Why and How to Unfollow People On Twitter

Twitter Karma: Track Your Followers and Unfollowers  Twitter Karma: Track Your Followers and Unfollowers  

In my last post I discussed 5 ways to follow people on Twitter, with the general idea being that it’s really easy to find tutorials about how to get more followers, but you rarely hear about a good strategy for following. Now that I have told you how to find people and follow them, I want to tell you how (and why) to unfollow them.

First, let’s address the why about unfollowing somebody.  Everyone has their own rules about following (some follow everyone back, some only follow those they know personally), so likewise everybody will have a reason that they unfollow somebody, so these are some of my reasons and certainly they won’t all apply to you.

  • They pull a “pump and dump”.  I will detail this practice is greater detail in a future post, but it basically works like this: you are followed by somebody that follows (and is followed by) several thousand people. As soon as you follow them back, they unfollow you. They do this to artificially inflate their own followers number while not appearing to be out of whack with their number of following. Tricky…basically spammers that are a bit smarter.  Some call them “networkers”, I call them pump and dumpers and I’m not interested.
  • They really do answer the question “what are you doing” in every tweet.  I know this was the original question of Twitter, but I think it has grown far beyond this.  The only people that I can put up with telling me about every detail of every meal that they eat are my very close, personal friends…and at least with them I can tell them to knock it off in person.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the personal stuff, but I also want a conversation, so I’m looking for some value.  Either good links, humor or insight need to be peppered in among the tweets about taking your dog for a walk.
  • They swear excessively without being hysterically funny.  Unless you are @hotdogsladies you are probably just being crude.  I assure you that I am far from perfect in this realm, however I just don’t like swearing online, especially in Twitter.  It’s usually a substitute for something intelligent to say.
  • They direct message me an offer to get in on their MLM deal.  Do I even need to explain this?  Just don’t do it.
  • They don’t tweet for a month or longer.  I’ve unfollowed some of my close friends for this reason…if you just aren’t into it, I’m not going to lok forward to your “sorry I haven’t tweeted for so long” post that goes up every 45 days.

If somebody has upset you for some reason, it’s easy enough to unfollow them.  Just click the “remove this person” in the web interface, or “unfollow” in Tweetdeck.  But sometimes it’s a little trickier, so here are some tools to help you make unfollowing simple.

  • Twitter Karma. Dossy.org brings us this fabulous tool, I use it about once a month.  Twitter Karma asks you for your username and password (it’s been safe so far) and then spends a minute or two calculating info about your account. You can sort by all friends and see the relationship (you follow them/they follow you) or sort by people you follow but that don’t follow you and vice versa.  If you haven’t caught up with everyone that you want to follow, you can go to the “only followers” page, select all and then bulk follow.  You can also bulk unfollow people.  Results are sorted by last update, so if you scroll to the bottom of the screen you can easily delete people with dead or stagnant accounts.
  • Social Too. This is one of my favorite new tools.
    SocialToo.com

    SocialToo.com

    I previously used Qwitter to alert me of unfollows, but that service has been quite unreliable as of late.  SocialToo not only gives me a daily email about who unfollowed me, but also lists who followed me!  There are a lot of extra features available like the ability to autofollow those that follow you (I don’t use this) and the ability to block auto DMs from other SocialToo users (I DO use this!).  Their best set of features comes under its own tab however, your unfollow preferences. You can choose from “Unfollow everyone who unfollows me” or “Don’t unfollow anyone for me” or (the one I use) “Unfollow if users unfollow you within ___ day(s) after you follow them”.  I’ll talk more about this last feature in my future post about the pump and dump strategy of others.

I would love to hear your ideas about when to unfollow somebody, and if you know of some web services that help, please share in the comments!

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69 Comments
  • Drew Sams
    February 9, 2009

    good insights! I could have used this when i first got on to Twitter and thought that “unfollowing” someone meant turning off device updates from that person…reminds me of an awkward public “unfollow” moment by me directed towards a certain @mattsingley.

    Thanks for identifying the “pump and dump” phenomenon…have been noticing that recently and it almost pushes me to the point of falling under your reason #3 for unfollowing someone.

