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  • Twitter Netiquette: 10 Reasons to Unfollow Someone

    It’s 2011 and by now I expect most people to know what Twitter is and how it works. Still, many people who should know better commit unpleasant mistakes – or rather they ignore the Twitter netiquette. They do things that make me unfollow them.

    I’m on Twitter for business and I expect to get valuable information from it, as well as some serious social networking with my industry peers. What I do not want is a lot of:

    • noise
    • low quality
    • off-topic content
    • ads
    • automated messages.

    Sounds simple doesn’t it?

    In the past week I had to unfollow people for a variety of reasons. This is a shame, but sometimes a readable Twitter timeline is more important than particular users who don’t care whether they steal my time, confuse and frustrate me.

    I’ve collected a few examples and generalized them in order not to point the finger at actual users. You know who you are, or least I hope so. Why? It’s not just me who unfollows someone for these reasons; other people do as well, but they don’t care enough to tell you. So what are the actual reasons I would unfollow someone?

    1. Autofeeding every single Mashable post. If I want to read every post by Mashable, I can use my RSS reader or follow them. Autofeeding by itself is annoying. I want people to read posts they recommend to me manually. Posting everything Mashable publishes automatically is even worse, as there is not even a discovery involved. Everybody knows Mashable.

    2. Retweeting ads using UPPERCASE TO SELL SOME AMAZING PRODUCTS YOU HAVE TO BUY NOW!!! Uppercase is the equivalent of shouting. Don’t shout at me or don’t use loudspeakers to make other people’s shouting even louder.

    3. Frequently tweet old content aka “random post” or “from the archives”. Just imagine somebody coming up to you saying something like:  do you already know yesterday’s news? Have you heard what I wrote two years ago? You haven’t yet?

    4. Tweeting every single posts of yours instead of just the best ones. Self-promotion is OK to some extent, but by force feeding me every single article of yours even when it’s mediocre, it’s awful. I follow you personally, not your publication or brand, so don’t make your account an RSS reader or mail subscription.

    5. Sending me mass DMs requiring me to vote for off-topic stuff where I don’t have even a clue what it means. I know a lot of people who do SEO and social media marketing. Heck, I do it myself! Yes, even I send some direct messages sometimes and ask for votes on social sites. I do it personally and rarely. Don’t send me three of them a week without even addressing me personally.

    6. Cross posting 10 tweets in a row from Friendfeed or other tools. Using third party tools to post to several social sites is OK as long as you don’t cross post everything everywhere. Also, some tools do it wrong – they collect the items and then flood my timeline with 5 or 10 in a row. Don’t do it!

    7. Retweeting bad news throughout the day. I don’t want to read about war, the latest plane crash or some other awful news. Don’t tweet it unless you are yourself in the earthquake. I try to limit bad news as much as I can. It’s not that I am ignorant or I don’t care. It’s the other way around. I care so much that it breaks my heart. I sometimes feel downright devastated by all the bad news. Please don’t make feel like that at work.

    8. Posting off-topic messages in large numbers. I’m on Twitter as an SEO, social media optimization specialist and a business blogger. I blog and tweet about these topics. Occasionally I add something amazing, like the discovery of 1235 potential new planets. Adding off-topic tweets all the time is too much though. I most probably follow you because of the topic you blog about, so don’t change it.

    9. Tweeting in other languages too much. I’m from Poland, living in Germany and working for an English publication. I socialise with the international SEO industry in English. I have a few followers from Germany and even some Poles follow me but I try to limit my German tweets so that people can understand me. Tweeting in a different language from the one you have chosen is really rude. Just imagine talking in German at a party when barely anybody can understand it.

    10. Tweeting dozens of links a day. While in a way it’s part of my work to use Twitter, I don’t use it as a full time job. Posting more than a few links a day really overwhelms me. If you post more than 10 of them, I’ll most probably have to unfollow you just to stay sane. I’m on Twitter to find out about the few gems, not to get bombarded with every single post someone has written on a given day.


    I know some people have unfollowed me due to my brutal honesty. I told them that I can’t bear the Mashable automation so they unfollowed me as well. This is killing the messenger. I am not your problem because I might sound rude. I’m the guy telling you what the real problem is. Twitter netiquette is not rocket science. Keep it in mind and Twitter can be very valuable for business people.


    * Image by Benson Kua.

    I help people with blogs, social media & search. I help you succeed on the Web. I've been online publishing for 15 years. I started back in 1997.

    9 Responses to “Twitter Netiquette: 10 Reasons to Unfollow Someone”

    1. Dave F says:

      Well said Tad, and this should be said more often and by more people. Around the time I set up my Twitter account I read a blog post that listed 10 people working in SEM the author advised others to follow. Unfortunately quality control was a bit lacking and I subsequently unfollowed most, simply because their tweets were overwhelming, drowning out the real gems that others were sharing. I think it is very telling when people follow thousands of others – I cannot believe they are using Twitter as a communications tool, and the level of noise they create normally confirms this.

