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Posts Tagged ‘@danzarrella’

Making An Assumption Is Making A Mistake (And Why Influencers Can Sometimes Be Real Jerks)

I’ve had a theme running on Twittercism over many months now, and it’s based on a belief of mine that following everybody back on Twitter, especially blind auto-following, does not work. It simply encourages too much spam, too much junk connections, and too much noise, making your Twitter stream, and especially your direct message inbox very difficult (if not impossible) to manage.

Targeted following is one of the secrets to Twitter success. I wrote about this yesterday, commenting on how several of Twitter’s influencers and thought leaders had (for various reasons and using various methods) decided to either reboot their accounts and start over from scratch, or significantly cull their networks on a manual, person-by-person basis.

In my piece, I focused on Louis Gray, who has significantly cut back his network size in recent days after maintaining a 1:1 ratio for as long as I can remember (Louis shares his reasons here) as well as Dan Zarrella, who I thought had a similar policy.

Problem was, this was an assumption I made about Dan that was wrong. I had looked at his data back a week on Twittercounter, but didn’t go any further than that, relying instead on memory – or what I thought I had of it – which led me to make a false statement. While he had unfollowed several thousand users in the past week or so (at least, according to Twittercounter and, as I later verified, Twitterholic), Dan had never had a 1:1 follow:follower policy on Twitter, and he was quick to let me know about it.

I made an assumption, and because of this I made a mistake.

When Dan got in touch, I realised I’d screwed up, and so I edited my piece and removed the reference that suggested he’d ever embraced a 1:1 following ratio. Really, in retrospect, this was a pretty minor, almost throwaway comment, but it was wrong and so it needed to go. I replied to Dan’s comment and apologised, and figured that would be that.

This was the second mistake I made. On Twitter, Zarrella threw what could only be properly termed as a ‘hissy fit’. Even now, several hours later, I’m not really sure what led him to this behavioural pattern, because I can’t for the life of me see what I said that was deserving of such an attack. If I’d blatantly defamed the guy or said something unforgiveable about his friends or family, then I’d be a little more understanding of what went down.

Thanks to, you can track this conversation here. (Opens in a new tab for convenient reading.)

Making An Assumption Is Making A Mistake (And Why Influencers Can Sometimes Be Real Jerks)

Here’s what happened in a nutshell:

  1. Zarrella proposed that I couldn’t count (which, in light of my mistake, was probably acceptable).
  2. He then suggested I deliberately lied in my article, and this proved I was ‘wrong’. I’m not sure exactly what I would have had to gain from lying about his stats, but clearly there was money and glory to be made, somewhere.
  3. He then had the sheer arrogance to propose that I might want to “learn how to do this social media thing a little better,” and sent me a link to his book on Amazon. I don’t and have never claimed to be a social media expert or guru, but I find it slightly bemusing that Zarrella made this pitch while acting in such a blatantly antisocial manner.
  4. He then informed me that he didn’t actually care, as “7 retweets of nonsense isn’t concerning.” The article is up to 19 as I write, but I’m guessing it doesn’t impact Dan’s radar until it reaches Mashable-numbers.
  5. After I expressed my surprise at his attitude and behaviour, Dan responded that he only acted this way towards “unfounded social media experts”, something which (again) I’ve never claimed to be.
  6. Finally, Dan suggested that my article was like “rooting through people’s garbage”. This, of course, from a guy who has made a career out of studying and analysing the accounts of hundreds of thousands of users on Twitter and other social platforms.

This last item bothered me the most. How could an individual who makes a living analysing volumes and volumes of data about user behaviour be so quick to go on the attack against somebody he doesn’t even know?

The problem was that Dan made an assumption, too. He figured he already knew me, making a judgement call entirely on one piece of writing. And even if I still cannot work out exactly what it was about that entry that irked him quite so much, that doesn’t really matter. If Dan had taken a moment to read a few more articles, or even to take a few deep breaths, all of this unpleasantness might have been averted. As it was, he just came over like an arrogant, egotistical jerk. You just have to compare his reaction with that of Louis Gray or Jesse Stay to see the difference in class.

And while I do think that these kinds of negative encounters with thought leaders and influencers in social media are, thankfully, quite rare, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen behaviour like this.

(Hey, maybe it is me, after all.)

But you want to know what the real zinger is? I checked back through my SocialToo emails, and Dan unfollowed me on Twitter just a couple of days ago during his recent blitz. And while I don’t have any idea how long he had been connected to my account, he’d clearly never paid attention to any of my tweets. And I tweet a lot. You’d have thought, or at least hoped, that some of that would have got through.

I guess that’s where I made my third mistake. It seems that Zarrella wasn’t all that interested in targeted following, after all.

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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.