comments 8

Now Following: Those Who Listen


I’ve read tweets during the last month on how people are reaching their “follow limit” and are starting to unfollowing tweeters; she’s moving to a new location and wants room for new people,  the twitter stream is getting too busy, or the tweets he receives are irrelevant to his interests and passions in life.

Tweeters are starting to feel that it’s time to do “spring cleaning” with their Twitter stream. I say, great! But some people are nervous – what will people think of them unfollowing users?  Honestly, I haven’t a clue. Maybe he will be upset. Maybe she won’t even notice.

I want to impress that unfollowing is not permanent. Just like friends shift in and out of our lives, so will Tweeters.  If a someone you unfollowed starts conversing with you again or the tweets interest you, you can re-follow them. Don’t force yourself to follow someone whose tweets are irrelevant or annoying to you.

Many people gain their high following count from a unwritten courtesy of following someone who follows them – “follow-backs”.  I myself “follow-back” most tweeters and accompany it with a DM that opens us up to the potential of a conversation. I think it’s a great idea to apply a “follower test period”  to see if the person you followed-back is informative, witty, or relevant to your interests and passions. If not, I don’t think there should be any guilt in unfollowing that user.

I think that, to an individual, most Twitter users can fall under two categories: personal and informative.

Personal: Twitter is an online circle of interaction.

In real life the groups of people that we are always in contact with (follow) shift as people are relevant to the conversations and interests we have.  Do you keep in touch with all your old high school friends that are finding you on Facebook? Does your neighbor’s conversation about recipes excite or bore you? Do you enjoy musical numbers that take place in a laundromat?

You’re going to enjoy a Twitter stream full of tweets relevant to your passions and interests. Does this mean you should have a homogeneous following list? Absolutely not. In some cases I have little in common other than Twitter itself with people I follow but we have interactions that make it meaningful.

Informative: Twitter is a great way to get information.

Some tweeters we follow are bots or bot-like – we’re looking forward to information about the latest app releases or breaking news.  Some people we follow for inspiration – their blog posts and tweets are insightful and helpful  Some tweeters we follow just for the laughs.  We don’t necessarily reply to these tweets or comment on this blog posts but we find intrinsic value in it (author’s note: But we all should be replying and commenting!).

What about the tweeters who don’t fall in one of these categories?  The people who hardly tweet, tweet only their own content or about issues that don’t matter to you ( i.e. you might not be a single mother, a baseball card collector, or a fire-eater.)? Unfollow them. Don’t feel obligated to read something you don’t want to or have someone else’s tweets bury the tweets you’re interested in. It’s your Twitter stream – read what you want to read.

Still unsure who you would unfollow?  Some people are taking the approach of tweeting – “Say something!”  or “If  I don’t talk to you,  I’m going to unfollow you” and makes sure not to unfollow people who’ve responded. After all, you might have 500 followers, but who of those 500 reads your tweets?

We’re shifting from needing quantity to desiring quality – what do you give?


  1. ulrn2twtr

    I (under a different username) follow you. That’s how I found this really terrific perspective on following. You’ve just said what I’ve been thinking but you put it in cohesive paragraphs instead of the gibberish I kept barking out at tweeters who whined (not just mentioned but whined) about being unfollowed.

    One reason some people feel uncomfortable about unfollowing is the use of tracking systems such as Qwitter and that other one. If you know that someone might get a “Dear John” email, then you might feel badly about leaving. Twitter relationships should be treated as conversations, not marriages. You don’t stay in a conversation when you are angry, you go take a walk, maybe you don’t talk for a while. Sometimes, it isn’t a good match anyway and you need to not be in the same conversations, ever. If I unfollow you, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person (okay, I might be but only to myself), I’m just saying that you aren’t someone I want to be around right now. And if I don’t want to be around you, what on earth could you find interesting about me? These things work out for the best.

    How many people are on Twitter? That’s probably close to how many reasons there are to be on Twitter. We have different reasons/objectives/goals. You have to decide for yourself if the people you are following are meeting your needs. Then you’ll be okay knowing that other people are doing the same.

    Again, great article and see you in Twitterville.

    • Hidama

      Thank you, for your eloquence in writing and explanations that grace my own thoughts, my mysterious follower. :)

  2. Interesting – I’m not having a problem with spring cleaning, I’m having a problem figuring who to follow and who not to follow. What is the “professional courtesy” when it comes to following someone who just doesn’t interest you…and for that matter you’ve got to wonder “why are they interested in following me?”

    (Found you because of Chris Brogan’s “No comment” piece – you’re now my third!)


    • Hidama

      People who aren’t experiencing “unfollow guilt” are trying to figure out who to follow. As Mark Hawker wrote, “I’m looking for requited love in 2009 so will be unfollowing soon.. “. Most people have the tactic of calling out to their followers and keeping whomever responds to that (or those) tweets.

      I’m glad you’re taking time to find all the gems Mr Brogan’s post and subsequent comments have brought attention to – on behalf of everyone, thank you!

  3. I have unfollowed many in the Twitterverse whom I find offensive (vulgar), do not enter into conversations and simply try to sell stuff, spammers or people who I find have nothing in common with me.

    Later if I find that I was wrong I re-follow that individual. I am not trying for quantity, I would rather stay around 200 following/follower, more than that I tend
    to loose track of the stream and conversations going on.

    So I may be a bit more likely to unfollow someone. If someone unfollows me it doesn’t bother me all that much, I just figure they reached their limit and needed to cut back the same way that I do.


    • Hidama

      I give the person a “grace period” of getting to know them, but there are a few people who’s tweets are only about their content and I will not follow them back.

      As for people who unfollow me, it doesn’t bother me as well – it’s their loss, not mine. :)

  4. Hi Hidama,

    I clicked your site after reading Chris Brody’s comments on his “No Comments” article. Then I find that you’re talking about an interesting phenomenon at Twitter.

    I find that there are some people who will follow you in order to un-follow you after you have followed them. They don’t keep the reciprocation going — intentionally. It’s a very dishonest practice. They’re just trying to game the system. Twitter needs to do more about the practice.

    But I think it’s important to go through my listing and attempt to find out who these people are and un-follow them. Twitter doesn’t make it easy to do it, because if one is not careful, a person you want to keep could be un-followed. However, sometimes sites you thought were ok –you find out when they start tweeting negative stuff that they’re something totally different.

    I don’t tweet everyday, but I find it a useful tool to find new sites with interesting info & people that I haven’t seen before. Those sites that are not in line with my interest — I don’t follow. I like to keep it simple as possible.

    Thanks for writing about it.

    • Hidama

      One of my largest pet-peeves are the follow-unfollows. Even if I have a stack of emails notifying me of new followers, I will send each new follower a personal DM with insight/critique of their product (if they are marketing) or just a friendly hello if they use Twitter for personal reasons. If I find that I cannot DM them, then I know they’ve already unfollowed me. If you find someone who follows-unfollows, try blocking them. With enough blocks, Twitter will pay attention to the account and might act accordingly.

      You might want to try to find out people you’re following and who are not following you back. Don’t worry – this webapp doesn’t require a Twitter password. :)

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