      I now follow a very small group of people on Twitter, almost all SEO folks whose communications whose frequency I find moderate and the content valuable. My aim in accessing Twitter is to learn one useful tidbit from my visit, and by following people who don’t abuse the medium I achieve just that. I personally believe that Twitter should be used sparingly, to share the stuff you find genuinely notable. Share one great thing each day, and tweet little more than that, and I’ll be following you like a dog after the butcher’s bike.

    2. Kristi says:

      #1 Agreed. Any site that publishes that often probably shouldn’t be autofed without a keyword filter (maybe only the posts about LinkedIn from a LinkedIn expert).

      #2 The whole tweet shouldn’t be caps. Just a word or two isn’t bad, especially if it something you want people to notice like the last time I tweeted out the latest GoDaddy hack for WordPress users under their hosting. That’s important stuff.

      #3 I love the Tweet Old Post thing. You have to configure it right to not post things from three years ago that have no relevance. But I’m sure there are lots of blogs that have content from maybe a few months ago that is still as useful today as it was then. As far as blogging results, I’ve gotten a lot of new traffic from tweeting old posts, and since I have new followers every day that may not have seen my previous content, it’s new content to them.

      #4 I don’t think every tweet should be just of your own stuff, but if people are following me, I would hope they want to read my news as well. It would be almost senseless to not share something of my own to my own account. Plus some people do follower Twitter users as their way of subscribing, so it would be like an RSS feed without the full content.

      #5 I have a relatively good memory, so I usually promote via DM to someone as much as they promote to me. So if they send me “vote this up” once a week, I might send them one of mine in return. If they send me ten, I might do the same (although I never have that much going on in one week to match that high of a number).

      #6 Agreed. Some forms of automation are just too much.

      #7 I think that is a personal thing. It’s like anything you are reading, if you find it interesting and feel it’s something important that you want your followers to know about, you share it. Good or bad. The world does suck hard some, if not most of the time, but it’s reality. You can certainly unfollow them, but not expect them not to censor something they feel is important.

      #8 If someone is using Twitter as their business / professional platform, it’s probably easy to stay within the bounds of their niche. If it’s more of a personal account, anything probably goes.

      #9 Haven’t run into that before. From what I can tell, everyone I’ve followed who had English profiles only spoke that.

      #10 Guilty as charged on that one. I feel if someone is following me about a particular topic, then they want to know what news I find throughout the day within that topic. I find a ton of great posts on a daily basis and usually end up sharing them all. If I’m on a reading spree, I’ll try to space them out and not clump tweet 10 articles in a row, but I’ll still share them that day.

      Anyway, everyone has their own policy of right and wrong ways to use Twitter. There’s definitely nothing wrong with choosing to unfollow someone that isn’t living up to your standards, but you just can’t expect someone to change their ways, especially if those ways work for the majority of their followers and achieve the results they want.

    3. Twitter Netiquette: 10 Reasons to Unfollow Someone « 2ndimpression's Blog says:

      [...] http://white.net/noise/blog/2011/03/twitter-netiquette-10-reasons-to-unfollow-someone.html [...]

    4. Tad Chef says:

      Dave: Awesome, your comment summarizes it far better than my whole post.

      Kristi: Thank you for providing your point of view on these issues. Naturally I tend to disagree on some. The best example is tweeting every single post of yours. On older social media like Digg or StumbleUpon self submission and self promotion was frowned upon altogether. On Twitter people are not that strict but still recommending every single post of yours just because it’s yours makes people distrust your judgment as they perceive you as highly biased towards your own work.

      Twitter is NOT RSS, it’s a means of communication not of monologue.

    5. Spot on, Tad! I wrote a similar blog post because people just don’t seem to understand the level of engagement and etiquette that should displayed on social media networks such as Twitter. Social media is about communication and the networks are just tools – not to push your marketing but rather to build relationships through pull marketing.

      Well done!

    6. [...] Tadeusz Szewczyk aka Tad Chef aka @onreact_com who has an SEO blog and writes for the Search Marketing Firm SEOoptimize sent me these Tweets that included a link to his post on Twitter Netiquette: [...]

    7. Kristi says:

      Well, I’m not biased just towards my own content. I tweet everything from Problogger, Social Media, Social Mouths, and many other sites as well. I like to look at Twitter as a means of RSS AND communication, as I also do have some good conversations with other users there, some of which is sparked by links I share.

      Either way, to each his own. Twitter to some is a method of subscribing to a blog, and a method of just chatting back and forth. I won’t say you’re perspective of how to use Twitter is wrong if you don’t say mine is.

    8. My thoughts, agree completely. If there is no engagement and I am getting only auto tweets, links and hashtagged tweet, why I would follow a person/brand? I don’t want to have a network of bots coz this is Social Media and I want to interact with people :)

    9. Tad, this is very interesting. I have no beef with your criteria; after all, it’s YOUR stream.
      I just find it amusing that you feel the need to unfollow people for VERY specific reasons. I’m just wondering what your criteria are for following epople in the first place. And I say this with a smile: perhaps you might like at those criteria – something must be missing if undesirable followers are slipping through.

      (I say this with a smile, but in seriousness, myself a victim of ill-advised auto-follow strategies a couple years ago on SocialOomph and other services.)



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