up to something more than digits. I try to follow ‘real people’ with either similar interests or simply because they may expand my views on issues. However I don’t always follow the major influencers, not because they don’t have interesting information but I can see their blogs via RSS and email while following them on Twitter when they don’t reciprocate is just noise in my stream. The same with news houses, agencies etc.

    It is a constant pruning to have the social platform work best for true relationships. People come in and out for different reasons but I always look at their streams to see if they are simply broadcasters with no intent of interaction or people who want to have a discourse with commentary, Retweets or learning.

    Like my weight, I don’t pay attention to the actual number but I certainly know when I am bloated, anemic or performing at a quality level.

  • What analytics button? Where can I find this to click on?

  • lori newton

    Love the list Mark. Twitter follow spammers are annoying time wasters and people who blatantly don’t listen drive me nuts. If I try to engage with a local tweeter who’s just followed me and they don’t acknowledge my virtual how-do-you-do?, buh byeeee.

  • Some people take Twitter to be some sort of mutual admiration society. I follow you, so you follow me back, while some others take it as an interests based network. They follow people whose tweets add value to them, and not necessarily in the hope to get a follow back.

    I have a 1000 odd followers – out of which I follow some as they are known to me, some are friends through Twitter and my blog, but the rest I don’t follow back as they cater to interests differing with mine, OR retweet the same articles that have already been retweeted a thousand times. Also, my unfollow formula varies – sometimes it is for dumping political views on me forcibly, which happens a lot these days..with the coming elections. I stand by most of the ‘unfollow’ reasons shared by others here, except for ‘not interacting with me’, as at times I too have not made an effort to interact with them; we just follow and RT each other!

    I think we should not worry about unfollowers but try to make the best out of our existing followers with just the 5 maxims listed here! Happy tweeting:)

  • Well, you did ask, so… (and just so you know, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post about my own Twitter philosophy so chances are there’s a lot of that post in here… but your comments section gets it first!).

    I think Jeff’s comment about people showing no interest in interacting interesting… and definitely that plays into my approach (to following) as well. However, there are a few more factors, IMHO. First, from the point of view of the “followed.” It’s virtually impossible for me to keep up with everyone who follows me, and I’m only at 15k-odd followers as compared to your 60k-odd. I used to get the Twitter email notifications; then I stopped them because they were overwhelming. Recently I started them again, only because I was testing Twitter ads and wanted to see if they made a difference (they didn’t). So for me, I probably don’t know who is/isn’t following me. If they take the time to talk to me, more than once, perhaps over a few days/weeks, then more often than not I will follow them back, because they’ve shown an interest in engaging. So that is the part of my comment that backs up that of Jeff.

    Here’s the other side of the coin; I have about a 0.005% expectation that someone will follow me on Twitter. The 0.005% expectation is of people who know offline, who’ve known me for years, etc… and when we “find” each other on Twitter, then I would think it would be logical/normal for them to follow me, especially if I’m following them. Because we know each other. And as I get to know people via Twitter, then yes, I hope that at some point they will follow me, because that’s the only way I can send them a DM, and, frankly, after a point, it’s the polite thing to do. But everyone else, I really don’t expect it. If what I’m talking about and/or curating is interesting enough, they’ll be there, and if they strike up a conversation, well that’s what I love.

    And I personally find it off-putting (that’s a word, right?) when people I don’t know ask me to follow them. Why? WIIFM? Just as I don’t expect anyone to follow me unless they’re getting some value out of it, I don’t see why I should follow someone simply because they followed me. Thanks for the tiara and all, but no thanks.

    Now I’m going to @ you repeatedly on Twitter and see if you respond. 😉

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  • Great post Mark! It brings up something that’s been a concern of mine for a while now, and that is the concept of sharing (retweeting) the same links as so many others. You and I are both members of Triberr, and I’m always checking out other somewhat similar sites like JustRetweet or Social Buzz Club. As a result, I’m sharing 16-20 links a day that I think are helpful articles, but they’re also being shared by so many other people.

    Do you think this proliferation of reciprocal sharing services is going to (or already is) result in backlash from your own Twitter followers?

  • tianakai

    I have noticed a surge in my followers followed by peaks of unfollows. I think you can pretty much tell by the person’s account whether they will unfollow you within a few days, or worse, a few hours!

