Taking Twitter Unfollows Too Personally

Some of you know that I don’t often read blogs I won’t comment on because of their comment systems, most specifically things like Disqus. Still, every once in awhile I get intrigued by a topic, and like almost anyone else I just have to check it out to see what the hubbub is.

by Martin Cathrae via Flickr

It’s in this vein that I read a post by Chris Brogan titled The Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011. He talks about making the decision to stop following all the people on his list, which was around 131,000, and how people literally freaked when he first made the announcement, then did it. Some people thought he hated them; others thought he was mad at them. Many decided to tell him he they were dropping him because he was dropping them. Frankly, it was kind of pathetic.

Why he announced it to begin with is interesting. I don’t know that I’d have felt I had to announce that I was unfollowing everyone. Truth be told, if he had just done it without announcing it probably less than 2% of the people who he was following would have noticed immediately, as some people have notification systems that tell them when someone drops them, and others would have just thought Twitter was messing with them when he followed certain people back because it’s been known by some people that every once in a while there are random drops of people.

Also, did you see where I mentioned that he was following 131,000 people? Folks, I have problems following the around 970 people I’m connected with on that level, so what the heck was he supposed to be expected to do with 131,000 people? I mean, that’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it, and he probably did what I did for the first month I was on Twitter, just followed everyone, until he got smart. But by that time the dye was cast; wow, 131,000 people?

I unfollow people on Twitter all the time. I run both Twit Cleaner and Friend or Follow. One tells me who’s not following me, which is a short list at this juncture since I unfollow most people who aren’t following me because almost all of them reached out to me first. The other one tells me if people engage others and the types of tweets they send out. Y’all know me; if there’s no possibility that someone I’m connected to will ever talk to me I’m outta there.

See, I don’t take people unfollowing me personally. I expect some people to unfollow me for one reason or another. Unless someone announces it on their way out I could care less. That may sound cold and direct but I talk about so many different things, and I do have my own political bent, that I know some folks who follow me won’t stick with me if their positions are different than mine. I do the same thing after all.

I miss people more on my blogs than I ever would on Twitter. It’s why I was so frantic days ago when the comments wouldn’t work on my blog. I know people came and I also see how comments have slowed up; some folks may not have gotten the message that things had messed up here. Still, I’ll write for whomever decides to stop by and say hello, offer a comment, or watch a stupid video I might put up. And since I haven’t put up a stupid video in a long time, I’m wondering how many of you have heard of Keenan Cahill, this 16-year-old YouTube sensation with a disease called Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome who not only lip syncs to the videos of famous people, but actually gets the famous people to appear in his videos as well. Don’t believe me? Check this one out with him & 50 Cent; now that’s props!


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48 thoughts on “Taking Twitter Unfollows Too Personally”

  1. For a guy who markets himself and his services turning away 131,000 followers is not the best move to make. I know her runs ads on his site. I wonder how his advertisers felt about that. Of course, if there is such a thing as a “Shock-Blogger” this may be a perfect example of how outrageous and turn into prospects? I have no problem unfollowing people or organizations for a number of reasons…But where is the social in social media if you just unfollow everyone? It sounds like anti-social media. It’s almost as bad as those idiots who follow everyone but are only willing to converse with their own small group of friends.

    1. Hey Bill!

      Maybe announcing it wasn’t the best move but cutting down some (okay, he went all the way) makes sense if you’re going to decide to really be social. I understand he’s recently written something new advocating people to leave their homes and computers and get out and be social. So, maybe he’s going through an epiphany of sorts; guess we’ll see soon enough.

  2. I agree with you, Mitch! People need to learn to CHILL!! Seems like people are offended by the STUPIDEST things. And 99.9% of the time, what the offended person thinks is the intent by an action has NOTHING to do with what the person who did the action was thinking.

    I’m not sure I would have ever allowed my list to get that large. I like the more personal touch of a smaller list, though I would, and do, like having a pretty good sized list.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Grady, I can guarantee you that any follow list I had wouldn’t come close to the number of people following me unless I was really able to talk to all of them. I think my ratio right now is around 1:3; that’s not bad.

  3. Bill – that’s because you see people as numbers and so throwing away 131K potential leads stings. Precious few of those 131K are leads. The leads, if you think about it, are in who chooses to stay following me, because they trust that I’ve got information that is useful to their pursuits.

    Following 131K was like following no one. The Twitter API can’t even serve more than a few hundred tweets at a time. I saw NOTHING. I couldn’t even see all my @replies, which is when someone specifically is talking about me.

