3 ways to prevent being ‘unfollowed’ on Twitter

Some people reading the title of this blog post may claim not to be bothered when they’re ‘unfollowed’ on Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.  I don’t believe them.*  😉

Most people on Twitter also have a blog. The reason you have a blog rather than write in a personal diary is to share your ideas with the world. You’d like to influence others in some way.

As a result, whether you like it or not, if you’ve got a blog you’re in the marketing business. You are (potentially) a global micro-brand.

All this sounds a bit business-like, especially for an educator with a professed aim to change the education system for the better. But, as I have blogged about recently, our ideas gaining acceptance is one way to achieve a sort of immortality. And if we do want to change the education system, we need to influence as many people as possible! 😀

So yes, you do need to be concerned when people ‘unfollow’ you on Twitter. One or two may not be a problem, but if there’s somewhat of an exodus, it means that they’re not getting what they thought you’d be delivering. Let’s see how we can make sure that state of affairs doesn’t obtain…

1. Speak in full sentences

When I teach lessons that involve students answering questions, I stress the importance of making sure they don’t start their answer to a question with ‘because’, and that they explain the context. Otherwise, when they come to revise, they won’t ‘get it’. Similarly with Twitter, you’re not just having a conversation with another individual – people who are following you are also listening. Don’t say ‘it’ – say what you mean and link to what you’re talking about (if relevant) – and in every tweet involved.

2. ‘Direct message’ people more

Just because someone’s used an @ reply to you (e.g. @dajbelshaw: my interesting message) doesn’t mean you have to do likewise to them. If what you’re going to say is unlikely to interest others apart from that individual, send them a direct message. Just be sure to double-check that you’re following them as well, otherwise it could be slightly embarrassing. I talk from experience… 😮

3. Don’t binge-tweet

I use FriendFeed as well as Twitter. FriendFeed summarises when someone sends more than one tweet in quick succession. Yesterday, someone I follow posted 25 messages in quick succession. When you’re following hundreds of people, that’s too much to handle. Be focused.

I’m always very aware that my tweets are one of the first things you see when you visit dougbelshaw.com. That means I try to keep the most recent tweet fairly interesting and relevant to both Twitter followers and visitors to my site. If I post a reply which may be useful to others but fairly geeky, I try to follow it up quickly with something of greater relevance.

These ideas may not work for everyone, but they work for me. What do you use Twitter for? What are your tips for using it?

* This post came about after a discussion about a new service called Qwitter that emails you when someone stops following you on Twitter.

(Image by Mykl Roventine @ Flickr)

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  1. I suppose I should care about being unfollowed but I am not all that concerned with it. Seriously.

    I maintain that the purpose of twitter is not to develop a microbrand, it’s simply to tell folks what’s up with me at any given time. If someone decides that is no longer interesting, they are welcome to unfollow.

    To be honest, Doug, I enjoy hearing about Ben and Hannah much more than ICT in education. You’re a husband and father before your job, why should twitter limited to one side of you?

    And I think one of the reasons to use @ replies as opposed to dm’s is to keep the conversation going and allow others to follow it. DM’ing takes it out of the public eye.

    My thoughts, just off the cuff.

    Chris

    • Chris,

      Thanks for your comment and your interest in my family! :-) Although I do standard ‘status updates’ about what I’m up to, that’s in the way of context, really. For me, the important stuff on Twitter is the professional connections I make and links to useful stuff I find.

      Of *course* I’m interested in the unfolding tapestry of other people’s lives. Just sometimes I feel like there’s a bit too much context, not enough content… ;-)

  2. Doug,

    I maintain that you’re purposing Twitter in a way it was not intended. Sure, you can make professional connections via Twitter, your blog, or Skype or whatever. The difference is Skype is designed to connect folks, a blog is what you make of it.

    Inherently, however, Twitter is designed to provide updates that may or may not have context at all. You’re building a set of community mores that may or may not be valid. It’s a faulty construct because you’re basing your norms on your idea of what the tool is to be used for.

    I just wonder if we don’t ask too much of Twitter.

    With that said, I’ll let this one go, there’s too much passion around Twitter to incite a riot. Maybe then everyone would unfollow me! ;)

    Chris

    • Chris, I see an edutwittersphere (have I just made that word up) that already has an implicit set of norms and values. Some edutwitters are more successful than others. I’m by no means one of the ‘big hitters’ – all I’m trying to do here is reflect on what is of value to others. Surely there’s no harm in that? :-D

  3. It’s so funny to me that “business” carries such negative connotation in public education circles. People that pursue success in small business or in corporations can be just as noble (or ignoble) as any teacher. To me, any person who pursues excellence and greatness in their field is “making a difference” in the world.

    • Yes, Joel, but there’s making a difference in a way that matters, and making a difference in a way that does not. You can make a difference in terms of making lots of money for shareholders (i.e. the aim of capitalist businesses) without delivering benefit to the human race (surely an aim of education?)

      I don’t usually like to compare schools to businesses. I prefer the ‘charity’ model better. :-)

  4. Doug,I maintain that you're purposing Twitter in a way it was not intended. Sure, you can make professional connections via Twitter, your blog, or Skype or whatever. The difference is Skype is designed to connect folks, a blog is what you make of it. Inherently, however, Twitter is designed to provide updates that may or may not have context at all. You're building a set of community mores that may or may not be valid. It's a faulty construct because you're basing your norms on your idea of what the tool is to be used for.I just wonder if we don't ask too much of Twitter.With that said, I'll let this one go, there's too much passion around Twitter to incite a riot. Maybe then everyone would unfollow me! ;)Chris

  5. It's so funny to me that "business" carries such negative connotation in public education circles. People that pursue success in small business or in corporations can be just as noble (or ignoble) as any teacher. To me, any person who pursues excellence and greatness in their field is "making a difference" in the world.