    One time I tweeted someone, ‘Thanks for the follow, I hope you don’t plan to unfollow me right away.’ The reply was amazing! We had a great banter then tweeted again after a week to prove that he was still following me.

    I follow a few people back, mainly because most seem to be on a fast track to increase their follower list while simultaneously depleting their follower list. It’s a shame, Mark, a shame I say!

  • I understand these reasons, but usually I find it’s the ego thing mentioned early in the article. I’ve found so many people unfollow right after I interact, RT, etc. It’s really pathetic, but anyone who unfollows immediately after engaging was obviously trying to play celebrity online.

  • LOL I’ve called people out when they followed, too. I can usually spot the people who will unfollow really quickly.

  • tianakai

    Haha, it works, I may have to call people out more often!

  • It’s amazing to me how many people build a Twitter presence by following in an effort to get you to follow, and then unfollowing once you’ve followed. I’ve seen first hand a lot of big names take this approach — and largely succeed in building a large twitter following. But people are maturing in their use and beginning to see through this stuff.

  • Mark, I started testing SocialBro recently (cool app, horribly named), it has been eye-opening to see the number of people that follow and then unfollow within a couple days (sometimes multiple times). More people are trying to game the system than even this cynic realized.

  • Mark, I have no idea why people who are posting in a foreign language or even a cyrllic alphabet follow me. I unfollow them when I see them in my stream.

    I also unfollow people who identify themselves as teaching others how to get zillions of twitter or facebook followers in no time at alll.

    Not the most stringent rules but I’m not so selective in who I follow either (as you can probably guess).

  • Hi Mark.. excellent article.. In my experience.. Most people simply unfollow you because you did not follow them back.. Most people very sadly are not reading any ones else’s tweets. They are on broadcast mode So they wont notice what you are tweeting or not…

    What you want are listeners, not so much followers.. You get listeners buy the 5B’s.. Be interesting Be Interested, Be committed, Be Consistent and finally Be authentic. Act with those 5B’s in mind and people will follow you for the right reasons.

    Also, people spend far too much time worrying about the followers they lose. Don’t worry.. Followers come and go..Instead.. Focus on the followers you have, engage, add value, have fun, be social and over time things will happen for you..

    Mark Shaw

  • I realized that another reason I unfollow people is that I was using tools such as TweetAdder in the past that caused me to follow people that are using Twitter all wrong.

    That’s why I’ve started from scratch in many ways with lists where I keep track of the people that have shown interest in interacting. But, at some point, I will be unfollowing more people who seem to show no genuine interest in interacting. I’m looking forward to having a “clean” Twitter account like that.

    And I won’t be unfollowing you anytime soon!

  • Mark, along the same lines of unfollowing, which I can understand, have you ever asked your friends and followers why they block people on Twitter? One of our most popular posts, “Twitter Etiquette: To Block or Not to Block?”, is still getting comments over a year after I published it, and from people who’ve been blocked and don’t know why. They’re sincerely puzzled and confused, wondering what they might’ve done wrong. Unless someone is blatantly breaking the social etiquette rules on Twitter, why do so many get blocked instead of just unfollowed? Any idea?

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  • I follow back in chunks. It may take me a week to get to it. So be it, : )

  • Amen Barry.

  • What? Wait. Are you serious about that St Peter thing? I may have to re-think my priorities. Drat.

  • Happily I am neither cad nor bounder. Bully!

  • Kristen Daukas rockin’ the Social Slam. In the house.

  • Perfect sense to me!

  • The self-promtional die a rapid and painless death in my Twitter stream.

  • Yeah, that can be annoying when you’re really trying to make an effort. Been there!

  • Nicely said! Thanks for adding to the conversation Vinaya!

  • … which I will. : )

    Our philosophies are similar. There are quite a number of people i follow who don’t follow me back just because I like their tweets.

    At the end of the day, we have the power to surround ourselves with the people that provide the best possible experience for us. That is cool.

    Always an honor to have you stop by Shonali. See you at Social Slam!

  • Honestly, it doesn;t matter. I am who I am. I try to be helpful. I try to be nice. I pass along interesting links. Then people can make their own decision. I can’t control what other people think. I can only do good work and let the chips fall as they may.

  • Love this. Have never heard of this “all them out” strategy. I may try this!

  • Agree Katherine. What a silly game, huh?

  • Let’s hope so Frank. It’s just rude and silly to build a following that way. SUrpirsed to hear of big names doing it.Shows some kind of weird insecurity I think?

