Twitter Tips Part 2: How to Keep Your Followers

If you’ve read Twitter Tips Part 1, you have a good idea of how to get people to follow you back. But what about once you have them? It’s far too easy to push that “unfollow” button.

I don’t go through my timeline searching for any reason to drop everyone I can. I only unfollow people who stand out for one of the reasons below, and generally only if they’re repeat offenders. I would rather be writing than wading through tweets that annoy me, so I aim for quality in my timeline. To semi-quote the lovely Nina Badzin:  following someone who you never interact with doesn’t do either of you any favors. It’s not about numbers; it’s about people and connections. For me, that means a slim and trim following list.

Here are some reasons that I have dropped tweeps, and conversely, tips on how to avoid being dropped.

Things that Make me Unfollow Someone:

You have an app that posts all of your ________ (fill in the blank: Pandora songs, TV shows, “Ask Me” answers, Goodread updates, physical locations, Tumblr pictures, etc.) In short, don’t hook up ANY automatic outside apps to your Twitter. They flood the timeline.

You fill up my entire timeline with #FFs and “Thanks for the RT love” lists. One or two “FF” tweets is plenty for each week. If you want to thank people for RTs, do it by @ mentioning them, not by tweeting their names to everyone. That just comes off as bragging. (This tweet: “@Whoever, thank you so much for the RT!” is totally different than this tweet: “Thanks for the RTs @Whoever @WhoeversTwin @WhoeversMomma @Stranger @PersonIDontFollow.” Get it?) Nina Badzin has a great explanation of this (and why it’s annoying) here.

Most of your links are to fiction and/or poetry on your blog. (This is just taste. I don’t like to read people’s actual work on Twitter. Some people do.)

One or more of your tweets is offensive to me. I don’t mind crude, but I do mind rude. If you tweet sexist, racist, or homophobic tweets, I unfollow.

You tweet endless micro-poetry. The part of my brain that reads tweets and the part of my brain that reads poetry cannot be active at the same time. I find micro-poetry tweets jarring and out of place. Again, taste. There are thriving communities of micro poetry tweeters out there. If you love it, full steam ahead. Just be aware that you might be isolating yourself from non-poets (and poets like me).

You tweet too many WIP lines (quotes from your current writing work in progress). For one thing, this is like micro-poetry: I just don’t want to read creative fiction when I’m on Twitter. But even more than that, by tweeting WIP lines, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Take any line from the greatest work ever, and unless you have already read it, the line will fall flat. Clever lines don’t sound clever out of context, they sound lame. So by tweeting WIP lines, it implies to me that you think they’re awesome. When they fall flat (and they almost always will), it makes me think poorly of your book, when in reality it might be awesome in context. So just… don’t do it. And if you want to do it anyway, don’t do it often.

If I follow you and you send me an automated DM asking me to look at your blog or buy your book, I unfollow. I don’t need or want that kind of spammy behavior in an already overwhelming Twitter timeline. Put your book on your website; put your website link at the bottom of your Twitter profile. Interested parties know where to look.

You’re always stoked/always in despair. I have no problem with people being stoked or in despair, but when the same person is always one of those things, I don’t buy it. I especially dislike an endless stream of “OMG this is the best chapter I’ve ever written I can’t wait until you guys can read my booooooook” type tweets. Not only does it seem false, it seems like you’re already trying to sell a book that’s not even out yet. Ick.

You change your avatar/profile pic and/or your Twitter handle without telling me, and I no longer have any idea who you are.

You go inactive for six months or more, less if I don’t know you well or don’t remember you. I just assume you’ve given up on Twitter without closing your account.

Things That Annoy Me, i.e. Things You Probably Shouldn’t Do:

Don’t put a copyright sign in your profile. Everything you write is copyrighted. We all know not to plagiarize, and the people who do it anyway won’t stop just because you do that. (It makes you look ignorant and/or arrogant, as if you assume everyone has nothing better to do than steal your tweets.)

Don’t unfollow and follow again to get my attention. If I didn’t follow back, try actually talking to me.

Don’t #FF me just as an attempt to get me to follow back (more than one #FF and I assume this is your endgame. Call me cynical).

Don’t #FF me if you aren’t following me yourself. That’s clearly a gimmick. How can you recommend me to your tweeps if you don’t even know what I tweet about?

Don’t tweet the same things from your personal and organization accounts. This happens more than you might think. Many writers are also editors, part of group blogs, or leaders of writing organizations. Which is great, I mean, I am too. But if you use your personal account to RT your group tweets all the time, chances are good that I will quickly unfollow one or both. Why do I need the same information twice?

Don’t automatically send all of your tweets to Facebook. Facebook users are just not used to this level of activity, and it’s very frustrating to them. Also, non-twitter FB users don’t understand hashtags and other Twitter ways. So tweets just confused them. (It’s not just me! Look at Emlyn Chand’s post that includes this.)