    I was getting 200 DM spams a day. 200 a day. So, I had to do something.

    Why did I follow back in the first place? Because I thought reciprocation was polite. It was. It just wasn’t useful to me.

    I’ve read dozens of posts observing, analyzing, and criticizing my moves. In most cases, they’ve come from people who haven’t been around since 2006, from people who have no more than 4000 followers, and from people who haven’t built quite a decent career around figuring out pivots by experimenting and pushing the envelope and trying new methods to see what is most effective. To that point, it’s great to see what people think about it, and everyone can have their opinion.

    I’d save judgment, but maybe instead observe and see what will change or impact your own work.

    Thanks for the post, Mitch.

    And I love that video. Haven’t seen it in a while. 50 was so cool for doing that.

    1. Glad to have you stop by, Chris. When I first signed up for Twitter I was initially following everyone who followed me as well. Learned pretty quickly that was a major waste of time. I’m not close to your level as far as who I have to weed through but I hate the auto DMs and the sales DMs from people I join with now; I could only imagine what you had to be going through.

      It ain’t easy being you sometimes, is it? 😉

    2. Chris,
      The reason precious few of those people are leads is that they were spammers — that’s why they were spamming you. And I’ll point out that part of your problem is you see people as leads at all. I see them as people.

      If it took you reaching 131,000 to figure out you were doing it wrong, you aren’t pushing the envelope; you’re a slow learner.

      And if you think the worth of a person’s opinion is directly related the number of Twitter followers they have, well…I’m just glad I’ve never given you any of my money.

      Good post, Mitch. Much appreciated.

  4. Hey Mitch!

    Yeah I completely missed this one. I wish I could say I was surprised at how people reacted, but I think folks might be somewhat programmed by now to react in an extreme manner right from jump street.

    I’ve seen some services that announce publicly when I unfollow someone. What is the purpose of this crybaby service? How does that help anything? It just validates the reason I unfollowed them.

    Chris had to do what was best for him. By the time he’s got 130,000 people I’d be pretty sure he was all listed up and not even seeing my tweets anyway unless I made his list.

    I hope everything is a lot more manageable for him now. I need to hop over to his blog more anyway and see what he’s up to…

    1. Thanks John. I see those services offering to announce when people stop following you, but I’d rather not know. In good time I’ll find out who’s following or not and deal with it at that time.

      Had a local guy say tonight that I have to be emotional because I unfollow people who unfollow me. My take is that almost everyone follows me first, and if I notice that a couple of weeks later they’re not following me after I’ve followed them, and I hadn’t even known who they were, I drop them because at that point it looks like they were scamming me by following me then unfollowing me. I enjoy talking to people on Twitter; that’s what social media is supposed to be about.

  5. Nice post. I love what you just shared. I have first meet myself in this same situation and I have to unfollow more people before I get things back on track. Thanks for the share 🙂

  6. What people fail to remember is that while he was following 131,000 people he wasn’t really following them because that would be impossible. Sure he could have just dumped them all secretly but as far as I’m concerned he did the honourable thing. He told people what he was going to do giving them the option as to whether or not they wanted to continue following him.

    As to all this people complaining that he stopped following them, I reckon they should all get a life.

    1. That last point is a great point Sire. And I hadn’t thought about whether or not people would have a decision as to whether to keep following him or not. Then again, most of the 131,000 probably never saw his post anyway, since I’d believe most of those folks were probably only following because they felt they should and not necessarily because they were seeing his posts.

      But the complaining part; I’m with you on that one.

    2. Hi Sire, I feel the same way about their blogs. I’ll comment on a blog post that interests me. It doesn’t matter if the blog ever gets a blog comment or hundreds each post. No-follow or do-follow, if I feel compelled I comment. One thing for certain, if I comment on an insanely large blog like that, I don’t expect the admin to even see it, much less reply to it.

  7. For a couple of months I see some “weird” number of followers with some people and accounts with more than 2000 followers without even single tweet. Rarely unfollow or follow people, I think it is meaningless to follow many people as you mentioned above, it is nearly impossible to handle with tweets and replies. I think social marketing is working only when you are social, so everybody should receive retweet or message from time to time.

    1. I agree with you on this one, Carl. I’ve written about those accounts without posts that have tons of followers as well; we both know it’s all automated and no one’s really there to notice the problem. What a waste of bandwidth.

      1. That’s why we see very often the blue whale on Twitter. Just a guess, I am thinking that those people will use some of those pay for tweets programs.