  • Yes, that is what I discovered too. The bigger question is WHY? It must be something more than social proof, right? I mean, are all these people going to this effort just to satisfy their EGO? Hard to believe. It would be nice if somebody from “the other side” commented. : )

  • I dare say not, old stick. You’d hardly find me reading your delightful blog so frequently if so, I assure you!

  • Yes, also the whole MLM thing creeps me out, as well as anybody who wants to help you live your very best life. Also, showing nay body part other than a head is a danger sign! : )

  • Amen. Nothing to add to a spectacular comment!

  • yay. earned my way. That’s a good thing.

  • I have not studied this. I only block if it is something obvious. I give people the benefit of the doubt. Thanks Michelle. You should add a link to that article.

  • Extremely childish, and pointless with so many Twitter analytic tools available.

  • MaureenMonte

    Aha! Neither cad nor bounder, but are you an old stick? (I am dying with laughter – what a cool name, old stick.) 🙂 I’ve learned so much from you guys!

  • Mark, I don’t believe it is primarily about ego and social proof. For many, I believe it is part of “audience development.” Having an audience let’s them promote their content and increase their own visibility, not for ego but because of the business benefit they receive.

    As @twitter-15481972:disqus referenced below, big names have taken this approach. The question I have is, are they big names because of this approach, or did they adopt this approach after becoming a bigger name?

    Sadly, I suspect it is the former. Good content and a focused “follow” program do work for these people better than the same content and a purely organic approach to engaging and growing a social audience.

  • Thanks, Mark!

    Here’s “Twitter Etiquette: To Block or Not to Block?” http://ne-mm.com/twitter-etiquette-to-block-or-not-to-block/

  • I’m weary of the promo posts, too. I’m reading both books, trying to figure out twitter, blogging and in my spare time, working on world peace. (grin)

  • VickyH

    I mostly unfollow for two reasons

    1. Tweeting about politics
    2. People that retweet to many local events. If you have 3,000 followers and 10 live in Minneapolis then don’t Retweet something local to only that city.

    Just my POV.

  • i use Manage Flitter but there are many tools out there that show unfollows. Hope that helps.

  • Love, love love. That last quote is going to end up in the next edition of The Tao of Twitter!

  • I am re-thinking this. Perhaps i am somewhat bounder. I come from a long line of bounders and maybe i should just embrace this.

  • You know I really had no idea this was so widespread.

  • You go Pauline!

  • Ha! A tough balancing act sometimes. I live in Knoxville but only a small percentage of my followers are from my home town. However, I do like to stay local too. Maybe I need a local account. Might be an idea.

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  • I don’t follow you on Twitter. I once followed you so you’ll probably find my name in that ether of once-followers. But I do track what you write through a list of mine called storytellers. I look at that list a few times a week to get a sense what you and other storytellers — namely bloggers who I read more closely — are saying.

    So… keep in mind that some of the people who once followed you may now follow you by list. They (and I) still follow you but not the old-fashioned way.

    Also, keep in mind that Twitter does auto unfollow people who are known spammers or are flagged a lot, etc.

  • Interesting, @Shonali:disqus. I take the opposite perspective. Because I am familiar with someone off Twitter is precisely why I won’t follow their tweets. I don’t want to duplicate one platform or group to another. I tried it in the past and it failed because I kept seeing the same stuff everywhere from that person — or that person tweeted stuff I didn’t care about.

    I would rather follow people who I don’t know at all off Twitter. Or if they only tweet news or explicit content where it’s always the same. (I’m using Twitter more as a news source these days so I prefer the expected.) I’m using lists for everyone else. Like @markwilliamschaefer:disqus you’re on a storytellers list of mine.

  • If you follow me and never say hi or hit reply, I assume you don’t want to engage with me. And if you don’t want to, then why should I follow back? That’s my philosophy.

  • Hi Mike, this is an interesting issue. Triberr activity for me has really picked up massively. I’m getting many more RTs than I was, say, two months ago because I’m now part of a massive tribe. The thing is I can see from my data that although people are sharing the links they don’t seem to actually visit the post. It’s like folks mass share on Triberr without reading the piece, probably in the hope that their posts will be shared. I’m not sure it’s worth following folks like this as it’s all about the broadcast and less about the engagement. I’ve started unfollowing tweeps that just RT all the the time.

