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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