Update to the Unfollow Experiment

Bird on a Wire

As you might know, I chose to unfollow the 131,000 or so folks I was following on my Twitter account. I did this primarily because I was getting crushed by direct message spam. I chose to follow that many people in the first place, because I felt that reciprocal following was polite. However, I came to realize that I wasn’t actually seeing anything that anyone was posting. In fact, because I followed so many people, the various software I use to view Twitter couldn’t even be served enough data.

What I’ve Learned

First, I learned that people put a lot of emotions into their social network subscriptions, and they put a lot of value into the concept of “friending” online. They feel an emotional response to whether someone chooses to connect with them via a social network or not. Responses in the comments and in my contact form and via other means of communication ranged from indignation that I would dare to unfollow them after “all these years” to hurt (I just can’t understand what I did wrong!) to some kind of, I don’t know, reverence: “I’m truly honored to have been followed by you for as long as you did.” All of these emotions were interesting. None of them are something I’m judging. They’re just all interesting for what they are.

Second, I found that by following a lot fewer people (I’m currently following around 370), I see a lot of conversations that were missing to me before, plus I’m seeing more of my @ mentions and more information in general. This is interesting to me because Twitter had become fairly crippled by me when I was following so many people. The software couldn’t even send me the messages intended for me in the @ replies.

Currently, I’m wondering what I want to do about following. The 370 I follow are all wonderful people. I’m still missing some good friends that I’m sure I’ll find via @mention and add back, but I don’t want to add everyone back again. I said that was my intention in the original post, but I don’t think that would be very beneficial. Instead, I think I’ll keep it quieter like I have it now. But what I might do is cycle in and out some number of followers, like drop 30 and add a different 30 from time to time, to see a new set of conversations from time to time.

These Are My Observations For Me

One point to make to you, especially the “you” who has to deal with clients who say, “Well Brogan did this,” and “Brogan unfollowed everyone,” please realize that a lot of what I do with each social media tool set is experiment. I work hard to understand what will work well, what won’t, what will serve my needs or my clients’ needs, and what will happen if I do this or don’t do that. To follow along with what I do too closely would be to fall in some of the same ditches I’ll discover by making mistakes and learning from them. Experiments are just that, and sometimes, things shake out in ways that aren’t as intended.

What I Know For YOU

Twitter is what you want to make of it. I know that the most important element of using your Twitter account, if I had to pick just one, would be to reply as often as you can, if engagement and community matter to you. If they don’t, use it however you want. But to me, replying when you can and as often as you can seems to be what people value most.

What’s Next for Me and Twitter?

I’m thinking of Twitter more and more as an “in the moment” tool. For instance, it works really well at events like PodCamp and other conferences, because people can easily follow a stream of information flowing out of hashtags. Twitter does serve well as a “feeding network,” sharing information into an ecosystem of people who are looking for new and interesting things to share. So, with that in mind, though I’m spending more and more time on Google+, I will still use Twitter to keep information flowing. I will reply as often as I can there, though I will likely go a lot deeper into conversations on G+. Why? Personal preference, plus I believe there’s more value to be had at Google+ in the longer game. It lets me “see” people better.

Do What You Like

There are so many ways to decide how you want to use Twitter. Find the one that works for you, especially as an individual. I prefer accounts that are a mix of informative and also diverse. You might see your needs differently and want to keep things very homogenized. Do what works for you.

And no matter whether I’m following you or not, you’re still important and doing good work. My following is not a seal of approval. It’s a choice. Like all things in life.

Make sense?

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