  • tianakai

    It works! 😉 At least it did so far.

  • That is a good point. It’s hard to tell what our the true reach is. You taught me something today.

  • I unfollowed you Mark after following you for a long time because you didn’t seem interested in listening to others. Even after we had interacted on Twitter and I shared an article you requested I share. So my advice is to follow your advice.

  • Arthur Catalanello

    I find most of my unfollows are from “Twitter Players.” I wrote a post about how I identify them: http://wp.me/p1LHj0-k9

  • I don’t worry about people unfollowing me. I’m happy if my trend is positive and I’m attracting the type of folks I want to be engaging.

    I won’t follow people just because they follow me especially if they have huge numbers of followers/following. That’s almost guaranteed to be a sign of someone who is using following to attract big numbers for the sake of big numbers rather than earning them one relationship at a time. I’m more likely to follow a new follower if they follow a smaller number of people because they are more likely to interact with me.

    For many other followers, I’ll wait until they interact with my posts because then I know they are interested in what I am saying and interacting with me.

    I’ll unfollow people when I see them frequently but don’t find enough value in their content–especially if they don’t follow me and definitely if they used to follow me but don’t any longer. I’ll also unfollow people who are seldom on Twitter because they are not committed to investing time to experience its relationship/community building benefits–again definitely if they are not following me.

    A note of warning: Just because someone isn’t following you doesn’t mean that they unfollowed you. I still regularly find people who I’m sure I’m following that I’m not and people who are sure they’re following me and who aren’t. Either the Twitter gremlins are still at work or we’re still dealing with the bug that had Twitter unfollowing without being told to do so.

  • Certainly it’s about ego and social proof in many cases, but most definitely not all cases. As @wittlake:disqus notes, in some cases people (acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a brand or a product) just want to expand their reach. Kind of a time-honored principle in marketing. 🙂

    To be honest, I don’t have too much of a problem with the concept of unfollowing accounts that haven’t followed you back after a certain period of time, IF the goal is audience development. If someone doesn’t follow you back, you are invisible to them (obviously). Not good if your aim is growing your audience. If Twitter didn’t have the 2,000 follower limit in place, this would no doubt play out differently in a lot of cases.

    With my personal account, I tend not to follow people or businesses I’m not legitimately interested in hearing from. But I wouldn’t necessarily advocate the same approach with a business account. (Please don’t judge me too harshly!)

  • My biggest pet peeve on Twitter, by far, is the people who unfollow you right after you follow them back. As @tianakai:disqus notes, you can usually spot these people a mile away; out of whack follower/following ratios for a person whose name you’ve never heard before are a tell-tale giveaway.

    These days I tend to not follow those people back because the outcome is preordained.

    In the cases that slip through, if I’m in a pesky mood, I’ll call them out by tweeting, “I’m sure it was just an accident that you unfollowed me as soon as I followed you back, right”?

  • Just curious, Mark: Which tool were you using that offers the analytics button you referred to in your lede?

  • Twitter has been a learning event for me and thanks to you Mark and others I have gained a good understanding. There are and always will be gamers, right? So just check and beware! As for me I pretty much follow those that engage with me on some level. As for unfollowing, the typical slander and other off topic tweets that I may catch will warrant a check-off. Of concern are those of a higher earned stature (individuals that I precive to be in their niche) whom I may choose to follow, repeatedly share their work, make comments on their blog and after 6 or more months they have not reciprocated with even a thank you reply, I flush!

  • Seems sound to me Mark

  • Sometimes i get over a thousand tweets a day James. I also run a business, teach, blog and have a family. I certainly do not give people the individual attention they crave and probably deserve. It sounds like i did interact with you to the point of asking for an article. I also try to respond to every person who asks me a direct question or asks for help in some way, even it takes staying up late to do it. So that is me right now and if I’m not up to par, you did the right thing by unfollowing.

  • Manage Flitter

  • Sorry for the confusion Mark. I was replying to Mark Shaw especially since he only follows 141 people.

    I’ve actually been very impressed with how engaged you are (Mark Schaefer) considering what I assumed are the demands on your time and attention. I actually follow you closely and have never considered unfollowing you.

    In fact, you’ve inspired another blog post from me where I expanded on my comment above and included a link to my post on the importance of following on Twitter.

  • Sounds like a plan to me. Thanks Randy!

  • There is also a possibility that you can from even those who have not followed you back. That is an overlooked benefit for some.