    Social Too and Twitter Karma both look really useful…thanks for the links!

  • David (@dg4G)
    February 9, 2009

    Thanks for the new tools Matt – I’d not heard of them before, sound very useful :)

  • Tyler
    February 9, 2009

    great stuff matt. thanks.

  • Stephanie
    February 9, 2009

    Great post! Never heard of Social Too and definitely plan on putting that to work. Keep it up. The twitterverse needs you!

  • Stephen
    February 9, 2009

    I didn’t realize Qwitter was being unreliable. I thought I just had no one unfollowing me lately. LOL. Oddly, when I went to check socialToo, I get this: “(en) Please come back later” so I guess I will try again tomorrow.

  • Elizabeth
    February 10, 2009

    Excellent article. Especially: They really do answer the question “what are you doing” in every tweet.
    Thanks for the tools!

  • Sonya
    February 18, 2009

    Thanks for the tools!!

    I was actually searching for something to help with weeding through my follow lists. TwitterKarma was MOST useful, and since Qwitter hasn’t worked for me since I signed up for the service, I will definitely be checking out Social Too!

  • Nicki
    February 24, 2009

    I don’t quite understand about unfollowing someone just because they don’t follow you back. I follow those that I am interested in their descriptions. I am not interested in them any less simply because mine might not interest them.

    And vice versa.. I write on parenting and breastfeeding, and someone interested in that might follow me. But I don’t follow everyone who follows me.. I look at their description and decide. They may be a computer programmer who has kids and follows me, but computer programming tweets are not my thing.

    The pump and dump thing is a good tip though…. although I do what probably appears to be this sometime. I add some new folks to follow and then go back to my homepage online. Anyone who is filling up my whole screen with nonstop tweets has to go!!! Tweeters remorse, I guess. :-)

    For my part, when I increase my follow list, I hope it is with those who find my tweets and linked content valuable. That’s why I follow. There’s no point in high numbers if they have no substance!!!

  • ZuDfunck
    March 7, 2009

    Great guidance and listing of tools

    I find tweaking the Walled Garden that is Twitter

    A bit like rearranging chairs on the Titanic

    Some days I like and

    Some day I Hate Twitter

    True Love is like that

    ZuD

  • Andra
    March 8, 2009

    Thanks, you’ve just helped me clean up my mess, when it seemed there was no winning against the entropy. Now I can make more sense(ish) out of the tweeple.

  • Stephen Denny
    March 9, 2009

    I don’t really have a hard and fast rule for unfollowing. Your gut tells you when it isn’t interesting. I have yet to spasmodically follow 20K people to see how many follow me back – my followING and followERS seem to be pretty much organic.

    I agree with your take, above: pointless vulgarity, slack-jawed commentary, social media butterflies who wax poetic on half-baked politics and anyone who says anything about their MLM or assorted junk clicking is politely shown the door.

    See how Twitter has matured? We used to talk more about how to get more followers – now we’re more concerned with culling the herd! Darwin in action. Thanks –

    Regards,
    Stephen Denny
    @Note_to_CMO

  • Derek Edmond
    March 9, 2009

    The pump and dump technique is really annoying and I am glad you included that one. I’ve certainly followed/unfollowed simply because I thought someone would be interesting and it turned out that it was not the case or just was not applicable for myself.

    But I think the notion of mass following to gain reciprocal followers – then dumping them to make it look like you have some high ratio – is certainly a reason people have a disdain for following marketers in general on Twitter. I check my following numbers fairly regularly for those types and remove them if that is the case.

  • Tim
    March 9, 2009

    One time I followed this person that I thought would provide good info for my business. That person never followed me back so I unfollowed him. I did this 3 times before that person followed me back.
    I realized that many twitterers just can’t keep up with all the followers they get especially the really prolific tweeters.

  • Alex
    March 10, 2009

    Let me introduce another mass unfollow service: http://huitter.com/mutuality
    I’ve tested it on a huge accounts (like 5,500 followers and more then 7,000 followers) and i think it works. But it unfollow only unmutual followers now.

