Back in February or 2009 I wrote a post called “I'm done with auto-follow on Twitter“. But, apparently I didn't learn my lesson.
Once I started running 9seeds and was actively using social media to help ‘build our brand', I started doing 2 things on Twitter that I ended up regretting. First, I turned auto-follow back on so that I could receive DMs from anybody was following. The second thing I did was for every conference I went to, I would follow the hash tag and then follow as many of the people I saw tweeting from the event. These both seemed like great ways of connecting with more people. Amazingly, it had almost the exact opposite effect.
The tipping point came about 3 months ago. I checked my Twitter account and noticed that I was following more than 6,000 people. But, that doesn't mean I was reading all their tweets. There were so many tweets coming in that it was basically white noise. I had created a list of friends, family and community members I wanted to follow. Those were the tweets I was reading and interacting with. So, I decided to clean it up. I used Manage Flitter to unfollow about 3000 accounts. Most of those were people who had followed me, got me to auto-follow them back and then stopped following me. I was surprised at how many brands do that. It didn't really help the white noise, unfortunately. The stream was still too much to deal with and I was stuck reading only my list.
In September I read this post by Chris Brogan where he talks about unfollowing the 131,000 people he was following in order to stop the crazy amount of DM spam he was getting on a daily basis. He took a fair amount of grief from people who were hurt by the fact that he unfollowed them. It's funny how people can take something as meaningless as a twitter follow so personally.
But, the final straw for me was this post by Aaron Hockley where he writes about what he'd do differently if we here to start over on Twitter. While none of the past was Earth shattering or necessarily groundbreaking, two things he mentioned gave me that AHA moment I needed.
- I would start a list for each of my top three areas of interest.
- When I attend an event, I’d start a list for people I met at that event or those who were actively tweeting about the event. During the event, I’d monitor said list closely. After the event, I’d move relevant folks to another list and delete the event list.
Sometimes you need somebody else to point out what is right in front of you.
Over the past 3 days I've unfollowed roughly 3000 more accounts and am now down to roughly 350 that I still follow. And since I'm using a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel to do the unfollowing, there have been a few (a few dozen?) accounts that got unfollowed that I will end up following back. I'm still monitoring my list and plan to create a handful of other lists that will let me dive in to specific groups of people more easily. I will also be following Aaron's lead and creating lists before heading off to my next conference so that I can easily add attendees to the list to see which I want to follow long term or possibly move them to a separate list.
If I unfollowed you, I promise it was nothing personal. We likely didn't connect much on Twitter to begin with and unless you use some tool to let you know who unfollows you (insecure much?), you probably won't even notice.