While English language purists undoubtedly cringe at some of the verbeage being created in the 21st century, it has become a fact of life that you can now "unfriend," and "unfollow" someone. These are newly created verbs meaning to remove someone from your social networking profile list such as on Facebook or Twitter.
Knowing when to unfriend or unfollow someone is a valuable skill. We've talked about how to do this on Facebook in discussions about controlling your news feeds. Today. let's talk about some simple guidelines for Twitter.
As we discussed previously in Rookie Mistakes on Twitter, it's a good idea to keep your number of followers fairly close to the number of people you follow. If you are following a lot more people than are following you back, you'll appear to be a spammer. Unless you are famous enough to pull of the "fan" following, most "Tweeps" will think you're snob if you don't bother to follow people back. So achieving a balance of around 80-90% (or closer) on the ratio of followers to followee is desirable for most of us. There are a number of ways to do this.
Some people on Twitter have a "follow back" policy, which they may or may not announce in their profile. This means they don't screen the people who are following them - they just automatically follow everyone back. This is a simple way of handling the followership balance, but if you do this you'll quickly find that you'll also need to take steps to filter your feed, or you'll have so much to read that your Twitter home page will become useless to you.
Another technique is to protect your tweets (in your settings) so that you must tive people permission to follow you. This is a great way to manage your feed if it is mostly for personal communication with a small group of friends. If you're using Twitter fo try to grow an online network, however, protecting your tweets from public view might be counter-productive.
The last technique is to actually spend the time necessary to review the people who are following you, block the spammers, follow the like-minded folks back, and just allow the others to follow you without following them back. This way is a little more time-consuming, but for most of us (who are not extremely famous), this is a manageable task if done regularly.
One tool I like a lot that can help with this task is FriendorFollow.com. This site has a free version, and does not require you to give your Twitter password (because it draws from publicly-available lists). It will quickly filter your list for you., and let you know who you are following who is not (or no longer) following you back. It also lets you know who your mutual friends are and who you are not following but these lists are easy to call up on the Twitter site itself. The list of who is not following you back is not available as a list on Twitter, however. Premium members have more options, but those of us who have free memberships can then scan those profiles to see who we might want to continue following, and who we might want to unfollow.
Everyone will have different criteria for deciding who to unfollow. I will usually continue to follow the leaders in my industry, who simply have too many followers to keep up with, and often are "famous" enough to carry a large following without having to follow back. The information they provide in their tweets is actually useful to me, and I enjoy reading their updates. A lot of the folks who are not following me back are no longer active on Twitter, so unfollowing them quickly brings my follower to followee ratio back to a reasonable level.
What other criteria do use to decide who to follow and who to "unfollow" on social networking sites like Twitter?