  • Absolutely! I agree completely and never meant to imply that anyone should follow me because I follow them or vice versa. I believe those days are long gone. But whether someone follows me or not is part of the criteria I use when deciding if I will unfollow someone.

  • Mark I am thrilled to have made a small contribution to your great article – thanks for the kindness of your mention

  • OK sorry for the confusion.

  • I only unfollow in regards to the content people share (or there attitude, views, etc.). I will never unfollow someone simply because they don’t follow me back or interact with me. I’m a small fish on Twitter but follow thousands of people. Am I really expected to engage with them all?

    Followbacks don’t mean anything to me, because I follow people (mostly) because I’m interested in their content. I would suggest others follow suit. Twitter isn’t a numbers game (though I know it’s always nice to have more followers). Just focus on offering and amplifying good content and the followers will come. And if they unfollow, then they weren’t the right followers and/or are on Twitter for the wrong reasons.

  • You used “WIIFM” and I want to give this like 10 ^ votes. 🙂 Very similar philosophy and think it does start and end w/ our expectations. Do we want or expect engagement? Where do we find value? How do we get what we want from Twitter (social in general)? Probably a million different answers, therefore different follow/unfollow philosophies.

  • You answered your own question Mark. It’s numbers gaming; it’s ego stroking; it’s vanity scoring b.s., plain and simple. It’s not coincidence some of these w/ the 2.275% follow ratios are often following, mostly RTing each other.

    It irks – you follow, comment on blogs, tweet, discuss, connect at conferences – then get the follow drive-by. After catching a few doing the following/unfollowing a 2nd time after a lengthy TweetChat or meeting at a conference, they’re on my “I’m onto your b.s.” list. I may find value in some of their tweets and shares, but I’m not gonna play that game.

    It’s another reason why I don’t have tons of followers or follow tons; like I told Shonali I’m interested in different things, using Twitter different ways but game playing is nowhere on the list. You know many of rules Mark like:

    -Too much about X. Politics, sex, religion.. even bacon and kitties, there needs to be a balance.
    -Too much about U. I don’t want to follow the “ME ME jerkwad” channel.
    -Too much programming. I don’t want all automated, all feeds, blind shares, all the time. I schedule but I’ve read it and added my own ‘value’ to it.
    -Not enough U: the real you, joking, ranting, replying, dare I say it – ‘engaging.’

    I don’t follow back everyone, I take my time to check people out; I’m learning how to get more using lists, tools to filter the streams. Like you, probably need to do a better job engaging, learn more about my community so I can tweet better for them. FWIW.

  • Ross Quintana

    Mark good post, yes the churn followers are out there and if they don’t get a refollow in a certain amount of time they unfollow. Mostly spam. I don’t follow people if I check their feed and see no value. If it is all promotional or spammy I won’t. I balance follow backs with value and relationships. I do check out people before following anyone. My numbers could be higher, but they are very quality.

  • Carisa Carlton

    Agree 100%. I don’t like those on broadcast mode. This is a “social” media, not an advertising station.

  • Great post.

    There is way too much fuss over the etiquette of who “should” follow who. I think it comes off like Miss Manners telling people how many phone numbers should be in a address book.

    Back in the early days when we were writing “Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing are Changing the Way We Do Business” we saw two arguments going.

    1) “You’re a jerk if you don’t follow back”

    2) “No one could possibly follow more than 50 people”

    There’s some logic in any approach one takes.. but it’s their business, not mine.

    We ended up starting the book with the two words I still live by — NO RULES — who you follow and unfollow is your business. Who I follow is my business.

    I have wasted a lot of time “trimming” my follow account. Above 100k, the most likely criticism is “you look like a spammer if you follow everyone” — I translate this a “YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE”

    I took on the trimming to see if I could get a more realist view of people. Now at 60k + I can’t see anything different than when it was 90K. Which seems obvious to me.

    I also can’t tell the difference from when I followed 3000. There’s way more tweets than I’ll ever see, and I read lists and mentions.

