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Tag: Twitter Lists

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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Making money using Twitter


I continue my discussion on ways to make money using Twitter. Previously I covered what I considered are bad (ineffective) methods, now I’ll cover the rest.

The ugly (misleading):

Promoting users/lists: Certain users with a large number of followers (though only slightly more than I have) started doing personal shoutouts and including users in their lists for small sums of money. I assume the people who buy these services do so to get followers. To a limited degree, this will probably work. Moreover, if the people who promote these offers have multiple accounts as many people do, I would imagine all their accounts would suddenly follow the paying users (this could easily be 20-50 accounts – to some this is a lot of followers!).

With that being said, this has to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting followers. If these were celebrities who offered these services, fine (it would probably be pretty effective being in Conan O’Brien’s list! Just think of @LovelyButton), but we’re not talking celebrities here. I would never consider charging people to be in one of my lists because I think doing so would imply that this bestows some value, and let’s face it, it does not. Note that I have to say, it’s very easy getting followers, at least when talking about a small number (100-200) and I don’t think paying users expect more than that from a single tweet.

An additional issue is that I would expect this practice to stop at some point. Personally – and I know many others feel the same way – I treat the shoutouts as noise/spam. These are (personal) ads after all, and my comment from the previous post applies – most Twitter users do not like any tweet that feels commercial in nature. I predict that eventually enough users would have these ‘offending’ advertisers be blocked & reported for spam and this will lead to their suspension.

The Good (effective)

I’ve written about this in multiple separate posts. I believe that Twitter’s strength lies in creating relationships, networking, doing PR for yourself/your company, so most of this section deals with these. However, the first method is unrelated.

  1. Advertising: Using companies such as and SponsoredTweets it is possible to tweet something and get paid for it. This actually does work. But: (a) You’re dependent on being offered to tweet these and there aren’t a ton of those and (b) unless you have a lot of followers, the sums involved tend to be pretty low.


  2. Getting clients: by being active on Twitter, it is possible to get clients. Although pushing yourself and being interactive helps, by just having a good bio, descriptive background and including a link to your website it’s quite possible to draw attention. Personally I’ve had success with this. I have to emphasize that I believe this strongly depends on the industry: i.e. I doubt dentists can gain clients this way.


  3. Building relationships: I’ve written about this before. By networking you are likely to meet like-minded people who, by knowing them, in the long run, will result in monetary gain. I’ve met quite a lot of people who got me involved in conferences (i.e. Social Media 201), started collaborations, and introduced other people and clients to me. This does require effort though.


  4. PR: I’m probably the millionth person to say this, but in this day and age, companies need to be able to engage their clients. By having an active Twitter account that listens to complaints/issues and addresses them, a company can greatly improve their reputation. This is a topic that we discussed quite heavily at Social Media 201.


  5. Twitter services: basically, by offering the previous methods to other people or companies, you can make money. There’s in fact a new course that trains people to become social media managers.

    This is definitely a way that works. Again, talking from personal experience here. You can get paid far more doing this than from paid tweets or trying to push affiliate links. I believe this is the most effective way to monetize Twitter. Note that in many ways the method I included under ‘ugly’ can be said to fall under this category – true – however, I think it’s the choice of which services to offer that makes the difference. Implying someone will get a lot of followers if someone tweets your bio is misleading.

Not sure

I’ll include this one last category as well.

  1. Niche accounts: I’ve actually dabbled with this but it’s a variation of the methods I previously mentioned. Basically, it’s an account that declares in advance that it will provide information and deals. This can be done using affiliate links or point to your business site.

    Does it work? Maybe. Personally I’ve not tried it long enough to be able to tell. However, I CAN tell say that many users still consider this to be spam despite the user “announcing” in advance what it is all about.


  2. Trending topics: I included this but I will admit I don’t know it well enough to elaborate. The goal is to create accounts that tap into Google’s real time indexing of trending topics. I don’t fully know how this works, just that by doing so, it is possible to get an affiliate link into the top of the search of Google. I would imagine this involves creating quite a lot of users. I heard this worked for some but don’t know how successful it was and, as you can guess, I never tried it myself. I figured I should still mention it.


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Twitter jokes
(The image above doesn’t really relate to the article – I just found it amusing).


A friend of mine sent me a link to an article that discusses Twitter and influence. It argues that number of followers isn’t the best measure of Twitter influence. I think he expected me to argue that the article is wrong. However, I fully agree with the article’s premise. Here’s an anecdote: there is a Twitter user I recently stumbled onto who has – if I recall – ~135,000 followers and 0 tweets. Clearly that user is not influential in any way. How he got to this number of followers is a mystery.

An additional commonly regarded measure is number of times a user is being retweeted. While I think there is some merit to this idea, I think it fails too. There are quite a lot of users – I can name 5 off the top of my head – who have an auto-tweet mechanism that just tweets quotes and/or facts and/or news all day long. Some are bots – there isn’t even a real user behind them. Personally, I find them somewhat annoying, but manage by mainly ignoring them – though a few friends of mine detest those passionately and argue that these are what will bring Twitter’s downfall. I do have a problem with the quotes being repetitive and cliche, as well as the facts being erroneous and misleading, but that’s a different matter.

