Why I Un-Followed You on Twitter

[Quick Note: I went through 8K followers in less than an hour so I know I inadvertently missed some people I should be following. If you think that’s you, shoot me a quick @reply and I’ll be happy to add you back.]

Following 4000K+ people had become like an annoying girlfriend you just want to break up with, but don’t have the heart to do it. I’ve wanted to pare it down for a long time now, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Also, I knew a large portion of the people I un-followed would immediately reciprocate my gesture. Would my messaging go out to less people when I need to get a message out for work-related initiatives? Would people start thinking I’m less influential?

I was looking at it all wrong. If someone is defining my social capital based on the number of Twitter followers I have (and many are), that’s just ignorant and I’m over it. I know, because I’ve been guilty of this. I followed people back because I knew that it ensured they would keep following me in their quest to artificially build up their amount of followers.

Watching my followers decrease (very quickly) when I started un-following people was actually very satisfying. It told me I did the right thing. Those people weren’t following me for the value I was bringing to the table. They weren’t reading my messages, much less having a conversation with me or re-tweeting anything. They were there for themselves (and that’s okay.)

As for me, I feel there’s a huge weight off my shoulders, and now I can invest time adding more value to the lives of people that are genuinely following me for the value I aim to provide. Look, there’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter. I encourage you to use it in a way that provides the most value for you. Quite a few people I respect have already trimmed their followers (e.g. Chuck Westbrook, Jason Calcanis, Loic Le Meur, Seth Simonds, Ari Herzog, and many more).

What follows is 3 reasons why I un-followed you on Twitter:

I don’t know you and I’ve never talked to you

There are a handful of people I don’t know and I’ve never talked to that I’m following on Twitter, but they’re the rare exception and they provide me with tremendous value related closely to my interests/passions. Or they make me laugh. It didn’t make much sense for me to be following random brands I’m not interested in and the countless “Internet Marketers” trying to peddle their products.

Your updates weren’t providing me with enough value

This isn’t to say that you as a person don’t add value to my life; just that the vast majority of what you posted about didn’t particularly interest me and kept me from seeing others that did. This doesn’t mean that I won’t answer your @replies though.

I was already filtering you via Tweetdeck anyway

I’m certainly not “Twitter Elite,” but I was definitely employing the techniques Mitch Joel talks about in this piece. I had created groups where I was only watching the people I knew and was interested in via Tweetdeck. If you sent me an @reply and engaged me in conversation I always answered and if I found value in what you tweeted about then chances are I added you to one of those groups, but if not, I never saw your tweets. Is this fair? Probably not. Is it honest? Yes.

How to get me to follow you back:

You’re welcome to be upset or angry with me for un-following you. I understand; I empathize even. You can do one of two things. A.) Remain angry/upset or B.) Do one of the three things below to ensure I add you back.

Send me an @reply and engage me in conversation related to my interests

I love meeting new and interesting people, especially if they’re related to my interests (see below). If you like something I’ve tweeted and you re-tweet it, or if you ask me a question or engage me on Twitter you can be rest assured I’m going to acknowledge you.

Provide immense value with respect to marketing, sports, lifestyle design and other things I’m passionate about.

I have three main columns in Tweetdeck. One for influencers I really respect and enjoy reading, one for friends (mostly GenY peeps), and one for all my sports marketing friends. Now I’m not certain I’ll need those anymore, but if you fall into those categories and think I should be following you, please let me know. Also, my interests are constantly changing and evolving so don’t feel limited by what you *think* my interests are. Engage me, get to know me, and let me decide for myself.

Hold me at gunpoint.

I don’t care if you’re promoting your product on how to get millions of followers and acquire immense wealth as a result. I don’t care if you’re a lying, cheating, scamming, aberration of a person, if you hold me at gunpoint I will follow you on Twitter.

In Conclusion:

  • There’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter; use it in a way that provides you with value.
  • I’m not preaching in this post, I’m not on a pedestal (It amazes me everyday ANYONE cares what I have to say much less 3-5 thousand.) This was designed as an explanation for those who feel upset or wronged by my actions
  • And to encourage those who’ve been wanting an excuse to start over (you know who you are), but are scared (just do it!)
  • Since taking the leap, my level of conversation with those that provide me with the most value has already increased, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

Have you thought about pruning your followers down to those that provide you with the most value, to those you interact with the most anyway? Are you scared that you’ll lose credibility if you have less followers? If you follow everyone that follows you, I want your side of the story too.

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  • Good for you Ryan – I go through and ‘clean house’ so to speak every few weeks – probably one of the reasons I haven’t eclipsed the 1,000 follower mark yet. My formula is simple: I give all REAL people a chance to reach out to me, even sending ONE @ reply. I go so far as to personally type a DM to every new follower, attempting to kick-start a conversation (you know me, I’m big on community and interactivity).

    But, if we never talk, if you flat out ignore me when I reach out and DM or @reply you – eventually you are going to get the boot.

    I, like you, think to myself, “Well, the more people following, the more people who hear what I have to say, click through my links, more page views on my blog, and so on” – but that’s not what’s important, and it defeats the purpose of social networking, which is to NETWORK, communicate, and engage with other people.

    Good explanation Ryan, your ‘Twilosophy’ is evolving.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Matt – Thanks for the encouragement. I’m sure I’ll receive some push-back from certain entities, but what matters is that I did the right thing for ME.