    I can easily respond to EVERY tweet with my name and probably could with triple the tweets. I have to occasionally filter out #FF tweets and other things with lists.. I’ve never seen the point of posting a list anyway (if I want to know who you think is a super BFF, I’ll just read your profile 🙂

    My standard response for #FOLLOWMEBACKORIWILLCRY tweets is “I follow who I want” .. since they talked to me, I’ll probably follow them.. as I follow people who I have conversations with.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we had numbers like “how many people you talk to” and “how many you’ve helped”

    Follower counts don’t count.. the only number that matters it ONE.. the one person I’m in conversation with at any moment… the others are just “potential conversations”

  • tianakai

    Very clever, I have been tempted to say something like “I’m sure it was just an accident that you unfollowed me as soon as I followed you back, right”? Maybe I will next time, and mention you for extra ammunition and back up!

  • Grrr.. think my real comment vanished into cyberspace?? Anyhoodle .. the condensed version: you know most of my rules Mark and know what this is. Gaming. Scoring. Ego stroking. I’ve had the follow back drive-by, caught some people, tired of it. If they share stuff I value, they go on that list; otherwise, unfollow and move on. FWIW.

  • Great post. 🙂 I’m following you! (even before I saw this post)

  • : )

  • Terrific perspective Jon. Thanks for the very grounded view.

  • This is a great blog post in its own right Davina. Superb. Thanks for this gift!

  • Warren, what an honor to have you comment and create this wisdom for the community today. You are a true pioneer in the space and I appreciate your kindness and leadership. Thank you!

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  • I’m with you Kelly. Follow the people you want to hear from and if they don’t follow you or drop you later, don’t give it a second thought, it just was not meant to be. The exception is that I don’t always unfollow people just because they don’t follow me back. Heck, I’d lose a lot of great information that way.
    Something that does sort of bug me is when people rt my blog posts again and again but don’t follow me on Twitter. What, the only good things I have to say are on my blog?? Pffft!

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  • Kelly Jennex

    I hear you on that one Janet! If your retweeting my stuff we must have a common interest, follow me and let’s start talking about that common interest!!

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  • A solid plan Ross!

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  • RhondaHurwitz

    100K unfollowed? That’s crazy! I never understood the logic behind automating “if you don’t follow me back in 3 days, I’ll unfollow you”. That’s not a relationship … that’s hooking up, Twitter style. Or speed dating … or something.

    I follow lots of people … some for relationships, some for what i learn. And I’m in it for the long haul.

  • Serkan

    I use http://followerfilter.com/ for
    Searching User- Tweet RT and Favorite listing and deletion – Unfollower
    finding an deletion. Even the site is new, it works well!

    Site also allows you to see any twitter user’s (included yours) unfollowers, followers and followings without login.

    Of course it’s free and unlimited!

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  • saulofhearts

    I find that Twitter can work either as a promotional tool OR as a tool to get information and updates, but it’s hard to do both. For my feed to be of any value, I have to keep it around 100 people or less, otherwise it just moves too fast and most of it is stuff I’m not really interested in. BUT in order to build up a following, I have to reach out and follow people, which has the opposite effect. At this point, I’m trying to grow my follower count, so my feed is no longer useful to me.

    Personally, I think Twitter should consider hiding follower counts from anyone except the account holder, so that you’d be forced to attract followers based on the quality of your tweets and not by having an inflated follower count.

  • saulofhearts

    I can understand why people might read your blog but not want to follow you on Twitter. They’re two different kinds of relationships. There are plenty of people whom I enjoy reading in-depth articles by, but don’t really want constant updates from. Some people might prefer to read your updates via mailing list or RSS feed.

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  • Mly

    I follow people that has funny tweet but sometimes they start spamming and giving shout out so i always unfollow and find someone else as funny to follow. People who are fanboy or fangirl are so lame so i always unfollow when it gets to intense. Hit me up im not an annoying user 😉 @zymilie

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  • Kristine Allcroft

    I get contacted daily on Twitter by “tweet machine” spammers. No, I don’t follow them back. And, I try to block them as soon as they appear. But, I think you’re asking a different question. It has a lot more to do with how people develop relationships and manage them. Nobody likes to be ignored. If somebody RT’s or “favorites” a tweet, it’s nice to get a thank you once in a while. Sharing the love is important; showing gratitude for sharing is golden.

  • I’m not into the 20 tweets in a row tweeps nor the accounts who have 99% RTs. I prefer not to follow those, ah, nor dormant accounts. I love Twitter though, so love finding new people to connect with!

