The Politics of Unfollowing

Twitter is like a big, on-going cocktail party. If you just talk about nonsense, people will start moving away from you. If you stand in awkward silence, you’ll be ignored. And if you hand everyone a flyer advertising your “cool new business,” they’re going to be annoyed.

There are quite a few unwritten rules about how you should tweet, how often you should tweet, how to interact with others, and so on.

One particularly sensitive aspect of Twitter is following. Who should you follow? What should you expect in return? Here’s our take on a few common Twitter “follow/unfollow” dilemmas:

Who should you follow?
Follow people who generate content that you enjoy. If you like seeing their tweets in your stream, and you want to interact with them on a more regular basis, you should follow them.

But…they didn’t follow me back!
There’s no ‘golden rule’ on Twitter (at least not in this regard). Be mindful of the fact that people with thousands of followers may not have the time to assess every single one to see if they’d like to follow them back.

I’m low on followers. Maybe I should follow thousands of people in the hope that some will follow me back.
This could increase your followers…but it won’t increase the value you get from Twitter. Following too many people will likely cause you to have a stream full of content that isn’t relevant to you. If you really want to enjoy Twitter, rather than just rack up followers, this is not a good idea.

Ok…so to cut down on my stream, I should unfollow everyone who follows me back?
No. Aside from the fact that it makes you look like you’re just trying to get followers, your followers can tell that you are no longer following them…and it’s very likely that they will eventually unfollow you, too.

Who should I unfollow?
If you find that the people you are following aren’t generating content that you’re interested in, it’s perfectly OK to unfollow. It’s also OK to unfollow Twitter accounts that are inactive or that tweet extremely infrequently.

Should I instruct people to follow me back when I first interact with them?
No. If they’d like to follow you, they will.

Should I follow everyone who follows me? Isn’t this good etiquette?
No. Just like you can’t expect everyone you follow to follow you back, you also do not have to reciprocate a follow. If you see new followers, check out their profiles. If you’re interested in what they have to say, go for it!

Bottom line: Twitter is about good content and meaningful interactions. If you use it to rack up followers, you’re missing out.

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