Why I Stopped Following You on Twitter

Soon after I joined Twitter, I began auto-following everyone who followed me. I did it as a courtesy, so that it would make it easy for my followers to send me a private or direct message. I engaged in many one-on-one conversations that way, because I believed they were irrelevant to my other followers.

Unfollow Button

However, I have since changed my philosophy, choosing to reply publicly to most Twitter mentions. Why? Because the only people who see these replies are people who follow both me and the sender. In other words, only the people for whom the message might be relevant.

Nevertheless, I continued to use auto-follow. As a result, I am following about the same number of people who follow me—some 108,000.

This has not really been a problem until recently. I use HootSuite to filter my followers into relevant lists (e.g., Family, Friends, Sources, Industry Professionals, etc.), keeping the noise to a minimum. Obviously, I am not scanning the tweets of 108,000 people!

However, as my follower count has grown, and with the increase in direct message spam, my direct message inbox has become a jungle. Daily, I get numerous messages like these:

  • “haha i cant stop laughing, your facial expression here is priceless!”
  • “lmao…omg i am laughing so hard at this pic of you u i just found”
  • “Someone is posting a pic of you all over twitter ;(”

These messages are just from “accidental spammers”—newbies who clicked on a link, forked over their Twitter credentials or authorized a third-party app, and then unknowingly began spamming their followers.

This doesn’t include the scores of intentional spammers. Nor does it include all the well-meaning people asking me to promote their cause, give to their project, or review their blog or manuscript.

As a result, I have decided to unfollow all my followers and start over.

Yes, I know. Drastic.

But thankfully, I can learn from the experience of @ChrisBrogan, @SpenceSmith, and @VickyBeeching, who did the same and survived.

The benefits? I can think of three:

  1. It will eliminate my DM spam. This will reclaim my Twitter inbox as a tool for private messages with family and friends.
  2. It will eliminate questionable associations. As a result of auto-following, I can’t control what appears in my timeline (at least not without a lot of work). Sadly, this now includes spammers, porn stars, and other dubious characters who chose to follow me first. As such, it raises questions for some about me and my character. Unfollowing everyone will clean this up.
  3. It will improve my Klout score. As you may know, Klout is a service that measures your social media reach and impact. However, it penalizes people who have too high a following-to-follower-count ratio.

I do anticipate some negative reactions. Some people will misunderstand and take offense. Others, I am sure, will unfollow me in response. That’s okay. That’s why I am writing this post, hoping to explain my rationale and minimize the negative impact.

If you suddenly discover that I have unfollowed you, please don’t take it personally. And if you are a family member or friend, be patient. I will re-follow you once I’ve cleaned the pipes.

I also plan to do a follow-up post, sharing the tools I used and what I learned in the process.

Question: Have you considered unfollowing all of your Twitter followers? What concerns do you have? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://twitter.com/rockerlifecoach Tim Gillette

    Ok I was wondering why  you unfollowed me.  Well let me know when you have cleaned up, and looking forward to the tools used to keep a clean twitter following 

    rock on 

  • Wendy Delfosse

    I hope I’m not duplicating but I haven’t scanned all 200+ comments. One little point: When you @reply to someone you, that person and anyone following both you and that person see it (in normal timeline view of course.)

    For instance if you tweet at me not many people would probably see it because a large portion of your followers don’t follow me. However if you tweet at say, Rachelle Gardner I’d say you share a lot more common followers and all of those people would get it.

    I’m not trying to be a pain, but the difference is a good reason to keep many lengthier conversations to a different medium. I’m not assuming you’ll start a bunch of conversations but since many may follow your advice that might not work so well for them (or give a false sense of privacy.) 

  • http://reflectionsbykrista.blogspot.com Krista

    No, I haven’t considered on a wide-spread basis.

    I don’t (and have never used) auto-follow. I follow who I want to follow. Every month or so, I go through my list of “new” followers, and if there is someone who looks like I might like to follow them, I do so. I don’t get a lot of spam because I choose who I am following. If I do follow someone I don’t know personally and they end up doing annoying marketing through DM, I unfollow.  I think I follow about half as many people as follow me.

  • Jill

    Why do you care about your Klout score? Seriously?

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    The only thing I think you might run into are the auto-DM spams thanking you for following someone. Other than that, frankly, I don’t blame your approach here. It’s a good way to clean up the spam and frankly, limit the noise and engage with others better. 

  • http://twitter.com/TechyDad TechyDad

    I don’t follow everyone back.  I usually would examine each new follower to see if I wanted to follow them back.  Then, it became a chore to figure out which I wanted to follow and which I should ignore.  So I put my web programming skills to work and made a Twitter App to help me.  (Going to release it soon after a bit more testing and possibly figuring out a monetization system.  Let me know if you’re interested.  Would be fun to stress-test it with 110K followers!)

  • Barbara @ www.TherExtras.com

    No, the first reason being that I never auto-followed.  I have consistently blocked suspicious followers – thinking – whether true or not that I am protecting the followers I do not block.  But comparison between you and me is practically irrelevant.  You are in the league of Chris Brogan and I am not. 

    Your change in policy is notable to me only in that I have followed most of your twitter advice – to include sending DMs instead of public responses.  This has served me well since I try to leave a useful tweet at the end of a session to reside in the widget on my blog. 

