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.
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.
The benefits? I can think of three:
- It will eliminate my DM spam. This will reclaim my Twitter inbox as a tool for private messages with family and friends.
- 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.
- 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.