New Twitter policy: blocking irrelevant data-points

Slowly, over the last few weeks, I’ve been cleaning out my Twitter “Followers”. Yes, followers… by simply blocking them. I’m not doing this lightly. I realize that on the surface, this flies in the face of the open, embracing love-in that social media is purported by so many to be. And it also dramatically drives down that superficial impression that I’m a highly respected professional in my field who has six digits of data points hanging on my every word. I mean, anyone with thousands of followers must have incredible “thought leader” foo, right?

I manage several personal Twitter accounts. Some are very active, other infrequently tended (like @websuasion_ryan of late) and still others laying in wait for back-burnered project momentum to kick back in as time allows. When looking at my most active profiles, one thing is incredibly clear: those accounts are managed with unwavering scrutiny. I’m only following people who I actually know, who I respect, who inform my decisions, who are emotionally or intellectually like-minded and who challenge me to think. In short, I follow real people who add value to my day. And likewise, now I intend to manage my followers with the same scrutiny. You need to be following for legitimate reasons.

Discerning valid followers means actually reviewing the profile, posts and links of every single twitter account that follows me. It’s tedious work. It’s draining. It has occasionally made me incredibly sad. Incredibly frustrated. It has occasionally raised questions regarding the true nature and value of social networking. I’ve wondered if all Twits are just that… self-serving, robotic, press-release-link spewing cogs foolishly chasing the veneer of relevance and wasting everyone’s time in the process. What do you get when 100,000 deaf marketing gurus, life-coaches, automated bloggers and countless other self-proclaimed niche experts all follow one another? Noise. You get mind-numbing noise… consisting mostly of Mashable retweets.

Thankfully, that’s just the chaff. And there’s a lot of chaff. A painful lot. But once the noisemakers are blocked into submission, I’m finding that I have a very clean and amazing resource of my own design. A resource that I actually enjoy logging into.

Maybe you are wondering “Why bother blocking your followers, though. They don’t show up in your feed unless you follow back. Can’t you just ignore who you want to ignore?” True. And like many others, I’ve done that for a long time. Now, I’ve decided that’s a half-assed approach. Here’s why:

I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion: I want to know how many relevant followers I have. If I’m building a community, I need to be able to gauge my performance with that community. Are my thoughts, opinions, articles, retweets, replies, jokes or personal anecdotes adding value to their day? It’s a tricky thing to measure even with the cleanest of follower lists, but it’s absolutely impossible to measure when you can’t trust the numbers. If 80% of my followers obviously are not listening or interacting, then how do I get at the legitimate measure? This alone has me convinced that the social marketing metrics used by most companies are useless.

The forest of junk timber is obscuring my precious hardwoods: Glance over a few thousand followers. Go ahead, I’ll wait. *makes a sandwich* *builds a home addition* Okay, you back? I’m guessing you found some followers are easy to eliminate… obvious spammers, dead accounts, misguided corporate branding efforts, etc. But some are really tough decisions. Some people are really bad about providing a clear bio. But once you dig in a bit, they share some really interesting perspectives. I missed some really great people over the last couple of years because their needle of a profile didn’t pop out of the haystack. Having a smaller base makes it easier to find the gems.

Approachability and celebrity are mutually exclusive: Who am I going to do business with: a socialite who seems to be a the toast of the internet and dispenses how-to generalities; or an accessible everyman who displays expertise in their field and can make the things I need happen? Maybe corporations focus the internet-famous. Most small businesses want the job done well, on time and on budget. They don’t care how many Tweetups someone is speaking at. Chasing the numbers is just bad business for most working professionals. Building a tight core of strong relationships is what’s important. Our relationship to colleagues, peers and clients is everything. And in my experience, accessibility is the first step to building those relationships.

The downside of all of this is potentially limiting that accessibility inadvertently to someone who does care and is relevant. Unfortunately, blocking is the only real option Twitter provides to manage followers. So, if you’ve found yourself wrongly blocked by me, I apologize. Please feel free to reply to me. I’ll pick it up in my Tweetdeck search, remove the block and consider following back.

  • J Ryan Williams

    I am principal of Websuasion LLC, based out of Fayetteville, GA. We Develop Web and Mobile Applications, Produce Video and provide tools and methodologies for Responsible Brand Marketing.

    This blog tends to focus on the technical and conceptional aspects of our work with Ruby on Rails, iOS, DSLR video, the business process and a little branding discussion at times. I welcome your relevant comments, and if you have questions, feel free to speak up. For info on rates and service packages for Websuasion, please visit our Service Packages page.

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