  • fletch
    March 11, 2009

    Very good article. My followers have shot from 90ish to 320ish in a couple of weeks. So I’m just getting to the stage of final assessment on the ‘worth’ of the new followers. i.e. compatibility, interest factor. I don’t see the point of following someone just for the sake of it. I follow someone in a bid to get to know them. If I feel there is some common element then I’ll keep that relationship going.

  • monetizer
    March 20, 2009

    The article is headed how to unfollow somebody, but I couldn’t see you doing that!

    I’m following somebody and I don’t want to any more, so was here looking to find out how to dump him :)

    I don’t want to be rude, I’ve yet to remember/work out how he got there to be honest.

  • Espree Devora
    March 27, 2009

    Thanks! Great tips

  • Kimberly
    April 4, 2009

    I’m of the opinion that if someone takes the time to click on follow on the off chance they weren’t just padding the numbers I’m going to follow them back. Think it’s just common courtesy and you never know what you might learn from someone. Thank you so much for the new tips and tools didn’t know about either one and they will come in handy for sure.

    Kim

  • the Ramen Noodle
    April 11, 2009

    Good thoughts! I especially appreciate the “irony” of #2. You could also use Friend or Follow in place of TwitterKarma. I think it’s a better site for seeing but you can’t run actions on your account. However, Friend or Follow only uses your username, not your password.

  • Joel Drapper
    April 29, 2009

    You could also use a tool I created, UnTwollow.

  • Best Massage Chair Reviews
    May 26, 2009

    Thank you for your great post. I have unfollow those who don’t follow me when I follow them. I hope it is with those who find my tweets and linked content valuable. That’s why I follow. There’s no point in high numbers if they have no substance!!!

  • David
    May 29, 2009

    I used twitter karma to do bulk unfollow that are not mutual. However, I still have the same number of follows. Does anyone have a similar problem?

  • Nishadha
    May 30, 2009

    Thanks for this great information , I have heard about Twitter karma but socialToo was new to me. Getting a daily e-mail about who followed and unfollowed you is a great feature

  • Nishadha
    May 30, 2009

    Oops you have to pay for the e-mail feature now :(

  • Shatema Brooks
    June 12, 2009

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the follow on Twitter. I started followed you back after reading your last few tweets and found them interesting.

    I treat my Twitter relationships like all my other relationships–if I find you interesting I’ll engage (follow), if I find you boring or a waste of time I’ll disengage (unfollow). It’s not about you…really!

    Keep the interesting tweets and blog posts coming.

    @shatemabrooks

  • David
    June 20, 2009

    Hi, thanks for the tips. My twitter account had a delta of about 400 following over follower. I had the delta over a length of time but did not want to manually go through the list and unfollow one by one. Then, I learned about a tool (forgot the name) that allows bulk unfollowing, and it brought the delta down to almost zero. Unfortunately, I soon got a message from twitter that my accountt was suspended due to strange activities. I later found out from twitter support that my bulk unfollowing was considered a “churn” for “aggressive” following, even though I was “unfollowing”. So, please beware.

  • Michelle Mangen --Your Virtual Assistant
    July 14, 2009

    I used to use TwitterKarma but found that it took “forever” and was not always reliable.

    What I found as an even better app to clean up followers is http://www.tweepular.com/ – very nice interface and design.

    Only caution – make sure when you say “bulk unfollow” and BEFORE you hit that “go ahead” button – make sure that you have removed checkmarks for anyone you actually do want to continue following (even though they may not follow you back – such as Mashable)

  • Ana Lissansky
    July 14, 2009

    Thanks Matt. Hadn’t heard of these tools before, and they seem like something you’d need once you reach a certain number of followed/followers. Very helpful!

  • Scott Forcier
    July 15, 2009

    I’ve only unfollowed on person, for consistant uber tweeting, but I also follow very cautiously. Or at least I think so.

  • Gerald Weber
    July 16, 2009

    The problem I’m running into with TWitter Karma I believe is an API limit. I think it uses 1 api per 100 followers. It just never finishes loading for me.