Don’t have really, really long conversations 140 characters at a time with other people. When it gets beyond 5-6 tweets in one day, it’s time for email. (When you follow both people it takes up your whole timeline.)

The Bottom Line

Most Twitter sins are forgivable if a tweep has lots to offer otherwise. There are people in my timeline who waaaay over #FF or tweet links to their new blogs at least a dozen times. But I haven’t unfollowed them because they took the time to make a connection with me. The common theme among the unforgivable sins? Treating Tweeps like consumers instead of friends. People don’t want to get on Twitter just to be advertised to and spammed. They get on Twitter to socialize and network. There’s quite a difference.

Want to see if I tweet the talk? Find me @AnnieNeugebauer. =)

So how about you? What sorts of Twitter habits turn you off big-time? And how do you decide when it’s time to unfollow?

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  • Dahnya Och

    Another wonderful post, Annie! I really enjoy these Twitter tips since I’m still floundering to find my way in the Twitterverse.

    Re: Copywriting – I’ve seen those books where it’s just a compilation of tweets from random people… could they be trying to protect themselves from being published without permission? I wasn’t ever quite sure on how those books got published anyway…

    • Thanks Dahnya! I’m so glad you’re finding them useful. =)

      And yes, you’re probably right that that’s what they’re worried about… but the thing is, those books are illegal anyway, right? Unless I’m missing something, they can’t use those tweets without permission. So the people who make them are breaking the law and disrespecting the content rights anyway, so my point is that adding a copyright symbol probably won’t deter them. I would be curious to know if anyone knew more about that.

  • LOVE this post, and not just because you mentioned me. (Though I do appreciate that.) I agree with everything you said here! Chuckled at “You’re always stoked or you’re always in despair.” That’s one I haven’t seen is one of these kinds of posts and I AGREE!

    • Thanks Nina! I think I missed them when you posted them, but I’ve really enjoyed looking through your Twitter tips recently. We seem to be like-minded, so I’m glad you approve. 🙂

  • funnyorsnot

    I’ve lost followers due to inadvertent random RT’s when using the Twitter app on my phone. I’d totally unfollow me too. I follow far too many people to keep up with and use lists, but even they are becoming unmanageable. Culling my followers is on my “to do” list right after I find a few more pithy quotes to tweet 🙂

    • I’ve never been able to get lists working right for me, either. I always forget to add new people to them, and then by the time I remember they’re so helplessly behind that I might as well start over. So I don’t use them either. And yes, it sounds like it might be time for a culling — which souds rather ominious, like The Great Twitter Reaping of 2012. =)~

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Great post. You reminded me that I should have commented when I changed my name today.

    Top Tip from me: don’t just follow and then lurk. If you want me to follow back, say hello and comment on one of my tweets. If I click on your profile and all I see is RTs, then I am not going to follow you.

    Also – if you RT something, say something about whatever you have passed on. Why you liked it, what your thoughts are on the subject, not just a plain RT.

    • The name thing is something that a lot of people forget about, so you’re certainly not alone. But yeah, a quick, “Hey guys, my Twitter handle is about to change to @Whatever,” is a nice heads-up.

      I love both of your tips. The lurking thing is kind of like taking college classes. Yes, you can take them and never say hi to the professor (no one’s going to stop you and you can still get value out of it), but just a quick handshake after class or a stop by office hours makes all the difference to him/her. It’s a matter of following versus interacting, and I always vote for the latter.

      I like a nice mix of manual and automatic RTs. Sometimes if a tweet is long it’s too hard to fit into a separate tweet, and sometimes if it’s really obvious why you retweeted it (it’s funny, cute picture, etc.), a comment is necessary. But yeah, some personal commentary is always nice when you can swing it.

      Thanks Lynn. Nice tips!

  • Linda Hatton

    Great post! I think I might be guilty of some of these as I’m still figuring Twitter out. It’s slowly sinking in thought and your tips definitely helped. Thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks Linda! I’m glad they’ve helped. See you around the Twit-o-sphere. 🙂

  • jessika fleck

    Thanks for all of this insight Annie!!! A lot to think about and so very helpful. Twitter is tricky business! So…I assume I shouldn’t go hog-wild unfollowing people now I’m so much the wiser? :p

    • Thanks Jessika! Twitter is tricky; I agree. A large-scale unfollowing is actually something a lot of people do, but the problem with that is that it’s more likely to draw attention to the fact that you’re culling your list. Personally, I would just slowly unfollow a few at a time — starting with the ones who really annoy you (taking up your whole timeline, offensive, etc.). Still gets the job done but seems less “mean,” for lack of better word. And in the future, of course, you can just be a little more careful about who you follow. =)