  6. Chris, I see an edutwittersphere (have I just made that word up) that already has an implicit set of norms and values. Some edutwitters are more successful than others. I'm by no means one of the 'big hitters' – all I'm trying to do here is reflect on what is of value to others. Surely there's no harm in that? :-D

  7. I have to say that, unless there was a mass exodus, I don’t think I’d notice. In fact, until I read your post I hadn’t even thought about it. I’m more interested in reading the tweets of the people I follow than noticing who follows me.

    • I understand your sentiments, Karyn, but if we’re in the business of
      influencing others, then it’s important who follows us. It’s also
      important that we ‘hang on’ to them. At least, to my mind… :-)

    • I understand your sentiments, Karyn, but if we’re in the business of
      influencing others, then it’s important who follows us. It’s also
      important that we ‘hang on’ to them. At least, to my mind… :-)

  8. I have to say that, unless there was a mass exodus, I don't think I'd notice. In fact, until I read your post I hadn't even thought about it. I'm more interested in reading the tweets of the people I follow than noticing who follows me.

  9. I suppose I should care about being unfollowed but I am not all that concerned with it. Seriously.I maintain that the purpose of twitter is not to develop a microbrand, it's simply to tell folks what's up with me at any given time. If someone decides that is no longer interesting, they are welcome to unfollow. To be honest, Doug, I enjoy hearing about Ben and Hannah much more than ICT in education. You're a husband and father before your job, why should twitter limited to one side of you?And I think one of the reasons to use @ replies as opposed to dm's is to keep the conversation going and allow others to follow it. DM'ing takes it out of the public eye.My thoughts, just off the cuff.Chris

  10. Chris,Thanks for your comment and your interest in my family! 🙂 Although I do standard 'status updates' about what I'm up to, that's in the way of context, really. For me, the important stuff on Twitter is the professional connections I make and links to useful stuff I find.Of *course* I'm interested in the unfolding tapestry of other people's lives. Just sometimes I feel like there's a bit too much context, not enough content… 😉

  11. Yes, Joel, but there's making a difference in a way that matters, and making a difference in a way that does not. You can make a difference in terms of making lots of money for shareholders (i.e. the aim of capitalist businesses) without delivering benefit to the human race (surely an aim of education?)I don't usually like to compare schools to businesses. I prefer the 'charity' model better. 🙂

  12. I understand your sentiments, Karyn, but if we're in the business ofinfluencing others, then it's important who follows us. It's alsoimportant that we 'hang on' to them. At least, to my mind… :-)

  13. I teach EFL, and in one class, I have students make blogs. One of the problems teaching Japanese students is that they part of a high-context culture: they tend to assume they are writing for a narrow audience of people who share the same culture, and so they do not write for an international (low-context) audience. As part of training them to think of their audience (after reminding them that ANYONE with an internet connection can read their blog, not just people in Japan or familiar with Japanese culture), I gave them 3 blogging tips which I stole from Tim Ferriss’s blog post about Twitter and blogging. You may find it relevant.

  14. I teach EFL, and in one class, I have students make blogs. One of the problems teaching Japanese students is that they part of a high-context culture: they tend to assume they are writing for a narrow audience of people who share the same culture, and so they do not write for an international (low-context) audience. As part of training them to think of their audience (after reminding them that ANYONE with an internet connection can read their blog, not just people in Japan or familiar with Japanese culture), I gave them 3 blogging tips which I stole from Tim Ferriss's blog post about Twitter and blogging. You may find it relevant.

  15. I am still figuring twitter out. I am using it to post my latest blog post to. I tried to write something to twitter in the middle of a lecture the other day on my phone and thought 'what am I doing!'. I suppose even though I am following a lot of people I don't really feel part of a community. But I am going to perserve.

  16. I understand your sentiments, Karyn, but if we're in the business ofinfluencing others, then it's important who follows us. It's alsoimportant that we 'hang on' to them. At least, to my mind… 🙂

  17. I am still figuring twitter out. I am using it to post my latest blog post to. I tried to write something to twitter in the middle of a lecture the other day on my phone and thought ‘what am I doing!’. I suppose even though I am following a lot of people I don’t really feel part of a community. But I am going to perserve.

  18. Good advice on using Twitter intelligently. (First time at your blog.)

    One thing I’d add is not to take being un-followed personally. People un-follow for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes people just scale back their fellowship for better management. Othertimes, some tweets just aren’t in your area of interest.

    If you decide to use a service like Qwitter, don’t use it for vanity purposes. It may help you give you feedback about the effects of your tweeting, but don’t take it too seriously.

    Twitter’s a remarkable permission-based way to connect with other people, develop a human-based RSS reader or just have fun. People follow and un-follow all the time. If you use Twitter intelligently and with a good purpose, the number of followers doesn’t matter.

  19. Good advice on using Twitter intelligently. (First time at your blog.)One thing I'd add is not to take being un-followed personally. People un-follow for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes people just scale back their fellowship for better management. Othertimes, some tweets just aren't in your area of interest.If you decide to use a service like Qwitter, don't use it for vanity purposes. It may help you give you feedback about the effects of your tweeting, but don't take it too seriously.Twitter's a remarkable permission-based way to connect with other people, develop a human-based RSS reader or just have fun. People follow and un-follow all the time. If you use Twitter intelligently and with a good purpose, the number of followers doesn't matter.

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