  • MariaNYC
    July 16, 2009

    That was a great set of tips. I’m still new to Twitter (even though I have over 8000 tweets) so any tips on maximizing my new addiction helps. Many thanks! I will RT this article to my followers. :-)

  • Julio R Varela
    July 17, 2009

    This is solid solid information and incredibly helpful. I always tell people that you control your Twitter experience and you can’t be all things to everyone. Excellent information, as always.

  • sheilamac
    July 17, 2009

    It’s simple. If you’re boring I unfollow you. If all you do is reply to others and I can’t follow the conversation, I’m bored.
    Thank you for the new tools Matt.

  • Tracy
    July 23, 2009

    Very informative! I am still learning the ins and outs of tweetdom. I was wondering why people followed me then unfollowed me. And hello?! Quitter?? Hmm…not sure I want to know who is leaving me. :/

  • Ronald Redito
    August 24, 2009

    I’ve been looking for this tools all the while. I have seen other like these but they charge higher fees.

  • Angelique
    September 8, 2009

    You can tell who is going to “pump and dump” by their posts. Lots of posts about their industry/hobby/kids/meals: they are truly interested in you. Lots of posts about how to use Twitter/how to make money/how to be a good salesperson = pump n’ dump.

  • Ortwin Oberhauser
    October 7, 2009

    The pump and dump technique is really annoying but I think twitter has already an eye on this. Lot of accounts has been suspended the last week and some of this accounts maybe have been suspended because they have used this pump and dump techniques.

    Thanks for this very good information that you gave!

    Stay tuned
    Ortwin Oberhauser
    @Oberhauser

  • wassem
    October 25, 2009

    unfollow everyone .
    http://cloudappers.com/2009/03/unfollow-everyone-on-twitter/

  • Lane Romero-Reiss
    October 27, 2009

    Thanks for posting these useful tools. Now, what I would love is a tool that unfollows someone based on the content of their tweets. I wonder if someone has developed a Twitter app similar to Akismet for WordPress, which would flag a tweet as spammy, and maybe the unfollow tool could be adjusted to dump people with “X” number of spammy tweets or more. Maybe the user of the app could type in terms they consider spammy, so the tool would get smarter about filtering content into your Twitter spam list.

    For example, I would love to type in a term like, “Mafia Wars” and then mass delete every person who has tried to get me to join their Mafia through Twitter. It’s bad enough on Facebook; now I have to deal with that on Twitter, too?!?

  • Troy Roark (ILRealEstate on Twitter)
    December 14, 2009

    Holy smokes! Just ran Twitter Karma and dumped 800 people who were not following me. Turns out I have 200+ people I was not following. Going through those now. Thanks for the tip!!

  • Roschelle
    January 4, 2010

    I’ve been looking for something EXACTLY like this. So often, people follow you knowing that most follows are reciprocated…then bam…you’re dropped quicker than a hot potato!

    This keeps the playing field just a bit more level. Thanks so much!

  • Martial Arts for All
    January 13, 2010

    Great info. I’m still trying to figure out how to best use Twitter to help grow my business by connecting to like minded people. We’re a martial arts school in a fairly saturated market. Differentiating yourself requires contantly standing out above the rest by establishing yourself as an industry leader. I’m hoping these types of social networking tools will help me meet my goals.

  • Bryan Eggers
    January 18, 2010

    Unfortunately, Twitter told Karma to remove the “Bulk Unfollow” feature which makes their service essentially useless now. Now I have no way of getting rid of the 800 people I’m following who aren’t following me. I haven’t joined Social Too but it looks like they’re stopped mentioning a bulk unfollow feature, too. If anyone has an alternate solution, please let me know. Thanks!

  • Matt Singley
    January 18, 2010

    Hey Bryan, try http://refollow.com you can bulk unfollow everyone that isn’t following you, quickly and easily. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • Bryan Eggers
    January 18, 2010

    Thanks, Matt, Refollow.com works great. I hope Twitter doesn’t shut them down! :)

  • Eva
    January 20, 2010

    Thanks for the help.

  • CrapsPlayer
    January 24, 2010

    Huiter was AWESOME! But Lame Twitter shut them down. I don’t understand why Twitter is being such Nazi’s about this. The average user needs a way to clean out /
    optimize their acct. Twitter Karma was shut down.

