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HOWTO: Clean Up Your Twitter Feed By Removing Inactive Accounts

When you start to follow a large number of accounts on Twitter, it makes sense to optimise that user base to ensure it’s as efficient as possible.

There really is no point in following:

  1. Spammers
  2. People who ignore you
  3. People who tweet content that’s of absolutely no interest to you
  4. People who never tweet at all

This article will focus on how you can remove this last group from your network.

How To Find Inactive Twitter Accounts

Twitter Profiles

Yesterday I wrote about how you can use the statistical data on Twitter-Friends.com to analyse your presence on the Twitter network. We’re going to use one of the many features on this site today to clean up our inactive followers.

First, log on to TwitterFriends. You’ll need your Twitter username and password but the site is completely secure. Once done, click on the ‘Inactive’ tab. This will show you a list of all the people you follow in reverse chronological order since the last time they updated.

My list was much bigger than I would have anticipated – about two hundred people, ranging from those who hadn’t updated in months down to those who hadn’t submitted a tweet in the past week or so.

I don’t see any point in following anybody who never updates, so I set to work to remove those accounts.

Before You Unfollow, Apply Some Ground Rules

My goal was to unfollow anybody who hadn’t updated in x days. I decided that 30 days was a reasonable number. If you haven’t updated in a month, chances are that account has been abandoned, or you’ve been forced to leave Twitter for other reasons.

I also felt this period covered me for folk who were on holiday, moving home, or away from Twitter for some reason beyond their control but would return in the future.

I went through my list carefully and opened each profile in Twitter.com, checking to see if TwitterFriends was right about their last update (it always was), and making sure it wasn’t somebody I really wanted to follow. One example was @DeanKarnazes, who hasn’t tweeted in 34 days, but I like the guy and hope he’ll return to Twitter. Everybody else who hadn’t updated in the last 30 days was unfollowed.

To be honest, I was amazed at how many of these people were clearly spammers, mass-marketers or something very close. This can happen if you have used an auto-follow service like I have – you end up picking up people who are not blatant enough to be removed by Twitter but are still essentially spam accounts.

I was also following quite a few users whose accounts were clearly temporary – they might have been serving a certain purpose, like the NCAA finals, and were no longer being used.

All told, I unfollowed about 150 inactive accounts.

Won’t They Unfollow Me Back?

Lots of accounts on Twitter use auto-follow/unfollow tools, and it did occur to me by purging my following list of so many people there was a good chance I’d lose a large number of followers myself. Even if the accounts had been abandoned, if they were tied into an auto-unfollower, they’d drop off my radar. I decided this didn’t matter to me at all, because if there’s no point following a user who never updates, there’s not much point being followed by one, either.

All that said, despite dropping 150 accounts myself, I only lost about 10 in return.

Conclusion

You may decide that following people who never update isn’t a negative, and it’s certainly true that removing inactive accounts from your profile won’t affect your Twitter stream at all.

For me, it’s important to ensure that my network is relative and efficient, and I cannot think of a single positive reason to follow a user that never updates. Indeed, by removing those 150 ‘dead’ accounts, it’s freed me up to follow 150 active ones, with no change to the size of my user base. By repeating this process every 30-60 days, I can comfortably administer the folks I am following and ensure my network remains optimised.

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