  • Paul Blais

    I realized I am a bit late to the party, but I would like to throw my 2 cents worth in… Firstly, Amen!!! to Gina Schreck. TrueTwitt is the most irritating Twitter app. If I follow someone and they use TrueTwitt, I typically just follow through. I find it kind of insulting to be asked to jump through extra hoops for the privilege of following. I have yet to find anyone worth their salt asking for that kind of validation.
    Another issue are people that have automated DM’s to new followers and in the body of the DM is a question. If you try to respond to the question you get message of being blocked because the person is not following you. I use Twitter for engagement and that completely tells me that I don’t really matter all that much.
    I am ranting. Not my typical style. Thank you, Mark for sharing your thoughts and research on this. I appreciate the message.

  • Cheryl

    Love your words of wisdom Mark! Thank-you 🙂
    @KarinaRizeYoga

  • @hamptonhouses

    Your article was very helpful and I feel I have a much better (and less guilty) idea of why people unfollow. Thanks.

  • @hamptonhouses

    One more thing speaking of truetwit. This is a scam. I was on a trial. When I failed to upgrade to their premium account after the trail was over they sent a letter to every follower asking for validation. All I was trying to do was find a way to find contacts I followed but did not follow back. What a mistake. Now I use twitterflitter. We’ll see how that works.

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  • I’m late in this convo but this is a great idea! How can we get Twitter to act on this?? LOL

  • Guest

    really that is a good idea.

  • Mark Shaw

    Me, I just follow people who interest me and who add value to my timeline / day. Building a massive following isn’t what I’m here for I’m here for conversation with like minded folk. Onwards

  • Martha

    The main reason people unfollow you is you didn’t follow them back. Can’t believe it’s not even mentioned here. You can accuse them of being ‘on an ego trip’ but the same can be said of you – you only follow a third of the people who follow you!

  • There is a reasonable question here but it’s too bad you had to be snarky about it. No reason for that.

    First, this article is about a problem where people unfollow so fast you barely have time to follow them in the first place. It is not unsual for rme to get 400-500 new followers in a week. It may take days or weeks to get through the list.

    In regard to how many I follow back it has nothing to do with ego at all. Quite the opposite.

    I do my best to look through profiles. If they look like a legitimate person with some logical connection to me I will follow them. If it is a brand, a company, or something like Dave’s Auto Body, I probably won’t follow them back. But I try to follow back every person I can. It’s not a perfect system but it seems to work out. If you are a real person I probably follow you back.

  • Great response, I did the same thing recently and lost 2500 followers.

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  • Jakeo

    I quit (deactivated) Facebook because it was also an trap. It was all about who have the same interests, but compete against each other for who gets the most amount of “Likes” on a photo for example (think storm chasing community aka weather nuts). Twitter it feels way more collaborative. Short, Simple, and Sweet. What I like about it is the progressive nature: Yesterday’s picture of the storm for example is old news. I seem to have deeper interactions with just 140 characters, than Facebook “books” that usually end up becoming negative rants about things.
    As for Twitter, I am a very slow follower gainer, but sort of doing it on purpose. Usually the people I lose are ones that I don’t really interact with or are bots trying to get you to buy Twitter followers.

    I have a question for you, I feel almost overwhelmed at just having 300 followers. (Almost as if I feel I neglect following people and well obviously that would be the best reason to be unfollowed. ) You said you get at least that many a week. How do you stay engaged with every follower without ending up as a non follower on their statistics page? I feel for someone who is more popular with something to offer, people want to follow. But for just guys like me, I get the impression that I need to be following everyone back. Twitter can be a 24/7 job. lol thanks for reading, your blog was a good read as well.

  • Rene Lopez

    I completely agree with you on Facebook being a competition. I still have my account, although I rarely get on it. Twitter is so much better, it feels much more relaxed, the opposite of Facebook.

  • Rene Lopez

    How few people must you follow to be egotistical? About six times the amount of people I follow, follow me. It’s not just because I am attempting to make myself appear as a celebrity. I have valid reasons for not following people back. One, they don’t tweet or they tweet very rarely. I am not going to follow you if you don’t tweet. It’s pointless. Two, they type as if they’re in fifth grade. It’s really irritating to me. It shows a lack of intelligence. Which leads me to my next reason; I don’t follow people who appear extremely ignorant, such as people who are racist or try to act like thugs, or support double standards, or discriminate based on things like height, weight, etc. I don’t want someone ignorant constantly appearing on my feed. My point is, a small percentage of people act sensibly on social media, which is why I follow a smaller percentage of people.

