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Survivor: Twitter – 3 Guidelines for Managing Who You Follow and Who Follows You

March 2, 2010

A few weeks ago was a first for me: I stopped following someone on Twitter.

The person in question is a webcomic artist who is well known for the drama that swirls around him. I started following him for the chance to pick his brain on becoming successful with my own webcomic. Instead of insight into the world of webcomics, however, I got insight into a very angry individual. I got to see frequent, vulgar complaints about inconsequential things. One day he picked a fight about social views (not the first time), starting off by insulting those who hold my personal views.

I decided it was time to stop following. Then I decided that it was time I started managing who I follow and who follows me.

You Are Who You Hang Out With

The way I see it, your social network associations say as much about you as your real-life associations. We all tend to associate with those who we are like, whose views we share or whose company we enjoy. I had stopped enjoying this person’s company a long time ago but for some reason kept associating with him. When I realized that my association could be considered a tacit approval of or agreement with the views he was airing so rudely, I knew I had to end the association.

The same holds true people following me. If you’ve used Twitter with any frequency at all, you’ve probably noticed that you will suddenly have an increase in followers anytime you’re actively tweeting, but that half of them are spambots — and at least half of those are porn spambots. I try to block those as soon as I find them, because I don’t want the association.

Managing Your Twitter Followers Can Be Like a Reality TV Show

Inspired by one of Sid Raisch’s tweets, I’m proposing an UN-Follow Friday — but I want to make it fun and establish some guidelines for who gets unfollowed or blocked.

Think of the people and companies you’re following or who follow you as contestants on Survivor. Each week at Tribal Council you have a chance to vote them off your island. Each Twitterer is judged based on three criteria:

  1. Tweet Content
  2. Tweet Frequency
  3. Relationship

No one person or company needs to satisfy all three guidelines to stay on the island, but anyone who doesn’t satisfy at least one is getting voted off.

Tweet Content

The first guideline is the most obvious: what does the person tweet about? Are the tweets relevant, interesting and/or humorous? In short, why am I following them and what am I getting from the association? You can follow people just because it’s fun (like @CobraCommander or @pagecrusher) or because they’re a celebrity you like (like @wilw), but have some reason why you’re following their tweets. If you never read the person’s tweets (or if their content insults you, like my example), it’s time to cut them loose.

The guideline gets a little relaxed for people following you. Generally, I suggest that as long as they’re not an obvious spammer or particularly offensive they can stay.

Tweet Frequency

One of the people I follow tweets at least 10 times each hour. There is no way I can keep up with all the content that he is pointing to, and sometimes I see the same tweet more than once each day (which may fall under tweet content above). I haven’t stopped following him yet because he does tweet some useful articles, but I’m seriously thinking about it.


I follow a few people just because they’re friends of mine, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s sometimes a good way for us to keep tabs on each other, and occasionally we’ll use Twitter as a way to point each other to content we know the other will like. Additionally, I’ve started to make some friends on Twitter (using some of techniques I discussed in a previous post) who I only know through Twitter. I’m not likely to drop anyone I have a relationship with (real or virtual) unless their tweets become too much of a problem under the first two guidelines.


So there are my Twitter follow/follower management guidelines. As before, I plan to follow my own advice. Not sure which day I’ll pick to be my Tribal Council day, but it will probably be Friday or Saturday since I usually have fewer pressing deadlines on those days.

What will your Tribal Council day be?

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