When I first launched the Twitter plugboard, my policy was to follow people back on Twitter for courtesy (it was never automated, always manual). It was an interesting approach to take, and it had a LOT of unexpected effects. I got a lot of followers out of it, and made some good contacts, but it’s not something I’m going to continue doing.
I ended up following a lot of people who had opposite beliefs to me (political, social and religious), I was getting plenty of irrelevant tweets (sorry, I’m not interested in buying discount sportswear from a different continent), and plenty of tweets that I didn’t understand (why hello there language barriers). And that’s before the endless spam.
What is also interesting is that Twitter started their ‘People who are similar to you’, and ‘People you should follow’ approach whilst I was doing this. So I didn’t end up with just one follower who happened to like Justin Bieber, I ended up with hundreds and hundreds of them. And the more I followed back, the more Twitter thought I was interested in Justin Bieber and the more Justin Bieber fans were invited to follow me (as it so happens, I don’t really care about him either way). Of course, that’s great if you have a really narrow follower base and all your contacts are interested in what you’re interested in. My tweets from my blossomnu account are mostly personal, and so it’s not really that helpful.
When it started to get to the stage that I had so many Justin Bieber followers that Twitter was telling me Perez Hilton was similar to me, I knew that something had to be done. My Twitter account stopped being a personal representation of me, and I had started to become defined by my followers rather than my words.
I decided to go through all my followers. I started weeding out the spammers slowly, and people who tweeted a lot (if you’re appearing in my timeline multiple times, that’s too much). Before I knew it I was getting rid of people who didn’t tweet in English, who were trying to sell me ebooks and so on. I was amazed at some of the people I’d unthinkingly followed – I think the most amusing one was a Thai Swingers account or something. I then started to remove all the users who didn’t tweet in comprehensible English. After I’d spent a good few hours doing that, I was only about a thousand followers down, and I still am.
Although I spend all day on TweetDeck at work, I don’t look at my personal account that often – maybe once every couple of days. If you appear in my timeline, competing against 6,000+ other users, then you’re extremely lucky. For that reason I don’t interact with people on Twitter as much as I’d like, unfortunately. I could delete everyone and start from scratch. I could make more use of lists. I could create a whole new account. But somehow I just can’t face doing that.
The other thing is that people are extremely rude. A lot of people found me via the Twitter Plugboard, and so I get quite a few people asking ‘how it works’. I tweeted a while back that I was thinking of getting rid of it because so many people don’t understand it, and had a nice response from someone saying that it was really straightforward (I did try to make it as easy as possible to understand). I also get a lot of tweets from people asking me how – or telling me – to get them more followers. That’s not how it works, people! Then there are the people who constantly demand you follow them back. Like I said, I’m not on that account very much, so it might take me a few days to follow back. Longer, because I’m so busy. And also, if you’re asking someone to follow you back, do you really think that they’re going to do it if you’re rude about it?!
I had an amusing @ reply from someone who was angry with me for unfollowing them – but the irony is that I only (automagically) unfollowed them because they unfollowed me. It’s all so petty. I really need to start thinking about what I want to use my account for and then attract those kinds of people. The Twitter Plugboard is definitely NOT helping me do that right now. I have some ideas about how to change it, but again it’s a question of time.
It would also be nice if Twitter did a bit of work analysing tweets and matching people by content rather than by similar followers, although I appreciate that a ridiculous amount of work would be involved. It would be nice to see spammers being recommended to other spammers though.
So now, I’m officially saying that I’m not going to follow you back if I’m not interested in what you have to say. I will follow you back if you ask nicely and you aren’t going to spam me, try to sell me stuff or have extremist views. That’s probably the policy I should have had all along, but we live and learn. And if you have a Twitter account, I’d recommend only following users you’re actually interested in, and try to stick to a vague theme or industry if you’re following lots of people.
Thank you, and good night!