Why and When You Should Unfollow On Twitter
If your love affair with Twitter has recently faltered, due to information overload, there's plenty you can do to improve your user experience and restore your bond with this great tool.
Recently i've adopted a number of measures to drastically improve how I use Twitter, which i'll share with you here.
1 - Reduce the Number of People You are Following
Many of us, when we first start using Twitter, embark on what can only be described as a 'follow frenzy'. We add the news sites we read, the bloggers we respect, friends, family, collegues, business contacts and in turn many of the people that follow or are followed by these accounts.
This may seem like a great idea at the time, but I dare say that many of you have now reached a tipping point, just like I have.
In my own case, by following close to 2000 people, Twitter had become nothing more than a never-ending stream of noise, with useful and informative Tweets getting lost amongst the junk. Even by setting up userlists in Seesmic Desktop (my desktop app of choice), I was finding it ever harder to find any real value.
A couple of weeks back I made the decision to cut back on who I followed. It was time to 'purge'.
Before hitting the unfollow option in earnest, I realised it would be a wise idea to set myself some criteria for who I should keep:
- Is the person i'm following bringing any real value to me? The million dollar question. It's very easy to follow someone just because everyone else is, or because you they have a job that gives the assumption that their tweets will be useful. Often this couldn't be further from the truth.
- Is the person i'm following tweeting unique information and links or are they mainly retweeting stuff i'm already getting from other sources?
- Does the person i'm following follow me and if they do, do they ever communicate with me or retweet what I put out there?
I'm sure there's plenty of further criteria of your own that you could add, but this is what suited me personally.
Next, I realised that as I was currently following so many people, it would take me many hours to go through everyone using Twitter on its own. Thankfully there's some great tools available to help you. I used Your Twitter Karma, so for the purpose of this article i'll describe the process I went through in using this tool.
When you log in to Your Twitter Karma (be patient - it can take a few minutes to load your details) you're presented with a huge list of Twitter users. Under each itemised Twitter account it tells you whether you follow that person, whether they follow you, or whether you both follow each other. Clicking on the avatar brings up that person's Twitter profile, so you can refresh your memory as to who they are, what they do, and whether their tweets are of value to you.
Next comes the evil part! The purge . . .
Select the users that you wish to stop following, by clicking the checkbox next to their avatar. This can be quite a time-consuming process, but it's well worth it in the long run. When you've selected everyone you want to unfollow, click the 'bulk unfollow' button at the bottom of the page.
All done! Now check your Twitter profile to check that your follow count has dropped to what you expect. Be prepared that your follower count may also drop slightly, as some people use auto-follow / auto-unfollow tools that will drop you if you drop them.
2 - Manage the Remaining People You Follow
In my case, once i'd purged my account I was left with around 200 people in my account - a drop of over 2000! In return about 200 people stopped following me.
Once i'd got over what i'd done, it was time to effectively manage who I was left with.
This next step is very easy to undertake. Most desktop Twitter applications (such as Seesmic Desktop and TweetDeck) allow you to set up usergroups, whereby you can classify the people you follow into distinct groups, such as 'friends', 'collegues', 'business', 'celebrities' etc. In future when you get a new tweet for someone you have allocated to a group it will appear in the appropriate group column. This way you can find and read it with far less difficulty.
Twitter now also allows you to set up lists as well, so you can group together people in a similar way.
3 - Prepare to Fall in Love With Twitter All Over Again
I know that what i've described sound quite radical, but believe me, if Twitter has become an out of control stream of tweets that you can't keep up with, it really is your only option.
Now I've drastically cut the number of people i follow down to the bare bones, I've rediscovered my love for this great tool.
The value is back!
Please note: Undertake the steps i've outlined at your own risk. I can not be held responsible for anything that may happen to your Twitter account as a result of following what you read here. Also be warned that it is not advisable to bulk-unfollow Twitter accounts then bulk-follow new accounts, as Twitter may deem you to be mis-using their service and suspend your account without notice.