    I think I see a slight difference in your tweets – between when I first began following you and now.   I reasoned that the difference occurred about the same time you left the CEO job.  Whatever….your words are still interesting to me.

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  • Indy

    I have chosen not to use the auto-follow functions because I want to see someone’s page first. Is it relevant to me – just because my page might help them doesn’t mean their personal business or family news will help me. I may not have as big of a following or may not be as well known, but balance is good. Plus as a Christian I am not accidentally following someone who is talking about something I consider inappropriate.

    Thanks for the article Michael.

  • http://bit.ly/brandonrobbins Brandon Robbins

    Mike, this is a big step, but I believe an essential one nonetheless. Thanks for taking the time to explain the situation! I am right here with you and will continue to follow you. You are a valuable resource to a number of leaders and industries and I hope others feel the same way.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Brandon. I appreciate your support.

  • Jeannette

    Michael, I hope it’s okay to call you Michael because you don’t know me…but for some reason I think I know you. lol. When I started following you and you immediately followed me I thought…”wow that’s strange. Why in the world would Michael Hyatt want to follow me????”  Then, I noticed “OH! He has the same followers as following so he must just be a humble guy who kindly follows everyone who follows him. Wow that Michael Hyatt must be a really nice guy.” 
    The fact that you would go to all the trouble to explain kindly respond to the questions tells me I was right all along. You are humble and a really nice guy!  

    • http://emuelle1.blogspot.com Eric S. Mueller

      I first came across Michael’s blog in early 2005. I’d been a Christian for short of 3 years, and was trying to figure out how to set goals for my career. I was searching on Franklin Covey and Getting Things Done.  I feel like I know him too, even though I’ve never met him and am not very likely to meet him. I was impressed to find a successful believer, as a CEO, sharing the “secrets of his success”. I thought the way he blogged was a great example of mentorship and discipleship, and I’m sure some of the benefits I’ve had in my career came from reading his blog.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Thanks, Eric. I remember you from those “early days.” I appreciate so much you faithfully following me all these years.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jeannette. You are too kind!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Jeannette, I agree. It is very kind of Michael to go through an explanation on why he unfollowed so many people.

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  • http://www.alabama-renters-insurance.com/ Alabama Renters Insurance

    Yes Twitter can get a little overwhelming with all of the followers and so much being irrelevant. So I totally understand cleaning up the follow list.

  • Joe Lalonde

    I haven’t considered unfollowing all of the people I follow on Twitter. I’ve been fairly selective in choosing who I follow. Now, Facebook is a different story. It seems I’m constantly editing my list of “friends” down. Sometimes I feel guilty, sometimes not.

  • Dingheng0932

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  • http://avajae.blogspot.com Ava Jae

    I lucked out and found a lot of good follow ratio advice when I first started Twitter, so I never fell into the auto-following trap. I follow people based on my interaction with them–I say hi to all of my new followers and the ones that respond and I have a conversation with get follow backs. The ones that don’t…don’t. 

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  • Amber Stockton

    I completely agree with you and your decision. I began to fall into that trap as well when I first joined Twitter. Then, I learned. I now only follow those whose post are of genuine interest to me or who share something useful to benefit me in my life or career. I am in the process of doing the same with Facebook, directing those following my writing career to do so through my author page. My profile will be solely close friends and family. With over 900 there, it will take a bit to weed it out. Thanks for sharing this and being bold enough to be honest. It’s appreciated!

  • Homeandgardenstories

    I may have to do this.  For whatever reason, my request to follow in the past week has
    included about 15 porn stars and the like.  Why is this?

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  • Dawn @ The Momma Knows

    I have never auto-followed. I follow about half as many people as are following me, and even that gets pretty noisy. The way I choose who to follow, besides the people I purposely seek out, is I look through my recent followers list and if their profile info (gotta have profile info!!) reflects a person who I have things in common with, then I follow. If they list their job as direct marketing or ‘social media specialist’, I definitely don’t because I don’t want all the tweets that go along with that. Or the solicitations to buy their whatever program to increase my followers. I don’t care how many followers I have. If they like me they can follow me. I choose who I follow!

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  • http://techdrawl.com celiadyer

    1) You really shouldn’t have auto followed everyone to begin with because even I get porn; 2) This is the second ‘mass unfollow’ since I’ve known you (Qwitter report) and it’s even more insulting the second time; 3) it’s hurtful to those of us who’ve perhaps made introductions in the community through the years, go to your church, supported your causes and retweeted you; 4) Who with your experience would actually click on, “Have you seen yourself in this video?” Tweet? 
    I can see culling among Facebook friends, but not for Twitter and G+. You can change your Twitter settings as to what goes to your email. Surely you use a Twitter client to set up columns for your A list?

    I think the potential to offend a lot of nice people outweighs the benefits of this mass action.

    (I’ve unfollowed and blocked you, John!)

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  • http://twitter.com/influentialidea Dallas McMillan

    OK, I took your lead and unfollowed a heap of people! I hesitated because a lot of them looked interesting but I realise I’ve got hundreds of great people I will keep following so there is no shortage. Good lesson in the laws of abundance!

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