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Tag: Reciprocal following

Mass unfollowing

 

Warning: read at your own peril, not sure how many people would find this interesting! :)

 
Last year I published a case study, What Happens When You Unfollow Most Of Your Followers?. This post examined the follower numbers of three people who did mass unfollows and the results were very consistent: from that moment on, they all started losing followers at a slow but persistent rate.

 
When I joined Twitter, I was looking to get many followers to increase the exposure of this blog (a fact I never hid). These days I don’t need this anymore, however, anyone who has read my blog for a while knows I’m very interested in cause and effect. In other words: what results in more people following you? what results in people unfollowing you? If you tweet a lot, will you be listed more or less? Unfollowed more or less? This is probably a leftover from my time as an academic: I’m simply curious about the collective behavior of people as it is expressed through Twitter. This, perhaps oddly, actually relates to my academic work.

 
To satisfy this curiosity, and because it’s really easy to do, I’ve been doing experiments using various accounts. Obviously, when my conclusions result in getting more followers I’m not complaining. Therefore, for me to see someone with 210,000+ followers that decides to unfollow virtually all of his followers is exciting (I was unfollowed too but this doesn’t matter – doesn’t seem like this was a personal decision). I won’t name the user because it really is irrelevant.

 
Unlike the three users I mentioned before, it seems this user is losing followers at a very rapid pace: thousands of followers every day (see image above). In fact, when I look at the user and load the page again, it loses followers almost every time!

 
So I ask myself: why such a huge difference in the rate of unfollowing? Well, if I recall, the three users I picked were internet marketers and bloggers, some more famous than others – but all had a successful blog (I picked them because I considered them my peers – I wasn’t interested in examining users who were very different from my own). Therefore, it is logical to assume that many people continued following them because of the content they tweeted – or at least, the belief that they will share interesting content. This, apparently, significantly slowed down their unfollow rates, though none of them had enough ‘celebrity power’ to maintain their follower levels without following back.

 
Even though the three mass unfollows resulted in some animosity towards the unfollowing users, it seems this user is getting a much greater negative reaction: a quick peek in the lists he appears in: “unfollower”, “they-follow-then-unfollow: #Black List … (Mass Follow/Unfollow Dumps). They will follow you then unfollow you”, “cheatoes: THEY NOT WORTHY TO FOLLOW”, “unfollow: Mass following, then unfollowing = idiots”, “unfollowing-bitches”, “teamfakeceleb: dez ppl have like a million followers & follow like nobody & dey WILL UNFOLLOW YOU!!!”, “douchebags: Fags who boost their twitter stats by unfollowing you once you start following them.”. There are many more.

 
This person is significantly less known than the other three… consequently, this might explain why the unfollow process is so much faster and draws a lot more hostility (note that when I published my previous post, the list mechanism wasn’t added to Twitter yet… would’ve been interesting to see the number of negative lists, if any, that the three users would’ve appeared in).

 
At the time, I believed the three accounts would reach a level which equals their real ‘celebrity power’. I never got to test this because of other aspects that affected their follower numbers, such as contests on their blogs. Here my guess is that since there is no celebrity power, there isn’t anything to keep people from unfollowing the user. Moreover, since there are users who check very infrequently whether they’ve been unfollowed (and then reciprocate) and some even never do, my guess is that when the unfollowing rates start slowing down – and it won’t be at anywhere close to 0 – we’ll get an interesting estimate of the percentage of people who are of this type. So suppose this will slow down at 100,000 – assuming 210,000 followers are a good representative of the Twitter population (which it should be) – this means that roughly half the people on Twitter don’t check whether they’ve been unfollowed frequently. That’s the theory, at least.

 
Ok, I hope this post hasn’t been boring (if it has been, why did you get this far?). Personally I find this stuff fascinating!

 
Edit (July 20th): It seems that in the first two-three days the pace was much faster and later it slowed down to about a thousand followers per day. Interesting, probably means that there’s a number of people who routinely check whether they’ve been unfollowed (like me), and the rest are finding out at their own pace.

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mass unfollowing

Unsurprisingly, there are various approaches to follower attraction and – for lack of a better word – follower removal. Some people, and I believe these are the people Twitter originally aimed to attract, just naturally meet people. Follow those whose tweets interest them and unfollow those whose tweets do not.

 
Another group of people are similar to the above, but they aim to gain as many followers as possible. I admit to belonging to this group, primarily because it gives me a much greater audience to this blog as well as significantly more opportunities for interaction and meeting people (it’s also so easy so why not do it?).

