Are You Crippled By Unfollow Fear?

Completely by accident, the theme on Twittercism this week has been about network optimisation. You can read previous posts on this topic here and here.

Often when I speak to Twitter folk (and this includes clients) about cutting down on the huge amounts of people they’re following to improve the relevancy and value of their network, I get this response:

“I don’t like to unfollow people in case they unfollow me.”

These people suffer from unfollow fear. I find this attitude slightly baffling. Why do we choose to unfollow people? Because for various reasons they’re not right for us. If they then choose to unfollow us back, doesn’t that actually confirm our actions?

If you can only get ten thousand people to follow you because you’re following eleven thousand, something isn’t right. Your network isn’t relevant, it doesn’t have much value and it certainly isn’t optimised.

Let’s say you’re following ten thousand people, and the same number are following you. One day you wake up and decide to put an end to the madness, and unfollow everybody on your list. What’s the worst thing that can happen? That you’ll lose everybody who was following you?


All this tells us is that these individuals were using auto-follow and unfollow tools and likely weren’t paying any attention to you at all, excluding the occasional lip service. Most people don’t even realise when somebody has unfollowed them. If you drop somebody and they immediately drop you, it’s because they’re using a script. And good riddance, because the two of you never made a valid connection, and never will.

The reality is, if you follow ten thousand and drop 95 per cent of them, you’re not going to lose 9,500 followers. You’ll probably lose just a few thousand, tops, and the ones that leave didn’t care anyway.

But the followers that are left? The ones that continue to hang around? That’s a different story. That’s where you’ll find your relevance. They followed you because you looked interesting and they stayed with you because you are.