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The Art of Unfollowing: Twitter Time Management

Mike Sweeney | January 13, 2010

For those of you who read Marketing Trenches regularly, I promise this is the last time I will post something about Twitter for at least one month.  There are more pressing topics to cover, topics that are more relevant to your various business missions.  That being said, given the relative popularity of my last post – The Only Rule of Twitter: Be True To Yourself – I decided to finish a post that I started conceptualizing weeks ago.

I am a small business owner, and from what I can gather from sources like Entrepreneur or Inc. Magazine, that makes me about as unique as a White House party crasher these days.  Being a small business owner means a lot of fun and exciting things, but it also means you wear many hats, and you often wear all those hats in the span of your 10 – 20 hour (come on, only college football coaches work 24/7) work day.

One important hat that I wear is that of a marketer, for both my own business and my clients.  Part of that marketing hat at the moment typically includes using Twitter.  And part of my usage of Twitter involves finding ways to cut through the clutter in order to give and receive useful information.

Here’s how I handle the clutter – I unfollow people on a daily basis, and I consider it an art.  Here’s how and why I unfollow:

  • If you read my last post, you know I use Twitter for business only and I only tweet when I feel compelled to.
  • I typically scan Twitter, either in Hootsuite, Ubertwitter or Twitter itself (gasp!) a minimum of once a day, maximum of 3-4 times.
  • When I do these scans, I spend no more than 5 minutes scrolling through tweets, in the hopes of finding 1 or 2 pieces of useful material.
  • When I find this useful material (and sometimes I don’t), I read the linked article, reply to the request for information, send a direct message, retweet, or some other action.
  • I then proceed to unfollow at least 2-3 people or companies that have consistently contributed to the clutter.  I know which ones contribute to the clutter, because I don’t follow a lot of people.

The why part should be obvious.  If I have 10 – 40 minutes to spend on Twitter daily, I’d rather spend my time paying attention to a group of people that have been vetted than wasting that limited time trying to fight through clutter.  Think about it – is it all that different than choosing which sessions to attend at a conference, which companies to target with a business development strategy, or which industry publications to read?  Last I checked, there are still 24 hours in each day, 7 days in each week, and 52 weeks in each year…and you can’t possibly pay attention to everything and everyone.

Talk to anyone who uses Twitter on even a semi-regular basis, and they (if they’re being honest) will admit that there is a LOT of clutter to cut through.  I have a mere 174 people that I follow, which is about 4,826 less than some of my Twitter followers.  I can’t even begin to imagine how someone following 5,000 people fliters the clutter, and if you are one of those people I encourage you to leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me how you do it and why you do it.

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