Am I failing at social media?

I can't unfollow you
(Image credit: docpopular)

When I first got started with Twitter, I set up a filter so that whenever I got a notification from Twitter that someone followed me, it was sent to a special folder in my Gmail inbox.

That folder now has 9581 emails in it. So 9581 times, I’ve gotten a notification that I was just followed by someone. There are a couple of people that follow and unfollow me repeatedly, trying to get me to follow them (while never engaging in me in dialog at all, I might add), but almost all of those notification emails are from new people. 

However, I don’t have 9500 followers, I actually have about 6600 followers.

Some quick subtraction shows that of the 9500 or so people that followed me at some stage during the past three years, nearly 3000 of them have unfollowed me. To put it another way, nearly a third of the people who follow me eventually unfollow me. Are these 3000 lost opportunities to connect with people? 

Why do these people unfollow me?

  • My friend told me that she unfollowed me because I was tweeting too much and overwhelming everyone else in her network.
  • Some of the "people" who unfollowed me were actually spam bots and eventually got blocked by Twitter.
  • Some of them unfollow me because the information I post doesn’t meet their needs.

The key thing is, most of the people who unfollowed me because of their needs, not because of what I’m doing or not doing. It’s easy to take being unfollowed or blocked personally, but I really try hard not to. After all, the whole point of a personal learning network is that it is personal, and that you need to meet your needs.



  • Hi David,

    Although 3000 sounds like a staggering loss, it’s probably a similar amount for most people. I just passed the 1000 mark of followers and yet I imagine a good number of them are either spam followers or one-time users who in their excitement and novelty, followed me and never returned to Twitter. Still, you’re doing something OK if you still have kept 6000+.


  • David Wees wrote:

    I think so too, but if someone has 40 followers, and gets unfollowed by the same ratio, it could be pretty devastating to their ego. It’s the same ratio though, and so hopefully they will take it a bit less personally after reading that I’ve been unfollowed by so many people.

  • Many of them probably unfollowed you only a day or so after following you so you didn’t even notice. It’s not like you saw 3000 suddenly drop off like they all let go of the rope at the same time! Haha. You’ve probably just kept increasing and increasing to your eyes, if you hadn’t seen these stupid notifications.

  • Hey David,
    Although people certainly unfollow on a regular basis, and over time this adds up, you’re probably underestimating the number of spambots (you underplayed this a bit in that last part of your post).

    However, that being said – I do think ‘winning’ at social media (not a concept I agree with, but as the opposite of ‘failing’) means not counting followers or being concerned about such numbers. Not ‘failing’ likely means participating in valuable conversations, providing and sharing resources, and not viewing social media as an end unto itself.

  • David Wees wrote:

    I wonder if I could export that folder of email and create a script to check to see how many of the Twitter users in it are still active… good point though, there may be more spam bots that I really remember. I’ve certainly become an expert (I think) at reading a fake Twitter account pretty quickly.

  • lots of them:
    I assume some of these are already down but one might work. I believe I’ve used Twitoria with success in the past.

  • Sheila Stewart wrote:

    This is something I think we all try to understand on twitter as we establish and adjust how we connect with followers. It is hard to know what it means when unfollowed. My first thought on your one example David, was that maybe the one who unfollowed you didn’t have a large network and/or had less frequent tweeters, and you stood out in comparison. Mind you, my follow list isn’t huge but I have never seen your tweets taking over my timeline. Did she sign on during an #edchat maybe? 🙂

    I think twitter is great, but at times I have said to people it can seem a bit "ruthless". Yes, you really have to be able not to take too much personally. Its interesting how some interaction on twitter can become very personable and we do develop a rapport with some, and then also it can be a very impersonal place. Sometimes when I think of the activity of the timeline feed and the speed of follows and unfollows it reminds me of those speed dating scenes on TV shows and movies. 🙂 You can be judged very quickly on your most recent tweets!

    I have noticed from time to time that I have been unfollowed by some before I even get a chance to check their page and bio! But that is fine….it may be good to wait in case they realize your tweeting was not for them. I do know the situation of following someone back and then discovering they had unfollowed me at some point. But I often see those tweets and links reminding us to just focus on those who stay and and interact with us. I am glad I started twitter to follow and learn, without any expectation to be followed back. But it is those follow backs that often do make the difference to the experience. I am sure we all go through different thought processes in all this. It can get to be a lot of "management", so you are right, David, it has to fit personal needs. We likely set up our PLNs in different ways as well.

    Thanks for this post! In between all the great information and sharing, it is something I wonder about too the more I use twitter. (I just crossed the one year mark!) You are stuck with me, David 🙂

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