Posted in Twitter

The reason why I unfollowed you on Twitter

sweepI tend to be quite selective when it comes to who I follow on Twitter. There is a school of social media thought, which says it is only good manners to follow someone back when they start to follow you. I’m not so sure I agree.  As in life, we won’t be compatible with everyone we meet online.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t give someone a fair chance, but if after a reasonable time, you haven’t built up some kind of engagement level with a follower then perhaps it is time to make a value judgement about what this person brings to your Twitter stream.

There is another school of thought which is all about the numbers game. The more followers you have, the better. I disagree. It is not about the quantity of your followers, but the quality of the engagement.

This past week I did a cull of those I follow and weeded out the folks who I’ve never engaged with, nor they with me. I stopped following those hit and run Twitter users – you know the type, they appear on your timeline, fill your feed with a rash of updates all at once and then disappear again until their next frenzied appearance, without ever really engaging.

My list of unfollows also included those tweeters who feel the need to retweet endless compliments about their services – I get it, people like you, but let me discover that for myself (in this case the polite thing to do is to thank the person who gives you the compliment in a DM or @user tweet and leave it there) and those who constantly importune all and sundry for retweets, shares and likes – if I like your content and it has value, I will happily reshare and comment on it without you having to ask me  (note: it is ok to ask for the occasional retweet or comment but only if you are sure it is something the other person will be genuinely interested in).

Now my list is a leaner one, but it is filled with people who I really learn something from and that I enjoy engaging with and who engage with me.  Sure, there are still some folks on my list who haven’t followed me, but I don’t think that not following someone is a good enough reason for me to unfollow them if their tweets have value for me. I don’t expect to be followed by everyone I follow. Equally if someone unfollows me, it is because our interests don’t match and they get no value from my tweets. That’s ok.

One last point, and I hope this doesn’t appear overly critical, but I really don’t care for those automated follow/unfollow tools. It feels like tweet-shaming when it calls out the names of those who have unfollowed you on Twitter. And I don’t get why you would want to broadcast how many people unfollowed you this week – as some automated services do on your behalf.  My advice is do it yourself – a robotic impersonal service cannot decide as well as you can what is valuable to you on Twitter.  There are some exceptions – a third part app like will suggest names that you could consider unfollowing, based on their level of engagement. I click on the Twitter bio and if they haven’t tweeted in over 3 months, I tend to unfollow that account. 

How about you?  Do you feel obligated to follow someone because they have followed you? How do you determine who to follow on Twitter?

7 thoughts on “The reason why I unfollowed you on Twitter

  1. I am a patient who follows a lot of physicians on twitter. But I don’t tweet. I just “listen” and learn from the experts, and this has really helped me to understand my complex medical condition. I sincerely hope the doctors out there will understand and appreciate that just because I am following them, but not actively engaging them back, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be permitted to continue to follow them.

  2. Gwyn, I am grateful to you for leaving this comment. You raise a very important point, which until now i hadn’t considered. Please understand this is not about saying we shouldn’t follow whomsoever we wish, as I pointed out above, I follow some people who don’t follow me back, but that is no reason to unfollow them if I am learning from them. This is about how we as individuals perceive value, and make the most of our time on Twitter. My point about engagement is important to me, because I see Twitter as a two-way conversation, but I absolutely take your point about the listening part being important too. Thanks again for taking the time to leave your comment, which is a very valuable one indeed.

  3. I follow a number of celebrities or TV shows that I like and Sports journalists that I am interested in what they have to say, and I tweet back my comments though I imagine with the number of people commenting they rarely, if ever, see mine. But I don’t want them to follow me. Can’t understand why everyone wants a celebrity or some famous person they don’t know personally to follow them. Do I want Kobe Bryant or Howie Mandel to see a tweet I give to The Big Bang Writers or comment about travel I give to my twitter friend in Germany? I think Twitter is designed wrong. If you address someone (@—) then only they should see it. The people following you should only see tweets that you don’t include an @, because they would be open to all. If you want a tweet open to all but want to mention another person, don’t use their @ address. Kobe Bryant tweeted Phil Jackson once and I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation.

  4. Interesting points. I’m interested in novel writing and have followed a lot of authors back out of courtesy but it’s definitely time for a cull. My timeline is now cluttered with a very high percentage of retweeted compliments and relentless flogging of novels. Not what I joined twitter for.

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