Loic Le Meur, a high profile geek and founder of Seesmic, took drastic action yesterday and unfollowed 23,000 twitter users via an unfollow script. He simply became overwhelmed with the spam, robots, and noise so he decided to unfollow everyone and reboot his twitter stream. His newly imposed criteria for following a twitter user is:
“I need to be able to explain in a few sentences how I know you or why I am following you otherwise I won’t add you.”
His actions created a firestorm and @Loic has been explaining “twitter bankruptcy” to those he unfollowed. Robert Scoble extended the conversation with this hotly debated thread on Friendfeed.
UPDATE: It looks like @Loic was onto to something because mass unfollowing on Twitter is happening all over.
Before I continue let me add a couple of disclaimers.
- Social media usage is a personal decision and Loic shouldn’t have to defend anything action he takes.
- Participation in social media is an intensely personal activity and it is different for everyone.
- I have no idea the amount of time and energy it requires to maintain the levels of interaction that internet celebs like Loic and Scoble manage. I can only speak about my experience.
The problem is simple. More quantity will ultimately lead to less quality. Signal vs Noise.
Prevent your stream from become flood
I’m commonly confronted by Twitter users who only follow 200-300 people and wonder how I have meaningful interactions and discover new content in such a busy environment. How do I maintain the signal of quality content and cancel the noise?
I don’t have a concise answer but I feel compelled to share a few of my tips.
- I have never automatically followed those who follow me on twitter. I’d guess that my followback ratio is close to 70% but autofollowing is an quick path to cluttering your stream with noisemakers or low relevance tweets.
- Twitter Lists are the answer to listening better. I use groups in Tweetdeck. This is such an obvious solution but so few twitter users utilize this tool. Sure I follow 1770 users but I categorize people into several different groups based on interest, value, and locale. I use 3 primary groups.
- Page 1: This is a list of people that I consider high value.
- A-List: A list of people that have high value but due to high traffic may overwhelm the others I follow.
- Local: I’m active in my local social media community and I like to know what is going on in my backyard.
- Security: A list of the security professionals that I follow.
- Use Twitter search RSS feeds to track topics and hashtags of interest. If I want to track them real time I use Tweetabs or Twazzup.
- Follower Management – I have found that using a good follower management tool can help you selectively prune your list as you see fit. The best tool out there is by far Refollow.com (unavailable at the moment so try ManageFlitter).
The MOST important tactic
It’s isn’t a tool it is a mindset, treat your information stream as a stream.
When I want to get wet I hop in and enjoy the water and then I’m done. Ignore the “email mentality” of thinking there is something you missed or you must catch up. Don’t worry about what happened 3 days or 3 hours ago. It is a “right now” technology. Jump in, take a swim, log out.
I don’t blame @Loic for dumping all of his followers but I have too many excellent people in my twitter stream to consider such an action. I much prefer to use tools and applications to create sub-groups within the social media masses. Give it a try and I think it will enhance your enjoyment of any social media.
Do you have other tips? How do you manage your information stream?