Trending: The mass unfollow on the twitter

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The latest trend on the twitter seems to be the mass unfollow. I think Chris Brogan started the trend, Michael Hyatt and others followed suit.

Carlos Whittaker wrote a pretty spot-on post about why he’s not unfollowing everyone, so I figured I’d be trendy and give you my take on the whole follow/refollow/unfollow…um…thingy.

Last time I checked, I had 2546 followers on the twitter. Bush league numbers compared to a guy like Michael Hyatt who has over 100,000 followers or LosWhit whose following is just shy of 23,000. I have never used an auto-follow back service, which automatically refollows anyone that follows you. For every new follow notification I receive, I choose to refollow or not based on whether I think the person (and they need to be a real person) would be someone who could add to the conversation–whatever that conversation might be.

Auto-refollow services offer people (especially high profile people) a convenient, hands-off approach to connecting with their followers, and while I don’t anticipate I’ll ever have enough followers to warrant using such a service, even if I did, I wouldn’t.


Because I think it’s disingenuous.

There’s plenty of spam twitter accounts; plenty of people on Twitter who view follower counts as nothing more than a numbers game.

But there are also real, flesh and blood people on the other side of that tweet.

  • There’s a stay-at-home mom whose baby just puked on the last clean shirt she owns.
  • A new, struggling writer whose blog is read by 3 people, 2 of which are his mom and dad.
  • A lonely, housebound widower who is desperately trying to make human contact with another soul in cyberspace.

All of whom are thrilled to death when someone they admire and respect is actually following THEM on Twitter.

How do you suppose it makes them feel when they are summarily dumped in a massive unfollow?

I assume it makes them realize what they suspected all along:

That they never really mattered in the first place.

And I’d rather let them know that up front instead of letting them believe otherwise until they’re of no use to me anymore.

Like the sign hanging in my daughter’s elementary school hallway says:

It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

(Sorry–but I had to get that off my chest.)

While I consider each new follow on an individual basis, I do have some guidelines which help me determine who NOT to refollow. I’ve shared them here before, and here they are again:

image courtesy of

The Top 10 Reasons I didn’t grant you the courtesy refollow:

Generally speaking, if someone follows me on the twitter and they appear to be a real person and not some spambot or online markerter, I will grant the courtesy refollow. By the way, if you are a real person and I’m not refollowing you, it’s most likely that I don’t know you’re following me. If you let me know, I’ll follow you. Unless of course you happen to break one or more of  the cardinal rules of the katdish courtesy refollow:

  1. You’re nekkid in your avatar. That’s all I have to say about that.
  2. Your Twitter bio contains the words “Social Media” followed by the words “celebrity” or “rock star”. Um, get over yourself already. I’ve never heard of you.
  3. Your last 10 tweets consist of links to your own website and tired old quotes everyone’s already heard.
  4. Your tweets are in a language other than English. Sorry. I’m a dumb American. That’s the only language I speak, understand or read.
  5. All of your tweets look something like this: *¨* 愛∗¸☀¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀.•*¨* 愛∗¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸¸.•*¨¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸.•*. Am I missing something? What’s up with that?
  6. You talk at the twitter, but you never have any conversations with people on the twitter. It’s social media. Be social already. I don’t care who you are, you’re not that big a deal (to me, anyway).
  7. You don’t have a bio. Seriously…would it kill you to say 10 words about yourself?
  8. You are suffering from hashtagatosis, where you cannot #tweet #anything #without #using #hashtags.
  9. You are rabidly opposed to either liberals or conservatives and that’s all you tweet about. I follow liberals, conservatives and everyone in between, but I’m really more interested in what we have in common than what separates us. (End of mini speech.)
  10. I’m just not that into you. (This may include, but may not limited to the fact that you use foul language constantly or are overtly sexually suggestive. I’m not the morality police, I just don’t care to see that in my twitter feed. To each his own.)

So, there’s my top ten. Do you have any deal breakers when it comes to the courtesy refollow?