  • Rene Lopez

    Fantastic idea.

  • Alll good points. Thank you.

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  • Thanks for the information!
    Actually, there is another way to find out who unfollowed you on soc.nets – using free zebraboss.com service.
    According to developers the service was originally established as a private instrument for spying on their GFs))) After a while they decided to share the service with the other social network users from the best motives. So, enjoy the friuts of their labor, just as I do. Especially since it’s free from any charge)

  • Konstanze

    I view Twitter as my i-network – meaning I follow the people and news ‘i’ am interested in – that’s really the amazing value of Twitter for me. It’s not one-size-fits all, not more is always better! The balance to remember really lies between the ego of collecting as many followers as possible (who doesn’t want to be liked or validated?) and the personal value for you in terms of new knowledge and new connections (those you would also value off-line). At any networking event (Twitter is a global, 24/7 networking event), you speak to a number of people and you click with (on) some of them but certainly not all of them. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous. At the same time, you will also miss some great connections or, figure out later that a connection with someone might not work out so well.

    Twitter is a huge networking party on Redbull.

    Go to it sober of any wide eye-inducing substance and you will find your personal i-network.

  • Kristen Hicks

    It’s hilarious that Twitter suggests you share that information.

    I don’t unfollow people with any regularity – maybe once a year or so (so I haven’t done it much total) I review the list of people I follow and remove those I can’t really place. If I don’t remember why I followed them in the first place and I haven’t been noticing any worthwhile tweets from them in the meantime, I know they won’t be missed.

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  • kristine08

    I should not be on TWITTER now that I know all their weird rules. I am not a business, just someone that likes to learn, through tweets. I cannot follow anyone else right now, as I reached my limit. Now, I am not getting any new followers, so what’s the point?

  • Neil Ackerman

    Re the person who wrote about unfollowing people who have TrueTwit validation, it’s not what you think it is. I have TrueTwit Validation, but not intentionally (and I daresay many others are in the same position). Several times when I was just starting out on Twitter, people followed me, and I got the “this person uses TrueTwit validation” DM. I decided to do the validation, and clicked on the link. That’s the rub: it’s a scam. The minute you sign in with a Twitter account, all of your followers are sent a TrueTwit validation DM. I tried to, but cannot, delete this bogus True Twit account that I did not intentionally sign up for. Further, here’s the catch: unless I pay True Twit’s fees, all of my followers are sent a TrueTwit DM-the ONLY benefit you get from paying the TrueTwit fee is “No direct messaging of new followers.” (http://truetwit.com/truetwit/home.form)

    In other words: it’s a ransomware scam.

    I don’t want my followers to be verified through TrueTwit: I hate that my followers get this DM, and I’m embarrased by it. But now that they scammed me, I have to pay a fee so that this stupid DM is not sent to others.

  • Wow! that’s a lot of people

  • Sam Base

    God just unfollowed planet Earth. And I don’t blame Him.

  • Anna Maria Perez

    Then go into your Twitter settings and unverify Truetwit. Easy peasy.

  • Dang, pretty insane, I must say! What is your take on buying Twitter followers from these sites like Wizish?

  • Simon Gray

    that it’s pointless and transparent.

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  • Bo Dez

    I have lots of followers, I don’t follow often. I’m not an egotistical douche. I follow someone when they have something to say that I am interested in, not just because they are there saying anything, not just because they have followed me. I you want to be followed you have got to be interesting enough to follow.

  • I was looking for a tool to send DM’s on Twitter and having trouble finding exactly what I needed.

    Thanks you your write up here I am going to try out TwitterDMer since it sounds like what I have been looking for.

    Thanks for another great article with good info.

  • polysix

    Use lists for your ‘real’ interests (follows) if you follow too many to keep up.

  • Katherine Roy

    Thanks for every person to maintain the minimum balance in their mobile phones by.

    send mobile top up

  • Alkomb

    Oh, sorry.

  • ??

    buffer!

  • ??

    i played the twitter game for a bit, I had 6k:6k but then i realised its more than just a numbers game, I could use it for reading things i found interesting, I now mostly follow companies or products I use for inspiriation or updates. I spent about 3hours manually unfollowing #mgwv users who post nothing but stuff like “rt this and gain 500 followers a day” lol .-. I now follow a little over 100 and have dropped down to 4k followers. I hope to Inspire those kinds of people still following me to change their ways like i did

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