My point is, these users get retweeted lot. This is unsurprising: corny, cliche quotes would be retweeted since they appeal to the lowest common denominator, particularly if they are repeated countless times. It’s like popular commercials: the jingle sticks in your head no matter what, simply because you hear it all. the. time.

Another aspect I haven’t read about and yet would consider relevant is the number of lists one appears in. This appears to be somewhat correlated with influence. However, the more followers and/or the more active a user is, the more lists a user tends to appear in. I wouldn’t say that the more lists a user appears in, the more influential he or she is. However, I would say that a user that is not listed a lot is probably not influential.

Yet another aspect is interaction: how much a user interacts with fellow users. Why is this relevant? Because interaction creates relationships, relationships result in paying attention to what one says, and that is influence.

Ok, now that we’ve seen this is problematic, how would I measure influence on Twitter? As the article argues, it’s not easy.

If I had to devise my own algorithm, and a few months ago I actually considered doing just that, I would take several factors into account. The following are not sorted in order of importance:

  1. Number of followers.
  2. Number of followees.
  3. Number of tweets.
  4. Number of lists the user is included in.
  5. Number of retweets.
  6. Number of interactions a user has with other users (responses) – both the number of users he/she interacts with and the actual number of interactions (i.e. 100 responses to many different users vs. 100 responses to a single user).
  7. The characteristics of those who retweet the user’s tweets (i.e. their number of followers, followees, lists, tweets, and retweets).
  8. The characteristics of those who interact with the user.
  9. A measure that will indicate whether a user is real person or not. If a user tweet 24 hours a day, in set intervals, and never interacts in any meaningful way (i.e. it may say “thank you for the RTs” in a mechanical manner) it’s not a real person, period. I would remove those from the list completely.

What will this show me? I believe it will – generally – demonstrate who is an influential presence in Twitter. Of course, some people are exempt from this. Conan O’Brien doesn’t need to respond to anyone to be influential. But he’s influential outside of Twitter and this influence carries into Twitter.

Why is Twitter influence important? The article stated that companies are paying users with many followers to tweet. This is true to a degree. Companies such as SponsoredTweets and (I believe) do factor influence measures into the decision whether to pay a user to tweet. It’s not just number of followers.

I don’t intend to do a full survey of Twitter influence tools, but here are three I’ve used.

Twitter Grader used to do an adequate job in my opinion, but it was changed so much its results are completely meaningless nowadays. I stopped paying serious attention to it a long time ago, as it is so fundamentally flawed.

For example, if you look for major influencers in the state of New Jersey, the #1 – consistently – on the list is a bot (it RTs useful pieces of information – but a bot, nonetheless. Until I see it interact with anyone I won’t believe otherwise). Clearly it assigns excessive importance to retweeting. Also, strangely it includes users that have tweeted a ridiculously low number of tweets and don’t have a lot of followers either (i.e. one user tweeted a total of 172 tweets – seriously, that user is a major influencer? I’m not buying that). Twitter grader also doesn’t explain how it works – it feels like a random generator of numbers. There are more issues but I’ll stop here.

Twitterholic (which seems to be in the process of changing its name to Twitaholic) simply shows the number of followers, followees and tweets for a specific area. That, as stated, is not an accurate measure, but it is far superior to the Twitter grader whose results are meaningless. Even this limited number of characteristics says a lot about the user.

Klout, I believe, does the best job. What I like about this tool is that it takes a lot of the above factors into consideration and even explains its reasoning why a user is influential or not, and classifies it into one of several categories. It’s really the only tool that does an adequate job in my opinion.

And there are many more. Many more. More seem to appear every day.

Any thoughts?


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Twitter Road

Twitter Road

In this post I continue my earlier discussion of Twitter Milestones: the idea that the Twitter experience changes once you reach a certain number of followers. This post was practically written a month and a half ago. I’ve just been so busy I did not have time to properly edit it.

As you might have read in my earlier post , I defined what I call the “Twitter Milestones“. Here’s a quick recap:


  1. The first milestone occurs at around 150 followers: this is roughly when you first realize that the experience you shared in Facebook is different in Twitter and in order not to be overwhelmed by conversations, you need to find a way to organize people. At the time only external software (such as Tweetdeck) existed, but since then the Twitter Lists feature has been added which greatly assists in this task.


  2. The second milestone occurs at 2,000 followers: this is an artificial limit set by Twitter and getting past it is quite a challenge for many users (read my earlier post for a more detailed explanation).


  3. The third milestone occurs at around 5,000 followers and was the focus of my earlier post: at this stage you really started getting noticed. You pose a question and always get answers. You get offers from SponsoredTweets or You get referenced in conversations and #FollowFridays by people you don’t know.

At the end of the post I theorized that there are more such milestones. Turns out I was right. The fourth milestone, which I’m shortly going to elaborate on, occurs around 14,000 followers. There’s even a fifth milestone, which I’ve just recently surpassed (but can already tell it’s a milestone) and this one seems to take place around 28,000-30,000 followers.

