Why (and How) I Forced 912 People to Unfollow Me on Twitter

Posted on February 25th 2014

Why (and How) I Forced 912 People to Unfollow Me on Twitter

3 Month Chart of My Followers.

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.

Twitter - Midwest Airlines

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.

Twitter - Formulists

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.

Twitter - Team Eclipse Pro

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.

Twitter - Tufts GSAS

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.

Twitter - The Standard

But those are companies, you might say. What about people?

Give the next two screenshots a whirl — and then keep scrolling for my explanation.

Twitter - Are Morch

Twitter - Mafalda Sivels

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the number of people who followed me to be an accurate representation of real people — who still tweet today; and not outdated accounts that haven’t tweeted a message in years.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.

I want you to follow me because of me. But moreover, in the age of social influence ranking systems such as Klout and Peer Index, I want to be current. I don’t want to carry around dead weight.

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.

Tweepi Unfollow Screenshot

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.

ariherzog

Ari Herzog

Ari Herzog is a storyteller, speaker, and media consultant. Since 2009 he has helped organizations of all sizes create and integrate social media strategies to connect with their audiences. Ari holds a Master in Public Administration, is an elected city councilor in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and is campaigning in 2014 to be elected as State Representative. Learn more about Ari on his campaign site and media blog.

See Full Profile >

Comments

annagalanka
Posted on February 25th 2014 at 4:27AM
Great article. Thanks for sharing with us.
Madhava Verma Dantuluri
Posted on February 25th 2014 at 7:52AM

Interesting stats and wonder, how i continue following the non-existant people/groups in twitter.

fcaballo
Posted on February 25th 2014 at 2:39PM

I read a lot of blog posts on social media and I've never seen one on this topic. You make an excellent case for forcing inactive users to unfollow you. I need to think about doing this too.Thanks for planting the seed.

Eric Burgess
Posted on February 25th 2014 at 11:09PM

A noble thing to do but unless all power users on Twitter follow your lead, you're not leveling the playing field for yourself!

Great article though, thanks for sharing!

Zach Ethan
Posted on February 28th 2014 at 4:49PM

Very fascinating article. I use Twitonomy to find inactive accounts that I follow, but I never knew it was possible to force unfollows from these inactive accounts as well! Thanks for sharing this information. 

justallnews
Posted on December 13th 2014 at 9:53PM

Ari, 

Excellent article, and nice stats as well.  There is no debating your Twitter knowledge.  We would have gladly posted this well written article on one of our news sites.

What I would like to point out however is to be careful about the idea that just because accounts don't tweet, that they are inactive.  Some of the companies you listed above are definitely inactive, and I would unfollow them also if I had the time to weed them out.  

But, many people use their Twitter accounts to keep up with businesses or people and see what they are doing.  Many people follow our 44 Twitter accounts to have an easy way to view our news articles.  I would guess that many of our followers actually click on links that they read in our posts, but that many of them do not actually post themselves.  I would only suggest to the people who read this article to think about who they are forcing to unfollow, and make an informed decision.  Again, Ari, I want to commend you on an excellent article and the education of the public on the idea of inactive followers and stats such as influence.

RP