I’ve now been on Twitter since May 2007.
When I wrote Twitter power, I had about 5000 followers.
Fast forward to late 2009. I hit 83,000 followers, but that’s nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands or millions of followers that some members have acquired.
It’s been an interesting ride, but a number of things have happened that have caused me to reevaluate my Twitter strategy.
Just as Twitter is a dynamic site that evolves and changes as it grows, how we use Twitter must also remain fluid.
Let me be clear about one thing.
Twitter is here for the long haul, and it is more important than ever for businesses to be using the service. It’s even more important for them to use it in a way that builds relationships and enhances brands.
With that said, I want to share a bit about my journey with you, as well as explain my recent decision to completely purge everyone I am following and start over.
I started using Twitter because I was fascinated by the concept of micro-blogging. It’s one thing to blog with no limitations on length. It’s another to be limited to 140 characters. How exactly DOES one answer the question “What are you doing?”
In fact, my first tweet was probably similar to the majority of confused Twittedr users.
“Trying to figure out this Twitter thing.”
I like to check out new social media sites, so I only gave Twitter a cursory glance and didn’t revisit it until November 2007. That’s when I “got it.”
Twitter wasn’t about what I was doing. Twitter was about who I am and how I relate to others.
Twitter wasn’t about how many people are following me (even though it is fun to track milestone numbers).
And Twitter wasn’t something to build my life around.
Twitter was just an extension of my life. It’s another way to be myself and interact with the world and people around me.
To this day, when people ask me how often they should tweet, I tell them that I “tweet like I eat.” That is, when I am hungry or have food in front of me.
It’s as natural as breathing. It’s just living my life.
I may disappear for days and I may go on a streak of @replies. I don’t build my life around Twitter. I weave in and out as fits my own goals and lifestyle.
Not everyone takes the same approach.
Over the past couple years, I’ve seen it all.
Some people are focused on acquiring followers, even to the point of using autofollow software. Essentially the idea is that when you follow random people a lot of them will follow you back.
I actually went through a brief spell of testing this myself and found that a number of people who use TweetLater (now Social Oomph) to autofollow others back do indeed increase their follower count.
I do not endorse this method. Nor do I endorse software used to artificially grow your following. It’s not organic and goes against the very principles of social interaction that Twitter is based upon.
Others look at how many followers you have in a competitive sense.
You come across all kinds of characters on Twitter. These are real people that live in the real world. You’re bound to find some … um… strange people?
There was one guy that I followed for a time whose tweets began to creep me out. You know what I mean. There are some people that you just don’t want to keep too close.
He began comparing his follower numbers with mine and started calling me out because how was it possible that I was the Twitter expert and he had more followers. Great shades of high school!
He was obviously artificially inflating his numbers by following as many people as Twitter would allow. You can usually tell if this is the case because these people will be following more people than are following them.
Anyhow, I unfollowed this person and he then began calling me out for doing so. It was really just a bit too much crazy for me.
So I blocked him.
Of course, he then began whining that I blocked him as though I was some sort of evil person that the Twitter police should come and arrest. It only served to reinforce my decision to block.
The lesson is this…
Just as you should set healthy boundaries in real life, you have permission to set healthy boundaries on Twitter.
Boundaries exist to keep good stuff in and bad stuff out. Life is complicated enough without having to deal with people who don’t have boundaries.
Anyhow, moving on…
My publisher at John Wiley & Sons asked me if I would write Twitter Power in September of 2008.
I said yes and handed them a manuscript by December 1st.
The book came out in February 2009 and has gone on to become the best-selling book on Twitter in the world, even being translated into Portugese, Korean and Chinese, with more on the way.
The second edition manuscript has been submitted and is now in the editing process. It is due out in the spring 2010.
I’m grateful for the fantastic reviews and following that the book has attracted. As a result, I regularly get asked to speak at conferences and workshops, as well as lead a number of teleseminars and webinars on the subject.
And during this time, my follower count has increased to approximately 83,000. I was following approximately 70,000 people.
That’s when I really became aware of two things.
1) My stream had become unmanageable. There was no way in the world to keep up with the natural flow of the people I was following. Direct Messages had become laced with spam and I never looked at them. And I lived by the @reply to see tweets that were directly addressed to me.
2) There are tons of spam accounts that exist only to be followed so they can broadcast direct marketing messages to you. Just how many, I didn’t know.
I realized it was time to clean up my act.
So this week I began searching for options to do maintenance on my account. What would that mean?
The first thought was that I would manually begin unfollowing people I didn’t really know, or that I suspected to be spam accounts.
I realized this would take an unreasonable amount of time and manpower. It wouldn’t work.
So what if I could just unfollow the spam accounts? How would I go about finding those?
I found this page which had some suggested Twitter follower management tools.
Most of them couldn’t process the large number of followers I had and timed out before loading them into their interface. Fail.
I ended up at Social Too, and saw that they offered a complete following wipe for $25.
I thought about it for thirty seconds and decided what the heck. Let’s just start over.
Most of the Twitter spam accounts use a follow-back service. So if I unfollow them, they will unfollow me automatically.
And thus began “the great Twitter purge of 2009″.
I paid my $25, pushed the button, and began to watch the number of people I was following drop like a rock.
By morning, I was following no one. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Zed. Bupkis.
And my follower count has plummeted from 83,000 to 72,000.
I fully expect it to continue falling as people realize they have been unfollowed.
I’m just fine with it because my new Twitter strategy is this.
1) I will follow who I want to follow because I want to follow them. That means I will follow friends, family, associates, those I find personally interesting and those who interact with me.
2) Don’t follow me if you aren’t interested in following me. My tweets will just clutter your stream.
It’s amazing how many people got hacked off because I unfollowed them. It’s almost an entitlement mentality. “GASP! I deserve to be followed by you!”
And not everyone who follows me is going to agree with me!
I am not shy about sharing my opinions on political, religious and societal matters.
Follow me and you’ll discover that I am a conservative Christian (not one of THOSE!)
You’ll also find out that I have been saying global warming is a hoax for quite some time.
You may be shocked when you realize that I love sugary foods even though they aren’t good for you.
I am honest about who I am and not afraid to be real with others.
Yes, I have had people unfollow me because of a view they don’t like.
They have called me out publicly for not being politically correct.
No one is forcing you to follow me. Don’t let the virtual door hit you on the way out.
Now please don’t misunderstand me.
That doesn’t mean I WANT you to unfollow me. It just means that you don’t have to if you don’t want to. My feelings will not be hurt!
I am a nice guy and very social. If you have ever met me in person you know that what you see is what you get. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I greet everyone with a smile.
But you know what?
I’m not going to have anyone dictate to me how I do or don’t use Twitter.
Use Twitter how you want.
Personally, I believe that purging accounts that have spun out of control is a good thing. It is very freeing from my perspective.
As I result, I believe I will be getting more, and giving more, on Twitter.
Please leave your comments below and feel free to tweet this article!