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Time to Clean off Twitter

There have been debates in the past about whether or not it's good for businesses to follow everyone who follows them. The old way of thinking (for some, including me) was that if they take the time to follow you, that you should be courteous and return the favor.

I switched my way of thinking in 2009 but for many it continued. Many today still feel that way. It's no longer the right way to work with your Twitter account regardless of what business you're in. Here's why:

So Much Spam

Twitter has always been loaded with spam ever since the days of Ashton Kutcher trying to get to 1 million followers. Once it hit the mainstream the spammers saw an opportunity and they've seized it ever since. Twitter does what they can but with half a million users, the spammers and bots are impossible to keep down without damaging real accounts.

They are often easy to spot and if you are already only following important and relevant people, vetting your new followers is easy. If you follow too many people, it's time to start vetting. Unfortunately, this can be a manual process, but it's worth it.

Start Vetting if the Volume is Low Enough

For those with under 2000 followers, vetting them is something that can be done a little at a time every day until you're done. This is still tedious but if you commit to check out 100 Twitter accounts a day, you'll be done in a month (assuming you end up skipping some days).

It's not as hard as it sounds. If you're at least a little active on Twitter you'll be able to recognize many accounts by name. No need to check them out - just whitelist them and move on. Others will be obvious spammers based upon their name, avatar, or both.

The others will need to be opened manually and checked out. Here's what you're looking for:

  • - Autoposters: If they are simply using their Twitter account as an RSS feed, you won't see any @replies from them. These are relatively worthless to follow as they aren't going to engage with you or anyone else.
  • - Overposters: To some, this isn't a problem. For me, I can't stand following someone who Tweets hundreds of times a day. Nobody's life is that interesting to me and I don't need their posts flooding my stream.
  • - Inactives: It doesn't apply to everyone and some would say that following someone who posts 5 times a year is harmless because they aren't filling up your feed, but there's something that can be said about selectivity. As you can see by the @TKCarsitesInc following, we've knocked it down to where we're only following 700 accounts versus being followed by 19k.
  • - Spammers and Bots: You'll be able to tell the difference.

Get it down to a manageable number and your feed will be useful, your account will look good, and Twitter can be useful.

But I Followed Thousands!

There is a major challenge facing some Twitter accounts. If you have an account that's simply too large to go through manually, you'll have to start from the bottom up.

It's impractical to think that you can vet tens of thousands of accounts. If, like the TK Carsites account, you followed over 10k (or over 2k for that matter), then it's easier to simply unfollow everyone and refollow the important accounts.

To do this, you'll first want to make a list. If you're using lists on Twitter or other tools like Tweetdeck, this is easier. You've already identified the people you definitely want to follow so unfollowing everyone and refollowing them is a piece of cake.

If you don't have lists, make one. Twitter itself has a decent List option, so build your list of accounts that you want to follow. Then, send out a message to all of your followers letting them know you're about to unfollow everyone.

"Hey everyone. I'm purging my list and following everyone I really know. If I unfollow you, please send me a reply and I will refollow you."

Now, it's time to unfollow. I use JustUnfollow. It's not free, but Twitter is very picky about following and unfollowing, requiring a direct click to do the action. They cut off any programs that allow you to bulk follow or unfollow without individual clicks on each account, but JustUnfollow has the easiest interface that allows you to click straight down the line and unfollow hundreds per minute depending on how fast your index finger can hit the mouse button.

Once you make it through the list, add everyone back that you really want to follow. Then, Twitter gets easy. It will help you by recommending other similar people you might want to follow. By having an accurate following, Twitter can help you find others.

When you're done with the process, the doors to using Twitter as an actual communication and marketing tool swing wide open.

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