  8. I’d like to ask those “Offended” people – do y’all think twice about throwing away junk mail, emptying your spam filter or changing channels during commercials? I didn’t think so. Chris can do whatever he wants with his account. It’s not like he told people, “Stop following me, you jerks!”




    1. Good stuff Mitch; you’re right, people overreacted for the wrong reasons. Truthfully, I’d think some of the people I connect with should take something like that more personal if I did it because I’ve talked to a lot of them. Lucky for me, I’ve already weeded out those who don’t talk to me, ever, so I don’t have that worry.

  9. Mitch, great article. I’ve been hearing both sides of the article. At one time, yes, we followed everyone that followed us, quickly building lists and as that happened, my twitter feed started to look more like a link farm than a virtual water cooler.
    With g+ out I can see that going the same way, I mean we can add everyone to our circle and filter them out into a who in the heck are you circle. But wouldn’t it be better to put not follow those whom you don’t have the time nor inclination to follow.
    However, I do meet new interesting people among those once strangers who circled me. Just wish there were a way to say what kind of information they were interested in viewing so I’d know what circles to add them to.
    I guess it is a balance. Time is a great equalizer, we each have only 24 hours in a day, and should not squander such a precious commodity.
    Is there an entitlement mentality on the internet? Because I mentioned you, followed you, you

    1. Hi Heidi! I’ve avoided the mistake I made with Twitter and Facebook early on with G+. I’ve limited the people I will hook up with to those I actually know in some capacity. Now I’m starting to get requests from people there asking me to hook up with them, but some of them haven’t learned the Twitter lesson that says add an image or be ignored. Also, they’re not trying to talk to me, they’re trying to build up their numbers, and I’m not into that on G+. I mean, if we don’t eventually learn from history we just repeat it, and that’s not always good.

  10. Mitch I am with you. I don’t see that it is a big deal if someone unfollows me or I unfollow them on Twitter. There are a lot of more important things in life.

    I would be more concerned with comments then Twitter followers.

    Twitter has its place and that is where I will leave it.

    Dee Ann Rice

    1. Thanks Dee Ann; I marvel at people who are ready to let themselves feel disappointed and sad by the revelation that someone else has decided not to follow them anymore. It probably happens to all of us; I’ve noticed people on both Twitter and Facebook that I knew I was connected with that I’m no longer connected with, including relatives. I just figure it is what it is and move on. Whether I continue following or not is a different matter, but who cares at that point, right? I really am more concerned with blog comments overall.

  11. hey Mitch

    I just wanted to say thanks for mentioning Twit Cleaner.

    Obviously I completely agree with you, after all, it’s the raison d’etre of Twit Cleaner 🙂

    Si Dawson
    [Twit Cleaner Founder]

    1. Hi Si; thanks for stopping by. I love your site and I’m glad to talk about it in a positive light.

  12. Hi Mitch. First, thanks for sharing this.
    You know, personally, I don’t think about it too much when people decided to unfollow me. Why? Because I don’t even know it when they unfollow me! LOL! But even though I know, I won’t take it too personally. It can be either they felt disturbed, or else.

  13. Hi Mitch, cool video. After watching it I almost forgot what the topic was. lol Personally, I would rather have my little Twitter account of people I can relate with than thousands of people just interested in the numbers and not interacting at all. I guess I think of it like a Twitter high bounce rate, just useless traffic. Don’t get me wrong, I’d jump in the shows of Chris Brogan any day; then I’d go setup a separate account with actual friends and interesting bloggers. One for the money, one for the fun. Hey, I wonder if 50 Cent can work that into his next rap. I’ll have to run it by him 😉

    1. Brian, if you buy some of his Vitamin Water I’m sure he’d be up to listening to you for a while. lol I tell you, Chris knew he couldn’t keep up with that many people; none of us could. Having that many follow is impressive, but having to connect with all those folks, especially when you know half of them have to be spammers… ugh.

      1. The more I think about it the crazier it seems. Can you imagine what his @reply feed looks like? It has to be longer that our home feeds, adding new messages every second or so. No way to keep up with something like that.

        Like you said though, I’m sure he understands that, just like there’s no way to read and/or reply to every blog post once you gain that kind of popularity. I hope to experience that someday.