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32 Responses to “Trending: The mass unfollow on the twitter”

  1. Jason Stasyszen September 8, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    I hadn’t heard about this, but I do what you describe and follow back based on seeing their info and tweets. Honestly, I may never interact with them beyond that, but you never know. Nice analysis. Thanks Kat.

  2. Jason Wert September 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    You nailed this. Absolutely nailed it.

  3. Candy September 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Unfollow. KIDDING. And don’t be dissing my hashtags. Loved this post. #really

  4. Maureen September 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    I had not heard of the mass unfollow and have better things to do with my time than engage in that kind of action.

    Yours are excellent guides. I also don’t follow without checking out the tweeter and his or her Website or blog. I ignore any tweet that is nothing more than my name followed by a link, especially if the avatar is not fully clothed or seems to be an egg instead of a likeness of a human. I also never respond to anyone who sends a tweet remarking on how funny I look. If my account’s going to be hijacked, it’s got to be by a more original way than that.

    • katdish September 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

      Maureen, you are one of the most generous and gracious people I know. On and off twitter.

  5. Craig September 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Let’s see why you followed me back
    I’m a person ☑
    My avi isn’t nekked ☑
    No claim of celebrity standing ☑
    No tired quotes (mine aren’t tired) ☑
    No continual self-promotion ☑
    Not all tweets look like 愛∗¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀.•*¨* 愛☑

    although sometimes they look like this
    ☆.•*¨`*•. ☆ .•*¨`*•.☆
    so I’m guessing I’m ok

    Have conversations with people ☑
    Have a bio ☑
    Don’t have #hashtagotosis ☑
    (#still #Ihearthashtags)
    not political ☑
    Your into me – awwwwww, thank you that was very nice (ˆ◡ˆ) ☑

    ooops I didn’t ask – are emoticons ok?

    Oh, anbd your question – I only follow nice people – or people I think are nice…
    I followed you.

    God Bless and Keep

  6. okiewife September 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I do actually follow a couple of eggs, but I know who they are, and am encouraging them to get real avatars. Speaking of avatars, I changed mine to a little old gray-haired lady tootling down the road in a boxy car, just because I got tired of my 2 year old photo. I basically follow the same guidelines you listed, which is why in 2 yrs. on twitter I’ve just this week passed 500 followeres. Quantity is not as important as quality.

  7. Jake September 8, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    I feel like “*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀.•*¨* 愛∗¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸¸.•*¨¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸☀¸¸.•*¨* 愛∗¸.•*.” is something you get tattooed on your lower back. Definitely not following that one back….

    Kat, I love the rants and your genuineness. I can always count on there being a human somewhere around as long as you’re on the twitter or writing. Thank you for that.

  8. Larry Hehn September 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Yep, those ten sum it up for me too. I agree with Jason. You nailed it!

  9. floyd September 8, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Huhhhh… What’s twitter?
    I seriously barely have the time to do what little I do, I can’t imagine adding something else. I’m out of it, I know… But, sometimes less is more. I’m trying to be about quality not quantity…
    (can you imagine my comments being even worse? A person’s got to know their limits?)

    I appreciate your straight forward honesty, and your heart of gold.

    • jake September 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      Floyd, you should get on the twitter…….

      • floyd September 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

        You keep telling me that!!! Maybe you just want to follow me so you can unfollow me!

  10. karenzach September 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    I am applauding this. Can you hear me in Texas from Tennessee? I absolutely agree. Mass following or unfollowing seems very junior highish to me. I’ve never been a numbers person.

  11. Tony Alicea September 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Profile pic must be of a human being, not a “brand”. Especially when I’ve never heard of said brand.

    Gotta have some @ mentions in there. Like you said, be social.

  12. Helen September 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    I agree with your list completely. One thing I’ll add is that I only follow businesses that I am interested in. A shampoo company in Poughkeepsie needs to indicate their personhood to me somehow (like an “@helenatrandom I’m a real person” tweet) in order to get a refollow.