    Twitter is such a lame operation. Being that they are are 500 billion Co. they have so many bugs and there are MANY better after market apps. But yet they are gonna police bulk unfollowers or they consider those that follow to many people or unfollow too many people spammers?!?! Oh Please…..

    Frankly I am quite surprised another Company hasn’t come up with a MUCH better platform.

  • mankoun
    January 28, 2010

    I have developed a new app to unfollow people. Very easy to use.

    http://theunfollowapp.com

    try it out and let me know

  • Juan Kis
    February 5, 2010

    Great article! I’m a rookie on Twitter and your article save my month!
    Thanks!

  • Julie Lendon Stone
    February 18, 2010

    Thank you for this very valuable information! You’re the best!

  • Keith Borgnet
    February 19, 2010

    Just tried twitter karma, spent an hour ticking the boxes i wanted to, but there doesn’t seem to be any options to unfollow selected – have i missed something??

    Also it says some peeps i’ve tweeted today haven’t updated for 8 days – how reliable is this service??

    Cheers,
    Keith.

  • TotalTwitter
    February 25, 2010

    good information here and I am so happy i found it, should help me tremendously

  • cssclassic
    March 9, 2010

    Nice positing, Excellent one!!

  • Nikki Means
    April 22, 2010

    I really enjoyed this post. It is true, we all have our own reasons for following and unfollowing, but you make some really good points. Plus, there are so many social media tools out there, I appreciate recommendations for tools that have been used successfully.

  • Wil
    April 28, 2010

    Doesn’t foursqaure always break your “what are you doing right now” rule?

  • Larry Rivera
    June 30, 2010

    Awesome article on Twitter,

    you are right I see a lot of articles about how to follow, this is the first article I have seen why and how to unfollow..

    Good stuff thanks for sharing it.

  • My Gamer Diary
    July 6, 2010

    Thanks for the handy tips :)

  • Nausea Remedies
    November 30, 2010

    I have not much time, but I’ve got many useful things here, love it!

  • Suede Pumps
    December 1, 2010

    I’m so love this blog, already bookmarked it! Thanks.

  • Alvis Kleen
    January 6, 2011

    but its not working it takes too longer to respond and says that upgrade is it paid service to unfollow contacts in twitter.. ???

  • Buy twitter followers
    April 5, 2011

    Very interesting. Now I’ll try Social Too, Thank you for advice

  • Erin Leach-Kemon
    May 2, 2011

    Hi Matt, nnYou’ve made some great points in this post. While there are a lot of opinions across the Web about the pros/cons of sending auto-DMs to your new Twitter followers, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of data around how users actually react to this auto-messaging, specifically with unfollows.nnWe, Optify, actually ran a test using Social Oomph’s auto-DM tool and Twitter’s Promoted Products, both to track unfollows and promote our Twitter account to new followers. We were pretty amazed by our findings: our use of auto-DMs resulted in a 245% increase in our unfollow rate. You can check out the research here: http://www.optify.net/social-media/auto-dm-led-to-245-increase-in-unfollow-rate. Needless to say, the data spoke volumes and confirmed for us the risks associated with using auto-response messaging on Twitter.nnThanks,nErin Leach-KemonnSocial Media Specialist, Optify

  • Lynda
    October 8, 2011

    Why am i unfollowed by a group am i being hacked

  • Lynda
    October 8, 2011

    this group i joined is pride group and iam the only one being unfollowed should i remove myself from the group?n

  • Carole Carter
    December 17, 2011

    How do I unfollow people that are not following me?u00a0 Social.too did pop up.

  • Tushar Mahajan
    February 9, 2012

    I created an app http://unfollowers.me it tracks your followers and friends, and provides u00a0option to unfollow users who unfollowed you and let you compare between 2 different users and check users who are not following back.u00a0

  • ambreen11
    April 12, 2013

    I have been looking around for an post like this. Took some time but
    lastly found it… Really excellent read thanks. It’s been difficult to
    discover the info I necessary. I use this site for a great deal.

  • ambreen11
    May 10, 2013

    Good post on how to follow and unfollow people on twitter. I really learned alot. I am now going to joined twitter.

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