Four weeks ago I decided to commit social media suicide by shutting up shop on my old, bloated Twitter account and starting afresh with a new one (I had to juggle a bit to keep the same username). The reason for doing this was to see if I would lose any value by cutting down those that I follow to just those I really care about, and at the same time, take my following down to nothing. In theory, those that really care or are genuinely interested in what I have to say would see what I was up to and follow the new account.

I thought I was already following you

One thing that I find is happening quite a bit recently is that I’ll engage with someone I’m following and they will somehow notice that they aren’t following me anymore. More often than not, this causes a little confusion. In some cases I’ll point them to my original blog post, in others (because it’s how I roll) I’ll just say nothing and see if they can work it out for themselves. Usually, they don’t. It appears that several of the people that used to follow my old account didn’t see any of the announcements I made about this experiment or any of the blog posts I published via the old account before I killed it off. There are two probable reasons they didn’t see any of it:

  1. They follow too many people. There is a good chance that if someone following you also follows a lot of other accounts, your tweets will wash away from their timeline in seconds. The more accounts you follow, the less value you get from each one.
  2. They don’t use Twitter often enough. Not everyone is plugged into Twitter all of the time so if you tweet something while one of your followers is away from Twitter, they are unlikely to see it as their timeline will move on.

Increased engagement

Since taking the plunge, my own engagement has increased. I now miss a lot less due to following fewer people. Although previously I used to filter my timeline only to show those that I cared about, this added an extra level of inconsistency to the stream and clearly meant I missed a fair bit. Some of those that I followed on the new account said they felt a stronger bond with me because I was following fewer people.

My own influence

You would think that by being followed by fewer people, in many cases people with fewer followers themselves would mean that I have less influence. According to various “industry standard” influence measurement tools such as Klout and Twitter Grader, this appears to be the case but this is where I can say I have first-hand experience that shows the contrary. I get no fewer clickthroughs on any links I post and I get no fewer hits on any blog posts I write. I can safely say that my own influence has hardly changed at all. The “industry standard” tools are wrong.

What about the stragglers?

There are still quite a few folks with whom I used to share a mutual following on the old account that haven’t followed back on the new account. There are a couple of possible reasons for this:

  1. They are completely unaware of my experiment and new account due to one of the two reasons above.
  2. They have no interest in what I have to say and haven’t bothered to follow.

I’m fine with both, to be honest. If it’s down to reason 1, they will work it out eventually because I’m probably engaging with them on a regular basis anyway. If it’s down to reason 2, I’m happy to no longer be polluting their timeline and lowering the value of their stream.

Final summary

As a reader, you will get more value from each person or account you follow if you follow fewer accounts.

As a publisher, you will get more value by building your following slowly and organically with real people. It’s worth knowing that people who follow fewer accounts are more likely to see what you have to say and take notice of it.

If marketing via social media is your thing, perhaps you should think about targeting those with fewer connections rather than more. You should also be aware that these people prefer to engage rather than be marketed to.

I’m here for the conversation. What are you here for?


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6 thoughts on “Social media suicide – the conclusion”

  1. Good article, I’ve been using Twitter for a month or so now, and am finding the actual social aspect of it a bit weird. I’ve managed to follow 21 people so far and already it seems to be a bit bloated, even tho I tried to be selective about it, checking each account to see if the majority of posts were of some interest to me. I can’t imagine how people following 100s or 1000s of people can find much use in any of it, as the noise to signal ratio looks like it would grow exponentially. I also find myself talking at people a lot more than talking with them. Which granted, some of the more popular accounts, logistically can’t respond to everyone, as responding to their tweets becomes more like a fan mail response than anything else. Not to mention, twitter seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, somewhere between chatroom and RSS feed. It works great for talking at people, posting links, but talking with is a bit harder, as the length constraints, not to mention multiple tweets to over come this seems a bit spammy.As far as actual socializing goes twitter is a lot of work, sifting through the noise, trying to gain some social traction, to at least get a few people responding, as I didn’t have any previous social relationships with anyone before this on twitter, I’ve had to work for any I got. Which is the purpose, to try and expand my social network around a particular activity, electronics/hacking/programming.I’m sure with some more time, it will return more rewards, much like any social endeavor, you can’t force it, and you can’t expect it, you can only adapt to it. And as you’ve pointed out running up the numbers to relish in the stats, is shallow and unrewarding, much like socializing in real life.

  2. You know, this is a really good point. I think engagment increases when the number of followers decreases. I think the only reason I follow so many people is keep up with industry trends and friends, and that makes up quite a few people, as well as people i just generally converse with!

  3. . @jrspruitt “twitter seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, somewhere between chatroom and RSS feed” – I think it can be both at the same time but you’ve got to be pretty savvy to know how to split it up. One way to do this is to not follow “feed” accounts but create a Twitter list for them. If you use a client like Tweetdeck, you can have a column for these tweets always open so you don’t miss anything and at the same time don’t convolute your stream of real people with news & marketing fluff.

  4. . @bsarich It’s definitely more tricky when you “have to” connect with more people but as I said above, savvy users can do this in a way that doesn’t convolute one’s stream and/or detract from the value of the good conversational stuff.

  5. @Lee Stacey, Last night I was messing around with Twitter some more after thinking about what I said, and looked into the list a bit. Seems I could use some pointers on the interface, to organize the accounts I follow more. Also I have a low threshold for socializing, in that I tend to keep a very low number of close people, and everyone else sort of gets pushed back into the situation I know them from. I realize my tolerance is different from other peoples, that where it becomes too much, is dependent on the person. But still agree, it seems silly looking at some peoples accounts, they must follow anyone and everyone they come across or that follows them.

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