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Posts Tagged ‘auto follow’

A Look Back At 12 Months Of Twitter (Part One)

Twittercism celebrates its first birthday today. It’s been a fun time, and if you’ll excuse the self-indulgence, I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of the key posts and themes – as well as the goofs and misfires – of the past 12 months.

It also functions nicely as a timeline of the change and development within Twitter over this period.

This is part one of two posts.

(Note: this is a very long post. If you want the tldr version, it’s ‘stuff happened’).

February 2009

The very first post on Twittercism asked whether Stephen Fry, who at the time was the third most popular user on the network behind Barack Obama and the then unofficial CNN Breaking News account, would ever be caught by any other bonafide celebrities.

The incident that would come to be know as, "Do you remember that time when Stephen Fry got trapped in a lift?"The incident that would come to be known as, “Do you
remember that time when Stephen Fry got trapped in a lift?”

Well, yes. A year later, and despite adding over a million followers, Fry has dropped to a relatively lowly 151 on the network. He’s still enormously popular, but as Twitter itself gained significance and started to attract more A-list celebrities it was always going to be difficult for Stephen to compete with the bigger American names.

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Targeted Following (Because Twitter Simply Doesn't Work If You Follow Everybody Back)

Back in August, I wrote an article that noted how Robert Scoble had unfollowed everybody on his Twitter network, and was basically starting over. This mass-unfollowing began to gain momentum around this time, and pretty soon several of the bigger names on Twitter, many of whom automatically followed back everybody who followed them, were seriously optimising their Twitter stream. Even Jesse Stay, whose SocialToo platform was the benchmark autofollower (but has other value), decided to start over.

Why? As I said at the time, Twitter simply doesn’t work when you follow thousands and thousands of people. And when you auto-follow, it’s even worse, as it won’t be long before the bulk of your stream is made up of spammers and bots, and even worse, internet marketers.

In the last week, both noted Silicon Valley blogger Louis Gray and Hubspot viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella have also had what could be politely referred to as a ‘bit of a trim’. Louis’ follow-to-follower ratio has been 1:1 (or thereabouts) as long as I can remember.

Here’s what they’ve done over the past few days:

The Secret To Twitter Success? Targeted Following

The Secret To Twitter Success? Targeted Following

Scoble subsequently hand-followed over seventeen thousand users manually, and while he’s often the exception that proves the rule, the rest of these guys – Jesse, Louis and Dan – have taken Scoble’s lead and manually followed several thousand themselves, too.

And here’s the good news: because they’ve done this, it means you don’t have to.

What’s happened here is this group – and many others like them – have stripped away all the clutter and noise that comes from following everybody, which has then massively improved their signal and focus. Their network is now targeted and optimised. Everybody needs a follow policy, but this is particularly true for the thought leaders and influencers.

The best part is because these guys have adopted a targeted following system, you don’t have to follow everybody they do to get the access to all that good stuff. You just have to follow them. Collectively, Scoble, Louis, Jesse and Dan follow around thirty-seven thousand people.

To have access to all that rich information, you just have to follow four.

Sure, you won’t see everything they do, and you’ll naturally be exposed to their own bias and prejudices about what they decide to share, and what they decide to ignore. And this is where your own targeted following comes to the surface. Each of these guys are pretty sound, and I think come with a boatload of trust and clout. So I’m happy to follow all of them, and for what it’s worth, I give them my endorsement to you, too.

(It’s pretty much all tech, of course, but you knew that anyway.)

But you can’t just follow a handful of people on Twitter, as that’s worse, in my opinion, than following everybody. Where these guys have taken another look at their networks and essentially started from scratch, so can you. You don’t have to unfollow everybody to do this, either. Just take a day or two to carefully analyse your followers, making the cuts where necessary and appropriate. Don’t be scared – trust me, Twitter, your Twitter, will improve dramatically as a result.