    I want to see my messages spread as far as possible, and I do care about my loose ties (I kept most of them), but the people who genuinely value what I have to offer are the ones that are going to spread it most of the time anyway.

    After I saw Derek Halpern get well over 1,000 re-tweets to a blog post when he only had 343 followers, I was believer.

    Thanks for your insights as always Matt!

    [Reply]

  • I’m glad I don’t have to bust out my glock, Ryan. Then we would both be sorry.

    Honestly, though, after seeing this, I’ll probably be doing the same by next weekend! Rest assured, you won’t be one of the people on my cutting room floor, let alone the cutting board itself.

    Thanks for writing and sharing, man! It’s nice to see that it’s not just the “Twitter elite” doing this, and to really understand the motivation.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Aidan – You always struck me as someone who didn’t care what anyone though and had the fat trimmed down anyway. Both the Nulman’s retained my services. I followed a link from Saul’s feed the other day and saw your dad on Conan. I see where you get your awesome fashion sense from! Is your Pops short? Or just next to Conan?

    [Reply]

  • Sam

    Ryan, I think it’s great that you did this, and that you feel so good about it. I honestly never understood the point of following thousands of people, but then again, I’m a big believer in quality over quantity.

    One of the best things about Twitter, in my opinion, is the conversation. The fact that you pared down your following list so much in order to maintain more meaningful connections with the people who count speaks volumes about you. As we all know, being genunine is very highly valued in the blogosphere, so well done!

    P.S. Thanks for continuing to follow me, I’m honored 🙂

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Sam – I think I’ve interacted more with my list today since I’ve pared it down than I did ever before in such a short time frame. I think it’s made me more accessible and approachable to the people who want to reach out.

    And of course I’d keep following you. Love the value you provide both via Twitter and Life’s Chocolates.

    [Reply]

  • Well done Ryan. I agree completely, there’s no value in too much noise. And the thing is that it’s US the ones that can’t provide that value either because we can’t engage.

    Nice move my man.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence Carlos. I know I’m not always as calculated and precise as you, but think I’ve done the right thing this time. I only wish I would’ve done it from the onset because I hate that I might’ve disappointed a few people along the way.

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  • Bold move, my friend. I frequently look thru the people I follow to see if they are following me back. Perhaps its just being a little selfish, but there are famous folks I’m fine with not following back and then there are others that I want to unfollow because I’m obviously not benefiting from any sort of conversation with them.

    Thanks for putting into words the things that some of us were thinking about the reciprocal (and sometimes not-so) relationships of the Tweet!

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Elisa – For the most part I agree. I mean if their tweets by themselves provide you value (and there’s a handful for me that do) then I see no reason to dump them. But for many relationships it’s about the value that comes via the conversations and if someone isn’t following you back those are next to impossible.

    [Reply]

  • You make an amazing case for being more conscious about people to follow… I’ve considered myself selective before I hit the “Follow” button, but certainly have reciprocated to those I *think* may have value but have not show it yet.

    When I think about those with whom I communicate each week, I think of us all being in a commune of sorts…we’re all speaking the same general language even if we don’t agree on a particular topic, and I value that. Do they include everyone on my follow list? No.

    You’re onto something about being able to see people more clearly by eliminating the static.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Gail – I’ll still follow people who follow me that I think have the potential to provide value. It’s all the bots, brands, and online marketers that were just trying to add to their # and NEVER think about engaging me that I trimmed.

    And I can say without question, the conversations I’ve had with people SINCE doing it yesterday morning have been far more valuable and easy to keep track with.

    [Reply]

  • I go back and forth on this. When speaking to Brogan he tells me he autofollows everyone so he can get DM’s from people who want to hire him as a speaker or consultant. Others believe in your position Ryan, and for me I go back and forth a lot to see what makes the most sense. I guess this will be an ongoing topic to discuss for a while, and there may not be a right or wrong way about it.

    @lewishowes

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Lewis – Obviously, it was a decision I spent a few months considering. I respect what Chris and Scott Monty and others have done with the autofollow, but those people can send me an e-mail also. My contact information is pretty easy to find, and if someone really wants me to speak they can invest 2 minutes into getting it. And you’re right. There’s no right or wrong, just what works best for you!

    [Reply]

  • Ryan
    Great move! Its pointless to get onto twitter if you’re nor conversing with people beyond your own city/ interest/ echo chamber. But its also pointless following people who dont interest you at all!
    Pruning a list has the same effect as pruning a tree!
    Here’s to engaging conversations and real connect.
    Cheers,
    Anita

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @Anita – Thanks for the additional thoughts and encouragement Anita. So glad you’ve been stopping by and contributing to the conversation here lately!

    [Reply]

  • Ryan, this is such a true and honest post. I’m really glad you said (multiple times) that there ISN’T a right or wrong way to do Twitter. People get different value from Twitter, regardless of how they use it.

    I once felt I was half caught in the mix that when someone followed me, I might follow them back to “return the favor” and show that I was “engaged.” Follower number used to be something to note when I first started (like, “Oh, over 800 people are following, now it’s 801, etc.”) but now, I couldn’t tell you how many people are following me if you asked.

    I say that because it’s all about the conversations I always have and meeting new people. Without being selfish, it is my Twitter account so I want to get the most out of it, for me. I did a Twitter cleaning recently and definitely have that mindset here on out, similar to your philosophy. It cleans out the people I’ve never met, who have never talked to me or don’t provide value and leaves room for the people I have met, want to meet, or gain value from. Thanks for sharing-it’s a great post!

    [Reply]