Why (and How) I Forced 912 People to Unfollow Me on Twitter
This screenshot, courtesy of TwitterCounter, shows a 3-month tally of my Twitter followers. Notable milestones include 4,419 on December 23; 4,721 on January 14; and 4,887 on February 2.
Do you see the downward slope on the far right? Notable numbers there include 4,832 on February 18; 4,503 on February 20; and 3,975 today on February 22.
That is no accident. I forced inactive accounts to unfollow me. I will tell you why and I will tell you how.
First, meet my former followers
Most notable was Midwest Airlines. They stopped tweeting three years ago when they were bought by Frontier Airlines. I was one 367 they followed. Written differently, I was being followed by an out-of-business business. And yet, 5,000 continue to follow them.
Next is an account for Formulists, a Twitter application that went out of business two years ago. They continue to follow 8,000 people; and if you’re one of those 8,000, you’re being followed by a nonexistent company.
I’m not sure what Team Eclipse Pro did but they don’t do it anymore. Not on Twitter, anyway. And they follow over 4,000 of you.
Tufts University’s graduate school ceased tweeting last May, presumedly when classes got out for the summer. But classes have been in full swing since and their Twitter account just sits vacant. You can see that Max, Matt, Jennifer, and a few others I follow are following this Tufts account. I don’t know why.
Same story with the Standard, an internet newspaper. It’s been quiet for four years and continues to follow over 1,400 people. I was one of those people.
But those are companies, you might say. What about people?
Give the next two screenshots a whirl — and then keep scrolling for my explanation.
Why I forced them to unfollow me
“Oh, look, @AriHerzog has 4800 followers. He must be someone special. I should follow him too!”
You know you say it. Something like that.
I wanted the number of people who followed me to be an accurate representation of real people — who still tweet today; and not outdated accounts that haven’t tweeted a message in years. And yet the above screenshots are from people and companies who followed me. They inflated me. They boosted your opinion of my influence.
How I did it
Tinkering with Twitter management systems in recent months, my favorite is Tweepi. It’s simple. Most of its functions are free; but to do the above, I paid the developer $7 for the ability to perform advanced functions.
The “force unfollow” function debuted two years ago. It’s not a block (which can prevent you from seeing anything of mine) but it’s truly a forced unfollow. I told the program to sort my followers by their last tweet, with the oldest up top, and I clicked buttons.
I don’t know how it works; and frankly, I don’t care. All I know is 912 accounts that haven’t tweeted in over 6 months are no longer following me.
Oh, and the same is true for who I follow: Accounts that hadn’t tweeted in recent history I’m not following either. But that’s just an unfollow, not a forced unfollow. Two different functions depending if I’m following or being followed.
I always blog about my social media actions as a way of 1) charting my own evolution; and 2) helping you discover something new.
Many don’t care (or don’t know) inactive accounts still follow them. Many don’t take the time to look and sort. But now that you know the likes of Midwest Airlines and The Standard could be following you, do you care?
I hope I planted a seed in you today by discovering something new; namely, that the number of people who follow you on Twitter (or any social networking site for that matter) is meaningless unless they are current. If I’m right, then please share this blog post and help others discover it too.
Armed with a Master in Public Administration and 12+ years of experience as a corporate webmaster, newspaper reporter, government manager, and digital marketing college professor, Ari Herzog is a connector and storyteller at the intersection of digital media and community relations.
He blogs at ariherzog.com and occasionally writes about himself in third person.
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