For me, Twitter works best when I’m following three to five hundred people. For you, the magic number might be less than a hundred. Or no more than a thousand. Whatever that number is, only you can find it, and it’s absolutely worth putting in the work.

On that, I think when Chris Brogan finally caves, and gives up a sizeable chunk of that 108,529 on his following list – which really must be an absolutely nightmare, especially for a guy who’s all about engagement – then we’ll probably have the final piece of this cycle in place.

Brogan has written about how he likes to follow back everybody because it gives them a chance to contact him via direct message, which is admirable, but I know from personal experience of testing automatic follow-backs – even if they’re done on manual basis – that what you end up with in your direct message inbox is 90% spam, ‘thanks for following me’ auto-DMs and that TrueTwit validation nonsense that only mass marketers and spammers seem to use. And as a result, the direct message system just falls apart, as most of your day ends up being about clearing it out.

Brogan is one of few, bonafide shining lights in the world of social media, but if you take a moment to peruse his following list you’ll see how it’s made up of so many of the kinds of people the rest of us try to avoid (and usually block). It can’t be long until even he cracks. And the smart money will be on Darren Rowse next.

Are You Crippled By Unfollow Fear?

Completely by accident, the theme on Twittercism this week has been about network optimisation. You can read previous posts on this topic here and here.

Often when I speak to Twitter folk (and this includes clients) about cutting down on the huge amounts of people they’re following to improve the relevancy and value of their network, I get this response:

“I don’t like to unfollow people in case they unfollow me.”

These people suffer from unfollow fear. I find this attitude slightly baffling. Why do we choose to unfollow people? Because for various reasons they’re not right for us. If they then choose to unfollow us back, doesn’t that actually confirm our actions?

If you can only get ten thousand people to follow you because you’re following eleven thousand, something isn’t right. Your network isn’t relevant, it doesn’t have much value and it certainly isn’t optimised.

Let’s say you’re following ten thousand people, and the same number are following you. One day you wake up and decide to put an end to the madness, and unfollow everybody on your list. What’s the worst thing that can happen? That you’ll lose everybody who was following you?


All this tells us is that these individuals were using auto-follow and unfollow tools and likely weren’t paying any attention to you at all, excluding the occasional lip service. Most people don’t even realise when somebody has unfollowed them. If you drop somebody and they immediately drop you, it’s because they’re using a script. And good riddance, because the two of you never made a valid connection, and never will.

The reality is, if you follow ten thousand and drop 95 per cent of them, you’re not going to lose 9,500 followers. You’ll probably lose just a few thousand, tops, and the ones that leave didn’t care anyway.

But the followers that are left? The ones that continue to hang around? That’s a different story. That’s where you’ll find your relevance. They followed you because you looked interesting and they stayed with you because you are.

New From Twitter – Auto-Following, Even If You Didn't Want To

Alien NationMost of my Twitter interaction comes via Seesmic Desktop – prior to using this great application, I was all about TweetDeck.

When I’m on the road, I use Dabr. During my lunchbreak at work, I use, or TwitterGadget.

Why is any of this important? Because your experience on Twitter changes dramatically with each application.

Specifically, you see things on one kind of application that you don’t with another. With Seesmic or TweetDeck, my primary focus is on my userlists/groups, and while I do observe the stream it’s very much secondary to keeping up with my inner, inner-circle.

With Dabr, and TwitterGadget, there is no group functionality, so my focus is entirely on my stream – in other words, everybody in my network. These differing points of entry to the platform afford me the opportunity to notice different things.

I follow a little under 800 people. That’s enough to keep things interesting and position me fairly well on the information curve, but not too many to be a distraction or lose all that wonderful signal amongst the noise. I feel like I ‘know’ everybody in my network – meaning, I can recognise them in my timeline from their avatar and/or name.

Yet, with increasing regularity, I see people appearing on my stream that I don’t recognise. That I cannot place at all. That I’m pretty sure I’ve never followed.

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