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Why people are unfollowing you on Twitter

on November 29, 2011

This blog post is a report being submitted for Intertainment Media, makers of desktop communications and content app, KNCTR, and real-time chat translation tool, Ortsbo.

I watch my Twitter followers go up and down all the time. Why is that happening? I must not be providing useful information or I must be irritating people. Or there could be some automated Tweeters that are following and unfollowing me. Who knows.

Whether you’re worried about it or not, there is often a reason that people stop following you. While it’s close to impossible to please all people all the time, it’s still a good idea to understand the most common reasons why people stop unfollowing on Twitter.

I’ve always been intrigued by the subject of unfriending or de-friending as I used to call it because the term “unfriend” had yet to take hold. See my piece for Mashable “12 Great Tales of De-Friending” and the Spark Minute piece “The Awkwardness of De-Friending.”

Three years ago when I wrote those pieces I employed a service called Qwitter (three years later it’s still in beta!) which would automatically email me every time someone unfollows me. Included in the email would be the last tweet the user saw before they decided to stop following me. I paid rapt attention to those tweets that appeared to have caused the unfollowing, until I realized I needed to spend my time a little more wisely (read: When Technology Tells Us We have No Friends).

The unfollowing discussion won’t disappear, and it sparked my interest again when I happened upon this discussion on Quora where people gave their list of reasons they unfollow on Twitter. Here’s my summary of those reasons with a few of my own sprinkled in.

11 Common Reasons Why People Unfollow

1. Too salesy – I think these two quotes sum it up perfectly:

“They’re all business, all the time. It’s like being stuck in an elevator with a salesman.” – Chris Velazquez, screenwriter.

“No one wants to meet the encyclopedia salesman in a party.” – Alan Firmin, Founder & CEO of

2. Too much tweeting – This is usually my number one reason. I once unfollowed a very well known social media star because the first ten tweets in my feed were all his.

3. Sales pitches via DMs – I don’t know what it is, but via email I can handle it, but Twitter seems more personal, and it seems like a broken level of trust. For someone to send a DM you have to follow them as well. And it seems a violation of that unwritten rule of DM being a very personal non-sales channel.

4. Excessive cursing – I’m obviously not following the right people, because it doesn’t affect me, but many people complained about this problem. There was a time that if you did want a flood of cursing, you could head over to the site Cursebird which was a feed of tweets with profanity. Unfortunately, Cursebird was shut down in the middle of this year. DAMN IT!

5. Empty Twitter profile – Hard to trust someone when they’re not willing to present their identity to their audience. Without a bio or photo in the Twitter profile, how do I know who you are? And a link in that Twitter profile to your blog, LinkedIn page, Facebook page, or some other personalized page is key. Also, if you’re not willing to spend the time to upload a photo or write one sentence about yourself, why should I give you any of my time?

6. Irrelevant auto-posts from other social services – People checking in to Foursquare are the worst abusers of this. When this dominates your Twitter stream what value are you truly providing your followers?

7. Link-only tweeting – Some people only share links and while this can actually do wonders to build their Twitter brand and Klout score (see Why Sharing Online Content Might Be Too Easy), too much of it without conversation and discussion seems like they’ve got a personal brand building agenda.

8. Me, me, me, me, and did I mention, me? – Similar to the “too salesy” complaint is a person who just talks about themselves. Unless you’re a celebrity for which people want to hear every minute detail of your life, cool it.

9. Repetitive tweets – Sending out the same tweet over and over again to the same audience is like seeing the same advertisement over and over again. There’s a crossover point where each additional promotion has a negative effect and you start actively avoiding that person/brand.

10. Getting too political – We’re heading into another political season and watch this amp up considerably. Three years ago I witnessed this happen primarily on Facebook. People get very passionate and they can’t control their political views. Pushing your political views with statements such as “Why can’t people see…,” “You have to be an idiot to think…,” and “I’m so impressed with…” can sour a long standing friendship very quickly. Be careful about expressing your political views too strongly.

11. Depressing and complaining tweets – I actually haven’t been subject to this issue, but a few tweeters argued that constant negativity from fellow tweeters became a serious problem.

So now you know what it takes to get unfollowed.

Want to follow me, with the option to unfollow at any time? Find me on Twitter at @dspark and click “Follow.” And follow @ingaged_blog, the blog for Intertainment Media (the ones I filed this report) as well.

Stock photos courtesy of Shutterstock. Creative Commons photo attribution to Gina Trapani.

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