  13. Alise September 9, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    “How do you suppose it makes them feel when they are summarily dumped in a massive unfollow?

    I assume it makes them realize what they suspected all along:

    That they never really mattered in the first place.”

    Yes. That.

    When stuff like Klout scores is motivating your decisions to participate in social media, it feels like you may have lost the plot. Don’t get me wrong, I love that because I have Kevin Bacon mentioned in my bio I am considered to be influential about bacon, but you know. I can be influential about bacon regardless of what Klout thinks. ;-D

    My rules for a follow-back? I want to see that you have something other than RTs & self-promotion in your timeline. Some original thoughts and some conversation. That’s pretty much it. I don’t converse with everyone that I follow/follow-back, but I at least want that to be a possibility.

    And while I have a relatively small twitter following as compared to monsters, I do have a feed running with everyone. I don’t go back and read it when it’s gone, but if I’m sitting around, there’s a chance that someone I don’t interact with regularly might say something worth responding to. If I only use lists, I’ll miss out on those.

  14. Annie McMahon September 9, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Your list is very similar to mine. Clear and to the point! Love that.

    About that unfollow thingy, I doubt anyone notices who unfollows them (unless they’re egomaniacs and use a tool to identify who unfollowed them). I hardly ever notice when I lose a follower, and I really don’t care much. Everyone has their reasons for unfollowing, and we just can’t take it personally. I’ve unfollowed people because they tweeted a lot, and about things I wasn’t interested in. Nothing personal, really. Just different interests. I wouldn’t mass-unfollow, though. I love my tweeps too much for that. <3

    • Helen September 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      I think sometimes twitter accidentally drops people, because I’ve been refollowed a couple of times… I assumed I was dropped by mistake and that people didn’t unfollow me and later regret their hasty decision.

  15. Cathy September 9, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    First of all, love when you call it “the twitter.” Please do that often…it makes me happy.

    Secondly, agree with you and Los. The unfollow was dumb (I would’ve rather they not follow me in the first place…Rachelle doesn’t, and I still follow her. That said, I don’t follow most people who won’t follow back. Unless they’re Roger Ebert.)

    I unfollowed those who mass-unfollowed me…not out of spite, it’s just…well, I tweeted this, this week:

    “Dear Christian “celebrity”: it’s nothing personal if I unfollow you back. It’s just, there’s SO much content out there. You understand. XO”

    And that’s the truth. I don’t have 20,000 followers…less than 1000, actually…but I don’t have time to see all of THOSE tweets, either. And I don’t have time to read everyone’s posts. And nobody is irreplaceable.

    Reminds me of an old quote: “Don’t be so humble – you’re not that great.”

  16. Amy Sorrells September 9, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    In addition to all the categories you list, I generally don’t follow back anyone who puts words like “life coach,” “marketing,” “money,” and “help you get followers” in their profile. I also don’t follow creepy men . . . old or young. (I reserve the right to define “creepy” however I wish. And it’s a wide, wide range. Sorry. Can’t help that about myself.) And I don’t follow people who obviously act too good to follow others or hate on others. Get over yourselves, people. really.

    Oh, and I only follow one, really hot egghead. 😉

  17. ed cyzewski September 9, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Great list here. I suppose the trick here is that everyone has a different way of using Twitter. I like your way–perhaps we could call it the slow and steady approach. I use Tweetdeck to manage my tweets, so unless someone sends me annoying DM’s, the follow/unfollow thing isn’t too big of a deal to me. I’m very picky about who I follow back, but Tweetdeck makes it all quite easy to manage.

  18. Ray September 9, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Thanks for a really good article. I agree with your 10 points.

  19. Jenny September 9, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    love this! I didn’t even know you could auto-follow 🙂 so I don’t

  20. Kelly Sauer September 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    As usual, I love the way you think. I followed a lot of people when I first joined Twitter, but didn’t get followed back, and I felt free enough to unfollow those who didn’t follow me, block the spammers who followed me, and trim my stream down to the people who didn’t annoy the heck – I mean suck the life – I mean bug me.

