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How to Lose Followers on Twitter

You’ve got the followers coming — now you just have to keep ’em.

It seems like every piece of Twitter advice out there focuses on how to get more followers. Go get ’em! is the general tone. More, more, more! Stack those Twitter followers high, until they reach the sky!

The thing that gets lost in all the numbers mania is that a follower isn’t just a number — it’s a person. There’s a person out there, behind the screen name, reading your tweets. Perhaps even responding, or retweeting to his or her followers.

A person who chose to follow you, and can just as easily choose to unfollow.

So forget about how to increase followers — I want to talk about how to keep them.

Here are biggest Twitter problem areas that will put you on a one-way train to Unfollowville (if that wasn’t a place before, it is now!):

  • Tweeting too much about your products. Yes, the entire point of having a business account on Twitter  is to promote what you sell, but if that’s all you ever talk about, you’ll come across to followers as an annoying shill. People don’t want to hear all marketing speak, all the time.
  • Tweeting too much about yourself. Understandably, if you are the business you’re promoting — say, you provide professional consultation services — then by default you’ll be tweeting about yourself. But when your personal life starts creeping into your business Twitter feed, it’s time to draw the line. Your clients and partners don’t really need to know that you got some socks on clearance sale today, do they?
  • Not enough tweeting about yourself. Wait, what? Doesn’t this go against what I just said? Well, like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. If you don’t bring some personality to your tweets, you run the risk of looking like a robot.
  • Repeating yourself. If you’re tweeting the same content all the time, you’ll bore your followers silly. Sure, the nature of brand promotion means hammering the same points day in and day out — but it’s your job to find new and creative ways to make those points.
  • Ignoring your tweeps. I can’t tell you how many people seem to be under the impression that social media is a platform on which they can speak while everyone else politely listens. The real world doesn’t work that way, and neither does the virtual. When you let your @replies and direct messages go unanswered, you’re effectively shutting down communication. You’re missing connections. Engage!
  • RT-trigger-happy. You’re a content generator, not an aggregator. Take a look at your timeline. If you’re retweeting someone else’s tweets more than you are your own words, there’s a problem.
  • There’s too much of you. There’s a term called “Twitter Jail,” applicable when users who have reached the limit of 100 tweets/hour or 1,000 tweets/day get their accounts temporarily disabled for a short period of time. But you won’t let that happen to you, right? If you’re a business, your sweet spot is somewhere in between 1-5 tweets per day. Any more, and followers will easily tire of seeing you in your timeline.
  • There’s too little of you. Has it been weeks since your last tweet? Months, even? Then it’s safe to say that no one’s thinking about you. Your lack of activity means you have zero presence on Twitter, and if you have zero presence, well, why did you sign up for the an account in the first place? I make it a point to go through my list and unfollow anyone who I haven’t heard from in a long time — and you can bet others will be doing that as well.
  • You complain too much. Okay, admittedly, the part of me that self-identifies as cynical loves a good cranky tweet every now and again. But if you constantly complain about how the sky is falling, you can expect your followers to take cover — somewhere else. As with all things in life, moderation is key. A good balance in your tone can be found somewhere between dour and relentlessly cheerful.

Of course, even if you do everything right, you’ll still lose some followers. That’s just how the world of social media works. But then again, if you’re doing everything right, you’ll be gaining a lot more than you lose, leaving you with a follower count you’ll be glad to go home and brag to your family about during the upcoming holidays.

Happy tweeting!

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