Reasons to not follow people on Twitter

About Jonathan Lea

Jonathan is a specialist corporate and commercial solicitor who has over 11 years of experience at both large international City firms and smaller practices. For the last two years he has worked on a self-employed basis with a network of other freelance lawyers focused on entrepreneur-led businesses. If you'd like a competitive quote for any legal work please send an email to the address on the home page. You can also follow him on Twitter @jonathanlea

Over the last few years of using Twitter I have developed some of my own rules that determine whether I follow or unfollow people.  OK, I hold my hands up and admit I may not be the most prolific tweeter and I don’t have the hugest following and while a lot of these rules may be quite subjective and down to my own opinion, over time I think I’ve picked up a useful set of factors to help me find the right people to follow and make my Twitter experience valuable.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my main reasons why I choose to follow or not follow accounts:

1. I tend not to follow personal accounts where there is no clear photo of the individual.  Not having a photo of themselves gives me the impression that these people might not be wholly transparent or authentic.

2. Similarly, if your twitter handle doesn’t bear a clear resemblance to your real name and has an odd mixture of letters and numbers, phrases or names then I tend to think the person behind the account just might be a bit too weird to bother following.

3. I love following people from different parts of the world, getting their perspective on things and insight into their culture – for me this is one of the best things about Twitter.  I like tweets in Spanish and French as I can read and understand the lingos and by following those accounts I feel as if this helps me improve my knowledge of each language.  However, for pretty much all other languages if too many tweets are not in English then there’s no point in me following.  For whatever reason, good or bad, English continues to be the main language that connects the world, particularly in the highly literate and educated online world and if you are not tweeting mostly in English then people are missing out on creating a global network.

4. I don’t understand why people put phone numbers on their profiles.  It doesn’t tell me anything about the person or business and seems very presumptive.  If I am ever going to phone someone who I follow then it would probably be once some sort of relationship has developed and would be facilitated by simply looking on their website for the right number, not checking their Twitter page.

5. For me Twitter is mostly about connecting with and growing a network of individuals and building personal brands. While I do follow business branded accounts that either tweet interesting and useful content or where I know the person or people behind the brand, there are many people pursuing a strategy of having really dull and characterless corporate branded accounts that are too over-managed and offer very little of interest or value.

6. It really bugs me whenever I see paper.li’s in Twitter feeds, especially when I see people retweeting other paper.li’s when their name has been mentioned.  No matter how otherwise interesting a Twitter account might be, usually whenever I see an automated paper.li pop up in my stream its a case of unfollowing that person straight away, although there are a few people who I know and like that I still continue to follow even though its really annoying when you check your Twitter stream at a certain time of day and see the same paper.li’s being publised at the same time every day.  Robert Scoble previously called out paper.li’s as spam and I agree, there is never anything of value in the paper.li tweet itself and I have never bothered clicking through to check a whole load of automaticaly aggregated stories that tell me nothing about the person who is tweeting and what their take on things might be.

7. While a bit of information and a few tweets about someone’s personal and day-to-day life are necessary in order to build up a bit of rapport and feel that you are getting to know the real person behind the account, there is a balance to be struck and those that tweet too much about their ordinary daily occurrences and things that are of no real consequence to the rest of the world don’t offer enough value to be worth following.

8. When deciding whether to follow someone I look at their stream to see if there is a good mix of conversational tweets in amongst their broadcast ones.  Even if someone publishes great content on Twitter it seems a bit strange when they don’t regularly engage in conversation.  As one of the main reasons to follow someone is to be able to establish some sort of relationship then it therefore doesn’t seem worthwhile if they are unlikely to engage with you.

9. Good use of the hashtag on Twitter can be very useful, but some people have an obsession with using it far too often even with normal words and where there doesn’t appear to be any benefit.  Again, such use of Twitter just makes a person look a little odd (particularly when every word or phrase in their biography is appended with a hashtag) and perhaps not ‘altogether there’ mentally so I make the decision that they are best avoided.

10. While I’m not the most saintly of people and occasionally resort to the odd swear word in the offline world when I’m exceptionally annoyed, online I have rather different standards and don’t ever see the use of swear words as necessary when you are expressing yourself. I therefore have a low tolerance of those who use offensive language and almost without exception choose not to follow such people.

11. To really build trust I think you need to give your opinion on the issues of the day and not stay silent or sit on the fence.  Many people, even experienced Twitter users, seem to be afraid to give their honest views on things or appear as controversial or outspoken.  As a result I feel that you’re not really getting to know that person, sometimes to the point where I make the decision that they are just a bit too bland and not interesting enough to follow anymore.

12. I can never understand why some people choose to follow only a very small number of people when they themselves are followed by many more.  Twitter is a two way thing and it seems to indicate to me that such people may have an over-inflated ego, while also being small minded to miss out on following so many interesting and useful people.  Hence I sometimes decide not to follow such accounts.  I follow over 2,700 people that I am constantly pruning and editing, but for me this number will continue to grow the more I come across fascinating, useful and insightful people around the world that I can get value from as a result of being able to access their thinking and content and getting to know them.

13. Excessive automation and synchronisation of the same content across accounts are both things that mean I am very likely to de-follow someone. The most annoying thing is when people set up their account to send out a stream of tweets all at the same time thus polluting my stream with someone’s automated block of tweets.  I also don’t like it when someone automates their own content as it means I am more likely to see their content more than I would otherwise like to.  Similarly, some people post content across platforms like longer updates from LinkedIn that are then automatically published on Twitter but because of the shorter character word limit on Twitter most of the post doesn’t appear or at least not enough of it for the tweet to make any sense thus wasting my time seeing the Tweet and missing the point in using the service in the first place.

14. If someone has a voluminous number of tweets to the point where it appears they do nothing else but tweet all day, but they also have a low number of followers in comparison then I instantly take this as a strong indication that they are not that interesting and thereby not worth following.

15. If someone has a relatively low number of tweets but a huge number of followers and people they are following then this suggests that they have over-used software tools that help you to artificially boost your follower count.  Again this leaves a strong signal that they are not worth following.

16. People should know by now that writing words all in capitals in the online world is the equivalent of shouting at someone offline.  Writing things in capitals, particularly your actual Twitter handle, is therefore a big turn off.

17. My view is that everyone should have a personal Twitter account and then if you are an entrepreneur also have separate accounts for your business brands.  Some people don’t have this separation and instead try to combine their personal name and corporate handle in one Twitter account.  To me this just seems disjointed and unauthentic meaning I am likely to not deem that account worth of a follow.

18.  Occasionally it might be interesting to see certain Foursquare and Instagram posts appear on someone’s Twitter.  However there are some people who really overshare this content on Twitter.  Similar to my earlier point about automation, I think you need to keep in mind that people use the various social media sites in different ways and its best to adopt a distinct and nuanced approach to posting on each of them otherwise it is likely you will lose followers as a result.

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