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Why I Deleted One Of The Most Popular Articles On Twittercism.com

Yesterday on Twittercism I wrote an article entitled, “The Long Con – A List Of Known Internet Marketer System Scams On Twitter“.

As I compiled the post, I started thinking about some of my other entries on Twittercism, and I began to wonder if I’d been a bit of a hypocrite with one of my early articles, “How To Gain 200+ Followers Overnight”.

In the article, I opened by making the statement that, for me, “Twitter is all about socialisation”. This continues to be my truth. The essay then provided tips on how by following a list of users who always followed you back (or claimed to), you could quickly and easily boost the size of your Twitter network. To be fair, I wrote this almost three months ago, when a couple of hundred extra followers was a huge deal. It still is for a lot of people, particularly newcomers to the service. Indeed, this was a popular post – it has always had a spot in my top-twenty most-read articles on this blog.

The list I used was compiled by Social News Watch, and in my article I set out to see what would happen if I followed everybody on that page – all 237 of them. The results were pretty amazing – when I began this project, I had 602 followers. Within a week, I had over 1000 – I’d picked up a lot of the people who were following those on the list, too.

But, I began to muse, at what cost?

Reality Check

Here’s the thing: in my opinion, most of the people on that list don’t bring an enormous amount of value to Twitter. That’s a very relative perspective, of course. But, unless you’re like them, you will never engage with them. They will never engage with you.

They are following you back simply because you are following them. That is the only reason. They aren’t reading your stuff, and they’re certainly not re-tweeting it.

How could they? You’re just one of the other 10-100,000 people they follow. Do you really think they’re paying any attention? Sure, you might get a reply if you send them a message, but that’s the only time. Don’t expect to hear from them first.

There’s nothing wrong with that, per se – and engagement is of course a two-way street –  but what really started to eat away at me was by writing that article I was effectively recommending following the people on that list. And if you’ve read yesterday’s article about Twitter marketing scams, you’ll see several people on ‘the list’ who are involved in these cons, including James Rivers and Bill Crosby, and many others in there push the same products. One or two are also used as examples of ‘satisfied customers’ on the system websites.

Now, let’s clear something up – there are some great people to follow on that list. I strongly recommend Scobleizer and JesseNewhart. Everybody should follow these guys. Jesse, in particular, goes out of his way to engage with his network, and produces a lot of quality content. Robert? Well, he’ll do the same if you head on over to Friendfeed. But how are you going to know when to do that unless you follow him on Twitter? ;)

You can also get great value from TheOnion, ChrisPirillo and JeffPulver. There are probably 20-30 other people in there that I still follow and whose tweets I enjoy. I’m working on a big list of people I think you must follow on Twitter, and hope to have that ready within the next week or so. Some of the names from that list will make my list.

There are  some fantastic people not on that list who will follow you back, and who will engage with you – Chris Brogan being a notable example.

However, at least half of Social News Watch’s collective is completely worthless, and by that I mean worthless to me, which is what this all comes down to. Equally, I would presume that I am worthless to them, and that’s fine. That’s how it needs to be; how it must be. Increasingly, I am of the mindset that the most important step each of us can take on Twitter is keeping our network stream relevant to us. That doesn’t mean we all follow a bunch of ‘yes men’ – opinions that are contrary to our own help us to grow and develop as people – but there isn’t any point following somebody for the sole reason that they have followed you back.

This ‘junk following’ has zero value. What works – what has always worked in any kind of networking – is growing your contact list organically, building relationships along the way.

I’m not saying this is a list of bad people. Many of them are very pleasant. But in a sense of relativity, and certainly in an analysis of the acceptable ratio of signal-to-noise within one’s network, they just don’t tick the right boxes.

Moreover, there are some real oddities in that group, too. Right-wing religious fundamentalists, folk who tweet nothing but trite motivational quotes, manic depressives, robots, feed-tweeters, bizarre Obama-haters, oddly paranoid conspiracists, plus the usual ‘SEO experts’ and ‘social media gurus’ – and these are some of the better examples.

Some of the worst offenders – again, for me personally – were those who are always upbeat. How can you always be happy? How can everything be the best thing ever? The world just doesn’t work that way. And thank God – life would be a truly miserable, hollow experience if it did.

And of course there are your usual pseudo-spammers and multi-level marketers, pushing their ‘valuable’ crap down our throats, and stinking up my stream. But hey, that’s my fault, as I followed them.

That said, I also know from my experiment that about a third of them do not follow you back, despite their promises. And at least one of them recently unfollowed virtually everybody in their network, so don’t expect a reciprocal exchange there.

Eventually, I ended up blocking about half a dozen of the names in that list. Why? Because they were completely mental. And I see from doing a few clicks now that I can’t have been the only one, as their accounts are gone.

The Issue

Why would I want to recommend such a group? Even if it was just an experiment, I’d put my name on it. If somebody trusted me and had faith in my reputation on Twitter, they would likely believe following everybody on that list was a good idea, too.

I no longer believe in auto-following anybody. I follow people who interest me. After my experiment, as the weeks passed, I unfollowed more and more of the people on the list.

And, of course, they immediately unfollowed me.

Therein lies the reality; the proof, if you will. There is no ‘networking’ here. There is no gain for you, as a user of Twitter. It’s just a follow, a number. Plus one. That’s it. It means nothing.

As I constructed my article yesterday, I started to think about all of this.

It started to really bother me. I began to feel like a hypocrite.

So, I deleted the post.

What Now?

The list at Social News Watch remains very popular – it has had over 1300 re-tweets at the time of writing – and it continues to serve a purpose. As I hope I have stressed in this article, the majority of folk on that list have no value – to me. They might have tremendous value to you, which brings me to my concluding point.

I recommend you check out the list yourself, and work through it, one by one, name by name. But here’s the catch – don’t follow people automatically, and certainly do not do this just because they likely will follow you back. Instead, click on their profiles, and see what they have to say. Does it interest you? Is it relevant to you?

If it is, follow them. If not, don’t. And if you’re not sure, why not take a gamble? Because if they turn out to be right-wing wackos, motivational quack-tweeters, smiley-happy Prozac people, multi-level pseudo spammers or paranoid schizophrenic manic depressives, take comfort in this: Twitter’s unfollow button remains the single most powerful feature on the entire network.

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