    I can’t follow everyone and still do what I do, so I keep my followers limited for now. We’ll see what happens in the future, eh? Maybe I will actually HAVE 100,000 friends that I will WANT to talk to!

  21. Louise G September 11, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Um… Oh… I don’t know…

    You always make me think. and sometimes, that hurts! ‘Cause your thoughts are deep and full of common sense and good ideas!

  22. Pat Rosier September 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Yes, to the ten original points. I get an email about each new follow and go to that person’s profile to see if their tweets fall in my areas of interest (reading, writing, publishing, current events and a few others) and if they do I refollow. If not, I don’t. It’s not personal, I’m sure I don’t follow back some really nice people.

  23. Irene Vernardis September 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi 🙂

    I apply the same points of your list. The other interesting thing I’ve noticed is that there are people who follow, wait for a day or 2 and if in the meantime I haven’t followed them back, they un-follow. I receive the e-mail notifications, but for many reasons I don’t look them up at the particular moment. When I do, I see that they un-followed. And these are people with thousands of followers and following. Really, do they check every day if the ones they followed (among so many thousands), followed them back? Probably it’s just an automatic feature.

    If I follow someone, I do it because I’m interested in what he/she is saying. It’s desirable that this person follows me back, but if he/she doesn’t, that will not be a reason for me to un-follow them.

    Interesting post 🙂

  24. D. D. Syrdal September 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    This is excellent. You can always tell the ones who follow you only to get you to follow them back to increase their own numbers. They never interact with anyone.

    The only thing I would add to this is I don’t follow religious tweeters. Believe anything you like, but I don’t want to know about it, and it’s very likely I don’t share your beliefs. I also don’t typically follow celebrities, I can’t really see any reason to. I don’t fawn over anyone.

  25. Drusilla Mott September 15, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of tweets do you enjoy reading most?

    I follow those who have an expression of their faith in their bio because I believe their tweets and links will, normally, help mine to grow. I also follow writers, editors, publishers, so I can learn the tricks-of-the-trade by following their links. I follow a few celebrities … mostly from NASCAR because I love the sport. This, however, can get a bit much on raceday.

    I find, though, that I have to think about what to post myself…I don’t normally retweet something because most of the people that follow me also follow the one that posted the comment, so what’s the point? Plus, I don’t want to receive or tweet a whole list of retweets. If there is something that really touches me, say someone else’s blog post, I have started retweeting the link. And I tweet the link to my own blog when I post a new one.

    My life is a little on the boring side, so when I tweet what is going on in my day, I think afterward… That was stupid, who cares about that? And when I think about replying to someone else’s tweet (like your parking lot comment a couple days ago-which I loved, by the way), I wonder if anyone really cares about my comment. So most of my posts are links to my own blog because I always draw a blank on what to say that might be interesting to others.

    That is why reasons 3 and 6 caught my eye and made me curious on what type of tweets other people like to see.

    • katdish September 15, 2011 at 9:33 am #

      Honestly, the tweets I enjoy the most are from regular folks. That parking lot tweet? That was me sharing my frustration with how ridiculous life can be, and I love when others share that sort of thing as well. I follow a few folks who don’t follow me back–a couple of celebrities whose tweets are funny, some big name writers and basically anyone I feel is tweeting valuable content. But for the most part, twitter is about the spontaneous conversation.

      As far as retweeting posts, I have a rule that I don’t ever retweet anything I haven’t read myself and got something of value out of–whether it be something faith related, good information or simply a good laugh. Hopefully that gives me credibility, so when I do RT something people know it might be worth a look. Twitter is what you make of it. It can be all about you, or it can be about others. I think for me it’s a combination of both. Hopefully more of the latter than the former.

  26. Jennifer September 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    These are all my rules, too. I don’t need a guru or a marketing ninja. I’m about conversations. Well done. Well done.

  27. Shawn Smucker September 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    Yes. And what a great comment thread.

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