Twitter Unfollows and Signal-to-Noise Ratio (Also, a Chart!)

I don't automatically follow people back on social media, but once I decide to follow someone, I rarely unfollow. Unfortunately, it does happen. The likelihood of getting unfollowed can be determined (sort of) from the following chart.

What constitutes signal?
  • Anything funny.
  • News I want to know.
  • Interesting links.
  • Talking to me directly (esp. saying nice things to me or retweeting my tweets).
 What constitutes noise?
  • Follow Friday tweets, thank you's, and any other random list of Twitter handles I don't know.
  • Non-tweets, like "Good morning" or "Good night" or "Eating justice peas again."
  • Spammy links to your blog, your book, etc.
  • Most tweets generated by other applications (e.g. Goodreads progress reports).
  • Retweets.
  • Lots of tweets at once, filling up my timeline.

Now understand, I'm not saying you should have no noise in your tweets. Everybody's got noise (I link to my blog and send retweets plenty). The important thing is to balance it out, or even signalify* the noise by making it funny or relevant.

And perhaps most importantly, there's the Relationship Factor. This is a measure of how well I know/like you. I'll tolerate a heck of a lot of noise from friends, people I enjoy talking to, or Nathan Fillion. In fact, the stronger our relationship, the more likely I am to interpret your "noise" as signal.

How do you build up the Relationship Factor? That's a different post.

I admit, it's a highly subjective algorithm, but it has to be. I'm not going to be interested in everyone's tweets. The point is, if you want to stay in people's timelines, pay attention to what most of your tweets are about. That way when you do have to pimp yourself, people will listen.

* Totally a word. Shut up.


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

* Totally a word. Shut up.

Twitter and I have a bizarre relationship. Sometimes I've got my Twitter groove on, sometimes I resent Twitter, sometimes I stare non-plussed at the stream.

I try to signalify my tweets :) but I don't always succeed.

Great post! (I think I'll tweet it out.) :)

K. Marie Criddle said...

I REALLY like this. Serious. This should be required reading for anyone that joins or considers joining twitter. A good balance is so important to find...there's nothing I bristle more over than a single face filling up two pages of my timeline. Unless, as you say, it's Mr. Fillion's.

I'm with Susan..I'm tweeting this on! Forgive my repeating face.

R.S. Bohn said...

This is exactly how I work Twitter as well. I've found my tolerance for "noise" growing thinner and thinner. I'd also add those annoying, "I've reached XXX followers!" which is usually added to "Help me reach XXXX!"

I shall tweet about this, methinks.

Joey Malone said...

I have actually taken a break from Twitter at times because of this. I don't use a lot but I view it quite often. I have recently started unfollowing those that make a lot of "noise" on my timeline. This post is definitely worthy of a tweet-out! Thanks Adam.

Angela Brown said...

I still haven't gotten on the Twitter train. I'm no longer outside the station though. I've stepped inside and grown to accept that I can say "tweet me" and still feel like a grown woman...but I haven't put in for a ticket.

What am i waiting for? Honestly, I don't know.

Jen said...

This post made me realise I'm not following you on Twitter yet. So now I am. Let's say funny and useful things to each other and not be annyoing!

Seriously Though said...

I just went through a Blogger unfollow de-cluttering. I got off fb for good almost 2 years ago. Twitter was the last media I thought I'd keep. Early on I thought it was stupid. Now my Twitter intrique is solely based on trying to figure it out and satisfies my need to shout out "I'm alive!" to the world.

Anonymous said...

I've only unfollowed a few people on Twitter, and there were 3 reasons for it --

1) Too much self-promotion. One person, despite being otherwise interesting & charming, just self-promoted way too much. He'd post a link to his blog, then re-link it every 15 minutes for the next 4 hours, every hour for the next 20, and every day for the next week. I am not even exaggerating. So I said goodbye.

2) Too depressing. I'm into social activism, but I unfollowed a few people after the only thing they did was tweet things that made me want to kill myself (not literally, but in a 'the world sucks so much why don't we just take off and nuke the site from orbit'). I struggled with this for a long time, but eventually I decided that if I'm being depressed to tears every time I check my Twitter stream, enough is enough.

3) Unforseen political incompatibilities. This has to be STRONG, mind, but once or twice I've followed someone who seems interesting, but quickly turns out to post a lot of anti-gay or anti-women things as 'jokes'.

I also don't do auto-followback, though I will if someone's tweet stream is AMAZING. Generally I'll follow back in a few days if they're interesting or engage with me a lot. I like waiting because it weeds out the people who auto unfollow if I don't reciprocate immediately. That's not how I use Twitter, so I see no point in keeping those people.

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

I'm all about making friends on Twitter and I'm so afraid of hurting anyone's feelings. So, it does take a lot for me to unfollow someone too. But usually, the people I unfollow probably don't even notice because I don't ever tweet directly with them. That's why I'm super picky with whom I will follow in the first place.