 
A third group aims to gain as many followers as possible since every follower is a potential buyer. If you have 50,000 followers, and you try and sell something, even if 0.1% on average buy, then it’s still 50 people – which is a lot if you compare it to other ad models (i.e. PPC).

 
The philosophy behind following and unfollowing is clearly intertwined. If you’re in Twitter and truly only care about interaction, then there’s no reason for you to care if you are being unfollowed (unless this offends you).

 
If you try and gain as many followers as possible, then you’re fully aware of the fact that if you don’t follow someone back (reciprocal following), there’s a good chance he’ll stop following you very soon. So often you see people who follow roughly the same number of people who follow them.

 
Personally, I believe that only those who offer truly unique and interesting tweets can expect someone to follow them and not need to follow back. For example, if you’re a celebrity (I covered this in greater detail in my post, Why Do People Follow Celebrities?) then your life is deemed interesting to your followers even if it’s completely mundane.

 
But even if you’re not a celebrity, but say, are a very funny guy or a very interesting person (i.e. Iconic88, one of Twitter’s treasures), then it also likely that people will continue following you because of who you are and what you say.

 
Alas, for most people, that is not the case. A while ago I looked at the tweets of some people I consider celebrities or experts in their respective fields. Although they may be interesting, even fascinating, in real life, their tweets are, how shall I say it, not really interesting. They often deal with the uninteresting trivia of their life (i.e. I don’t particularly find interesting what William Shatner had for lunch). It may be fun and exciting to interact with them, but normally these people also don’t interact with their followers – don’t respond to their followers’ comments, etc. I’m not just talking about people with millions of followers, but also those with a far smaller number. Some even have fewer followers than I have (and I always respond to anyone who attempts communication – not talking about DMs which are really unusable).

 
For the sake of fairness, I’m not sure how many people would continue follow me if I did not follow them back. I almost always tweet articles from my blog, other articles I find interesting, retweets of articles other people found interesting, blip my favorite music, and generally chat the vast majority of my time – or better phrased “interact with my followers” ;-) ). So I assume if I were to, say, unfollow 90% of my followers, a great number would unfollow me. I also think it’s not unfair.

 
This brings me to an interesting question: so assuming one is not a celebrity or someone whose content greatly appeals to the masses. What would happen if he or she were to unfollow most of their followers? Let’s try and see.

 
Recently I was unfollowed by three people I was following for a long while. When I looked at their follower charts (as I like doing, since there’s always something I find interesting in this data) I noticed that all three did a mass unfollow. Note that this seems to be somewhat of a recent trend since some companies pay people who tweet and their ratio of followers to followees is one factor in determining the price they can demand (supposedly, the greater the ratio, the more of a celebrity you are – which actually does make sense).

 
Since I don’t want to mention any names, I’ll bring the follower charts of these three. If you have any guess who they might be, please do not comment below as I will edit the names out. This is not meant to be a personal criticism of anyone. Really.

 


 

As you can see, in the first two images, there was an immediate mass reciprocal unfollow, following by a stead steam of unfollowing. In image 1, even now, a month and half after the mass unfollow, the trend of unfollowing appears to be continuing. In other words, this person is still losing followers.

 
In image 2, which is much more recent, despite the smaller scale of the mass unfollow, the exact same thing appears to still be happening.

 


 
In image 3, it is a bit harder to tell since the mass unfollow has just occurred – so the trickle hasn’t started just yet – but in all likelihood, the same thing will occur.

 
Personally I believe that in all three cases, people have unfollowed for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Just because. You unfollow me, I unfollow you. It’s not fair otherwise.
  2. Automatic unfollow: you unfollow me, my autopilot program detects this after X days and unfollows you.
  3. You’re boring, and suddenly I realized that now I have no more incentive to follow you, ergo, you’re gone.

 
Despite the fact that in none of the cases 100% or even 50% of the people have unfollowed the person, the trend in all cases appears to be negative, so there’s no reason to assume it’ll stop – though of course there isn’t enough data to support this theory. Personally, I don’t think it will stop for exactly the above reasons. I think most people simply aren’t aware that they are no longer being unfollowed, and the slow trickle of unfollowing occurs because one by one they discover that.

 
My own personal reaction to this was to immediately unfollow all three once I realized I am being unfollowed. As I discovered, it seems I did not follow them for their content as I do not even notice their tweets are gone. Otherwise I would’ve stuck with them.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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