A couple weeks ago I was following 690 people on my personal Twitter account. Then, I did a little “spring cleaning.”
I went through the list of people I was following to do two things: Determine if everybody I was following was still worth following and categorize every single person I followed into one of a series of Twitter lists based on what they tweeted about.
What I didn’t expect when I decided to do this was how much I would learn from the process. It turned out I learned so much – and so greatly improved my experience using Twitter – that I now think it’s something everybody should do every once in a while.
By the time I was done I was down to following 408 people – that’s right, I discovered that more than 40% of the people I was following on Twitter I didn’t want to follow any more! That’s a pretty big number.
But that’s not all I learned. Here’s why I think you should give it a shot…
1. It Will Change Your Approach To Twitter
A funny thing happens when you look at hundreds of Twitter accounts back-to-back and ask yourself whether you want to keep following each of them. You see trends emerge in how people use the platform and you realize how many people’s tweets just blend together.
For example, I followed a lot of comedians who for the most part did nothing but post jokes. Sure, some of them were funny (and some of them weren’t), but after a while I started to ask myself how many people tweeting random observations about what they ate or their crazy friend did I actually needed to see ? 10? 25? 100?
At some point, they started to blur together and I realized my feed was being crowded with stuff I didn’t really care that much about. My standards started to rise.
Sure, I wanted to see funny stuff in my feed, but it made me realize to justify following somebody who was primarily posting jokes/observations those jokes had to be really good and (even more importantly) really consistent.
I also realized I was way more interested in funny people who shared more than just jokes and observations. It was a way for them to stand out from the crowd and provide me with more value.
Setting aside my own personal interests, I guarantee you if you go through and analyze the people you’re following on Twitter it will definitely make you think twice about what you post on your account and look to find ways to separate yourself from what every other comic is doing.
2. You’ll Realize How Much You’re Missing – And How Much Your Followers Are Missing
As I went through the people I followed I was shocked at how many people I followed that I felt like I hadn’t seen a tweet from them in months. It wasn’t that they weren’t tweeting, it’s just that their tweets didn’t happen to occur at the moments that I was checking my feed and I basically never saw them.
This is partially what inspired me to put everybody I follow into Lists so that I’m more likely to see their posts, but it also served as a reminder that many of my own followers likely aren’t seeing my tweets either. After all, if I was following people whose tweets I wanted to see but missed them, then the chances are the same thing is happening with people who follow me.
This is also a reminder that engaging with the people you follow (or who follow you) can be a good way to remind them to check out your tweets, even if they’ve missed them in their feeds.
3. You’ll Think About Why You Follow People
When you decide to analyze who you’re following it forces you to think about what kinds of people can be the most helpful to you and your goals. For example, think about what you want to learn and what kind of content you want to be exposed to and then make sure that the majority of people you follow fit that mold.
As you break down the people you’re currently following and put them into lists based on interests, you also wind up with an interesting snapshot of exactly how much of various types of info you’re feeding yourself through your Twitter feed. That snapshot will probably surprise you – I know mine did.
Here’s the breakdown of the 7 lists that I used to categorize the people I’m following and how many people I have on each list at the moment:
• Comedy – 97 (this is for comedians and people working in the comedy biz)
• Creative People – 86 (this is a catch-all for interesting/creative/inspiring people I want to keep tabs on)
• People I Know – 63 (this is for friends and people I know “in real life”)
• Sports – 60 (this is for sports journalists, athletes, sports blogs, etc)
• Media Outlets – 57 (this is for publications, websites, etc.)
• Terps – 22 (this is for people who cover Maryland sports)
• Journalists – 20 (this is for individual journalists who cover topics I’m interested in)
These are the numbers I wound up with after shedding a couple hundred other people that I was following and they’re a little more in balance with what I really want to get out of Twitter. But initially, I was shocked to find out how many people I was following related to Sports for example, when that wasn’t really a prime thing I was focused on as relates to Twitter.
But if you don’t look at the big picture of who you’re following, you’ll never really get an accurate sense of what you’re getting out of it.
4. You’ll Be Surprised How Many People You’re Following For No Reason
As somebody who’s pretty dialed in to Twitter on a daily basis I was shocked to see how many people I was following that I had no idea why I ever followed them in the first place. I’m not even talking about accounts that had been abandoned (there were plenty of those too), but rather people who were tweeting every day and I followed them for seemingly no reason at all.
People I didn’t know, wasn’t interested in, and had no memory of why I ever hit the Follow button on their page. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of the same in your feed – it’s worth removing them because they’re not doing anything but distracting you from the people whose tweets you actually want to see.
5. You’ll Find Twitter Becomes Much More Useful To You
It may not seem like following fewer people and arranging them in Twitter lists would make much impact in your Twitter experience, but trust me it will. I always say that if you think Twitter sucks it’s because you follow the wrong people, but it’s also possible that another reason you don’t love Twitter is because you’re following too many people.
Are You Ready To Give It A Shot?
If you decide to follow my lead and review/clean up the people you follow on Twitter I’d love to hear what you learn from doing it. Let me know in the comments or tweet me!