So what changes during the fourth milestone?

The good:

  1. You become even more noticeable. Some people start listing you in “top tweeps”, “Twitter heavyweights”, “Top users” lists and such. And that comes with more attention. Of course, this is unsurprising – but the effect is more than just “double” that of having 7,000 followers. One day I realized that no matter what I say, I get a response, more often from people I don’t know (and have never spoken to) than from people I do know.

    Another time I noticed a user who responded to one of my tweets only so I would respond back (I looked at his profile page and it was filled with mundane comments to users with 20,000+ followers).

    Overall, I find this a fantastic experience – the rate I met great people: friends and business connections dramatically increased. In my opinion, this item alone makes it worth it for people like me, who thrive on interaction.


  2. You start getting people with verified accounts following you. Having a verified account is by no means an indication of being a celebrity. In fact, of those who followed me back then, I did not know even a single person. But still it gave me some indication that I am becoming more noticeable.

The neutral: I’m listing this as a category because it’s hard for me to classify these items as either good or bad (it’s really a matter of perspective).


  1. You get weird retweets: I’ve attended a talk by Peter Shankman who mentioned some people just RT the most mundane things he tweets (the example he gave was “I’ve just jogged and am all sweaty”). I started experiencing it myself roughly at this point. Some times I get RTed for no reason I can imagine – i.e. when I say goodnight (happens often). Sometimes it’s even more arbitrary than that. I suspect some of it is actually automated: there seem to be users who just RT stuff other people say and this is generally random – looks like a relatively easy way of making a bot seem authentic, no? With that being said, I think that’s only a small part of the weird RTs.


  2. You start getting a lot of requests to retweet: personally, if it’s a friend or some good content, I am happy to do so (by all means, be my guests). But if it’s someone I never spoke to who just wants me to retweet something trivial? Then I’m just going to ignore the request. At times these are people who are not even following me – in this case I often block them.


  3. You start getting requests from people to teach them how to get followers. How did one guy phrased it: “Can you be my mentor?”. This happened a few times.


  4. You start getting a lot of requests of people to look at their blogs or websites. Yeah, this happened a bit before, but the rate greatly increased. If a friend asks: sure, I’d be more than happy to. But if I don’t know you, why would I do that? Visit my blog, try to get to know me, and then I’ll happily visit your blog/site/whatever.


  5. Twitter Jail becomes a daily aspect of your life: I mentioned in my earlier post that I make it a point never to ignore any user who addresses me (unless he’s rude or a spammer). Since I’m a fast typist, even now I can easily do this. The problem is that Twitter has a limit of 100 status updates per hour. If you break it, you get thrown to Twitter Jail – can’t update your status for around 30 minutes to 3 hours (see my post on Twitter Jail). Ridiculously low in my opinion. Since I insist on maintaining this policy, I am often in Twitter Jail – sometimes twice a day.


  6. FollowFriday becomes a challenge: with so many people I like, I really feel obligated to mention them all. However, I don’t like sending more than 3 lines of FF – so it’s pretty hard to decide who to include. On top of that, at times I truly forget to include someone: usually it’s simply because we haven’t chatted in 2-3 days (“Ancient history” in Twitter terms).

The bad:

  1. Negative attention: This continues the first point of “the good” list. With more attention also comes some negative attention. So far I’ve been included twice in insulting lists. Strangely, of people I’ve never ever spoken to and have no idea who they are. In both times a simple “block” removed me from those lists (and I even contacted other people, just so they’ll know to do the same). I guess I should consider myself lucky it’s been only two (so far). There is one specific user who has a bunch of derogatory lists in which he includes hundreds of people (he included me too). I find it hard to believe he knows them all (obviously he didn’t know me), most likely he’s just a sad, bitter person who likes venting this way. I’m aware of more than 10 people who blocked him – I don’t understand why he’s not suspended from Twitter. Hopefully he will be at some point.


  2. Stalkers/trolls: I’ve had just one stalker, but that was most definitely unpleasant. He created 8 Twitter accounts to talk to me (all blocked). 3 Facebook accounts (all blocked) and 1 LinkedIn account (ignored). In hindsight, I know it was a guy with a genuine problem (who later apologized for his behavior), but it was definitely unpleasant.

    As a side note, and this affects all Twitter users who use their real names and details: when you put your name publicly there’s always a risk of someone becoming obsessed with you. Some of my friends and family have encountered this – nut jobs intent to tarnish their names and ruin their lives. However, anonymity has its own limitations, and that’s why I reveal much about myself… a professional hazard, I suppose.


  3. An even greater loss of privacy: at times people I don’t know jump into a conversation and seem to know much about me – or at least, much about things I’ve discussed in the past, sometimes weeks before. Normally this wouldn’t bother me at all, however, in one specific incident I know this was not done with good intentions. Won’t elaborate more on that.

This is it. As I said, I believe I’ve just reached the fifth milestone which is proving to be.. interesting. I need a few more weeks to digest this and then I’ll share my experiences.

Edit: TremendousNews has written a post that somewhat reminded me of this one (though funnier): 5 signs people like you on Twitter

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