      2. I’m with you Brian. I mean, getting to a point where people are talking about you to the point where you don’t have to follow anyone and messages keep coming through because people are mentioning you. Then again, I only want to get to that point if I’m making money off the deal, otherwise it’s a waste of my time. lol

  14. I am not sure I understand or should I say buy the reason why Unfollow-ing was done and I fully agree with you the whole thing seems pathetic. First it takes some time to build up that type of numbers on a list; secondly one can never adequately service that list with quality comments. so I can only conclude that it was for commercial purposes; and finally on that score it is difficult to understand why he would cut all there must be some underlying factor. I thought Brian made an interesting point when he said that he saw it as a Twitter high bounce rate and then went on to describe it as useless traffic . Your reply should be an eye opener to many of us those high numbers do look impressive but could be useless spammers looking out for their own inters. Once again very interesting post and as usual I enjoy the exchanges in comments and your replies. Thanks.

    1. William, the thing is that the number of people you follow is never all that impressive; it’s the number of people following you that may tell you if some folks care what you have to say or not. The way I see it, Chris Brogan does interact with some people here and there, but no way one person’s going to be able to interact with hundreds of thousands, especially if you’re also following them. For instance, I have close to 3,000 people following me, but if I were following all those 3,000 people I’d be overwhelmed (not that it’s easy keeping up with 900) and I’d know that many of those accounts weren’t valid to begin with so I’d have to weed out all the garbage to get to the real stuff. That’s why I knew way back when that I had to weed people out, and why I use both Twit Cleaner and Friend or Follow to see what people are doing and make my decisions on who I’m sticking with.

      By the way, you keep typing your email address in wrong and I keep correcting it for you. lol

  15. Well, as you know I don’t use Twitter so don’t have experience of it from that angle, but years ago I used a different bloghost on which one ‘friended’ people one wanted to read, and some of them would get really upset if I unfriended them. That said – I came across something I wrote from when I started there and was astonished to see that I’d been upset myself by people unfriending me. So I guess we live and learn, lol!

    1. Val, it’s that particular reason why I don’t have programs telling me when someone decides to drop me. Even the most logical of us would wonder what we’d said that made someone leave, and I just don’t want to deal with that. I deal with it when it comes to my newsletter, but that’s business, not personal.

  16. I would think that by following 131K people, the above said person was just building a follower list for himself (“I follow, You follow me” rule). It’s impossible for humans to follow 131K people anyhow 🙂 By announcing it publicly, probbaly he did a good thing of regretting a mistake.

    1. Jenny, it could have gone both ways I imagine. The first major purge of Twitter folks that I did cut nearly 500 people, but I never announced it, and not a single one of those people ever even noticed as far as I know. That’s when you know that many of those people don’t care about their accounts or meeting people, and thus I don’t worry about them.

  17. I don’t really know what the big deal is over Chris dropping all of these followers. So what? I suspect I’m one of the people he dropped but he never said two words to me on Twitter and those who follow me on Twitter know I LOVE engagement—so I’ll get over it. All he did was push his agenda and if you weren’t buying into it you got dropped like a hot potato. Next—-

    1. Bev, I don’t think he ever got to see any of your posts. What most folks don’t think of is that they probably only get to see so many posts unless people are mentioning you specifically. Now, I’m following less than 900 people, but I don’t have people mentioning my name or messaging me all that often so it’s easy to keep up with. But if you have over 100,000 people following you and you’re somewhat popular that’s going to be way more people messaging you than the norm.

      Since I have TweetDeck set up to only show me the last 250 messages it’s easy for me to deal with, but can you imagine how many messages he had to be getting, along with much of it spam, and he had to still work and write 2 blog posts a day and travel and the like? I could see how it could get overwhelming pretty quickly.

  18. How many followers did he had? Because following 131,00 people had to generate some followers also.
    Anyways, its just crazy! That’s why I don’t use twitter anymore, I never could handle following more then 50 people, to much time wasted if you ask me. And because I followed so few people nobody followed me…

    1. Cristian, you get out of Twitter what you decide to put into it. I love Twitter, I must admit; I get more engagement with others there than anywhere else except this blog. And yes, he’s got lots of followers, even now after all that fuss he got, just under 200,000; seems there was a lot more bluster than action from those other people.

  19. Interesting “experiment”. I believe that you’re right. Most of his friends on Twitter didn’t even know who he was and never even read his posts.

    On the other hand, did he actually follow all 131k? Don’t think so…

    1. Actually Ana, he was officially following that many people; he just didn’t really talk to that many of them, and he knew that, which is why he decided to kill all of them.

    1. Jo, it must depend on who you are because they didn’t ban Chris Brogan. To that end, I go to a website called Twit Cleaner that checks out your followers and gives you a report on them, and all those that you tell the program to delete from your account it does it over time so that there’s no risk of penalty.

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