How to reduce your twitter follower lists (without annoying people)

There are countless posts out there telling you how to increase your twitter followers. And there are countless businesses using follower numbers as proof of brand awareness and influence. But there are precious few posts out there telling you how to lose followers that aren’t useful to you. Why would you want to do this? Besides delivering a healthy dose of humility, it just reflects your influence better and it reduces the likelihood of you getting pointless @ replies from bots that just clog up your message stream.

Of course the easiest way to lose followers is to be annoying and to be abusive, inane or too prolific in your posts. But that’s more likely to generate unfollows from real people, and not from bots or zero-tweeters. So this post focuses on ways to lose followers without being annoying.

Getting followers is actually remarkably easy. All you have to do is tweet regularly and offer interesting content. It helps if you can speak at events and/or cover events using twitter and a hashtag, and if you get coverage of your tweetstream in mainstream media. And if you look out for interesting people and talk to them on twitter, you will soon find people will follow you.

But of course, both getting followers and using followers as proof of your popularity are basically pointless. While some of your followers will be legitimate (particularly if you actually do talk to people on twitter), many will be bots, or what’s been described as ‘fauxlowers‘; twitter accounts, particularly of celebrity users, who autofollow you back, even through they have no intention of reading anything you will say on twitter and probably won’t even read your replies to them.

If your objective is to use twitter for productive conversations, or if you want to use twitter to get ideas or research keywords, or if you want to access people who are interested in your products and services, then what you actually need is to follow other people and listen in to their conversations and contribute where appropriate. Ultimately this leads to followers, but you get decent quality followers; people who engage and who probably more accurately represent your sphere of influence anyway.

But in addition to getting better quality followers, there’s the issue with cutting out the rubbish followers from your total. I wanted to share a couple of resources you can use to clean your follower lists. It’s not just about unfollowing people (I use the marvellous ManageTwitter for that) but about getting rid of the bots and lurker or disengaged followers in your list. After all, so long as your account is open, you’re not actually stopping anyone from visiting your twitter user page to read your posts there. You’re just ensuring that people who follow you are actually engaged.

TwerpScan.com is probably the most efficient means of seeing who follows you, and allowing you to see how many followers they have, and when they last tweeted. You can login using your twitter sign in, and then jump straight to ‘Manage your followers’. Then sort your follower lists by last tweet and gasp at the huge number of followers you have that have either never tweeted or tweeted last sometime in 2007 and then abandoned their accounts. Most, you will find, are bots. Yes alright, there may be some among this list that might just enjoy peeking over your shoulder at what you do, but they can do that at twitter.com/your_user_ID. What’s the point of having them among your followers if they don’t tweet and they don’t talk to you? Get rid of them. Block them now!

But what about the followers you have that do tweet regularly but are still bots? TwitBlock is probably the best site to detect whether your followers are spam or bots, and allows you to scan for ‘spaminess’ among your followers – marvellous! And if you want to block a spammer just as they start following you, it’s always worth checking an account name with Tweet Blocker to see if they’ve been reported as a spam bot.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop someone following you back if you want to follow them (ie: as a news source). So even after you get rid of the spammers and bots and useless twitter followers, your follower list will still be full of people like Guy Kawasaki who actually reads maybe 4 people but ‘follows’ about 54,000 people. I read Guy and I like him, but I have no clue why he follows me because he almost certainly never reads anything I say, even when it’s an @reply directed at him.

So I still can’t help you ensure your follower lists are completely genuine and useful. But perhaps these tools may just give you a more accurate sense of what your influence is more likely to be and a stronger capacity to meet the needs of those who follow you.

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