“I ain’t no follow back guuuuurl, I ain’t no follow back” – Gwen Stefani

I hate #TeamFollowback. Hate. With all of my soul. It is, to me, the absolute dumbest thing I’ve ever encountered on social media except for MAYBE automated direct messages. I remember when I started on Twitter, I was so excited to have new followers that every time that someone followed me, I followed them back. And when I was trying to get more followers, I would follow these accounts that said they followed back because it just seemed like it made sense to me. I mean, obviously the point of Twitter is just to amass more followers. Right?

On a platform that is so strongly weighted towards engagement, your number of followers is irrelevant. It’s not how many people you follow, it’s WHO you follow. Now that I’ve figured out this whole social media thing, I don’t click follow as soon as I see someone follows me. It doesn’t make any sense at all and here’s why.

Imagine that you work as an airplane parts manufacturer. You’re responsible for social media at your company and you see a post of mine that really resonates with you so you decide to follow me for more social media insights. Cool. That’s awesome. But I don’t give a fudge about airplane parts, so why would I follow you? Everyone should follow accounts that provide value to their feed. Following someone JUST because they follow you doesn’t make any sense at all. So, obviously that’s a pretty easy situation to judge but what about a normal follower. How do you figure out if you should follow Joe Blow?

I start by looking at someone’s bio. If their bio blows me away, I follow them and if their bio doesn’t do anything for me, I don’t. If their bio interests me but I’m still not sure, then I take a look at their feed. I go through their tweets and see if there’s anything that jumps out at me. I go back no more than 5-10 tweets and if it looks interesting, I follow and if it doesn’t, I don’t.

But what about the accounts I’m already following? Well, they’re more of a pain in the ass. You see for the first couple of years I was just doing Twitter for kicks. I didn’t know anything about it and I certainly wasn’t using it for business. Over time my interests have gone from video games, animation and sports to entrepreneurship, blogging and coaching. As you can imagine, this means that as I look over my followers, there are a lot that don’t make sense any more. So every once in awhile I participate in the great Twitter Cull.

What is the great Twitter Cull? It’s something that I do when I realize that there is simply too much noise on my Twitter feed. Basically, I go through all of my followers and I unfollow anyone that isn’t providing value to me. Trying to sell too many things? Unfollow. Mostly tweeting pictures of your cat in funny outfits? Ok…I’ll probably keep you around. Last time I cut about 350 accounts. So how do I figure out who to unfollow?

A lot of accounts I just recognize as being valuable. I remember seeing their avatar attached to something really powerful or I know them because I engage with them regularly. Those people get to stay. Some I immediately recognize as just poor decisions and I unfollow them. What about those ones in the middle? What about those accounts that I’m not sure of? For those, I basically do the same thing I do when I’m choosing whether or not to follow someone in the first place. Check the bio, check the feed. Make a decision. Occasionally I’ll come across an account that provides no value to my feed but they’re just really nice people. While I don’t think that unfollowing someone is a bad thing, I tend to keep these people around because I don’t want to hurt their feelings (albeit often muted).

Twitter is all about value. Your feed should provide you value just as your followers feeds should provide them value. Those two things need not intersect and if someone gives you a hard time about why you’re not following them, feel free to send them this post…or mute them.

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