Zero Guy. He’s the one who pops up in your Unfollowers tab on Crowdfire. He followed you, then you followed him back, and then he unfollowed you again. Oh, but look, he didn’t just unfollow you – he unfollowed everyone…
His intention is to look incredibly cool. Like:
“Hey, I’ve got FANS!”
But this ploy is not grounded in wisdom. It’s a classic case of the ego overruling common sense.
SO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS WHEN YOU SUDDENLY UNFOLLOW ALL YOUR TWITTER FOLLOWERS?…
Let me enlighten you. Based on real observations of accounts that operate a strict follow-for-follow policy, and then unfollow everyone, I can reveal that the consequences are dramatic. Accounts with large followings (say, 50,000) can lose thousands of followers in the first 24 hours. If they get that far. From what I’ve seen, most don’t. They panic, and mass re-follow in order to prevent what they envisage will be a complete devastation of everything they’ve worked for.
But what happens to those with more modest followings, who stick it out for longer? Well, I can answer that too, because this is something I’ve actually done. About three years ago I selected one of my Twitter accounts, and I unfollowed everyone I’d ever followed. All in one go. That account is now singularly the most useless Twitter I have. The account still has a few hundred followers – only around 20% down on its pre-blitz total. But within 48 hours of doing what I did, I’d destroyed the account’s value. In this post I'm going to explain how, and why…
Of course, not everyone who mass unfollows will see the same result. If you’re well known away from Twitter, you may retain an engaged Twitter audience even after unfollowing everyone you ever followed. But the action is unlikely to do your image much good. The better known you are, the more likely it is that news of what you did will spread. And this says a lot about you as a person. It says that you’re egotistical, that you don’t care about people – that you’re a user. How does that tie in with the image you’re trying to project?
The result can also differ depending on how you built your following. If you did it on the strength of your content, your fame or your presence elsewhere online, you’ll probably survive. But if, like most people, you did it by following on the churn, you almost certainly won’t. Here’s how things played out for me, in the longer term…
SO, I UNFOLLOWED EVERYONE ON TWITTER, AND…
Things don’t seem too bad at first. You get that glut of pretty instant unfollows within, say, 48 hours or so. Perhaps up to a few percent of your overall list. Then the rush slows to a trickle. You’re quite relieved.
But your temporary relief soon turns to remorse, as you realise that among your most rapid unfollowers are the people who actually noticed and liked you. You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe longer, trawling through a huge haystack of tweeps, and you’ve been lucky enough to find some who liked you. Now they hate you, because, without mincing words, you screwed them over. Rationalise it any way you like. Delude yourself that what you did was fine. But the reality is that you duped all those people for the benefit of your ego. The second you sanction that mass unfollow, everyone who notices that zero total knows what you really are. A self-serving shit.
So, you know – great start! The followers you could least afford to lose – the ones with the highest value – have gone. First.
Next you experience a period of relative calm, in which the initial glut of unfollows progressively cools off. It looks like you’ve got away with it. The only problem is, that trickle doesn’t stop. It keeps going. Not for a week, not for a month… For me it continued for over a year. What’s happening now, is that your active followers are occasionally checking in with their follow management tools, seeing you’ve unfollowed, and returning the favour. Some users only check once a month, or once every three months. Perhaps less frequently than that. But when they do check, one thing’s for certain… Unless you or your feed are earth-shatteringly important to them, they’re going to unfollow you back.
Just as this is starting to sink in, you notice something else. You’re hardly getting any new followers. And the few you do get are not enough to compensate for the stream of followers you’re still losing. Now that it looks like you don’t follow back, EVER, funnily enough, no one wants to follow you.
You’re locked into this situation too. The only way out is to follow a load more people, or re-follow your list. But then you’re no longer “Zero Guy”. So your whole exercise of unfollowing eveyone was entirely pointless. It’s put a dent in the following you worked for, lost you your MOST ATTENTIVE FOLLOWERS, and made those who most liked you hate you, for absolutely nothing.
OMG! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY STATS???!
The point at which the truth REALLY starts to dawn, comes a little while down the line, when you’re posting new tweets and seeing a distinct lack of the instant impressions they’d previously get.
Twitter is, ultimately, a social site, and mass unfollowing really isn’t a very social thing to do. Mass unfollowing won’t lose you all your followers, but unless you’re famous or exceptionally entertaining, the followers you keep will probably be the least engaged – the least aware of your existence. A lot probably haven’t read a single one of your tweets, and a lot probably haven’t logged into Twitter in the past week. This is why there develops a mismatch between your follower total and your viewing stats. You may only lose 20% of your followers in the long term, but you could lose 90% or more of your engagement.
Whether mass unfollowing is a good idea depends on what you want from Twitter. If you just want a dead account whose profile page stats will impress people who know nothing about social media, then give it a try. But be aware that no one who does understand Twitter will be fooled. They’ll see you as an arrogant prick, who will screw over the whole world in order to look popular. I have been that arrogant prick, and I still have the entirely useless ‘zero account’ to prove it. It’s not a place I’ll be revisiting.