Mass Twitter Unfollows – Wrong Answer, Right Problem

I made a big mistake. That mistake was unfollowing a large amount of people on Twitter, and not Β just because I lost a number of followers – that was expected. And as with many mistakes this one was done with the right intentions. However what I've come to realize is that I had the wrong solution to the right problem.

The problem is this: how to get value from a massive amount of tweets produced by a large number of people you follower.

When I say “value” what I mean is actionable information that from a business sense can help provide insight and/or direction.

Yes, having a lot of followers appears “good”, although I can easily debate large numbers could be meaningless if people don't take action (click, retweet, purchase) when you tweet. However I'm not here to argue that.

What I'm here to say is that I made a mistake, am reversing course, and going to work on applying technology to this problem.

In addition to ChecklistApp, Banyan Tree HQ and client work, I'll be firing up another project to mine insights from one's Twitter community. Here's why.

Twitter Trends Are Meaningless

As an entrepreneur using social media to build relationships with a specific group of people, the main Twitter trends are meaningless. Here's what I'm seeing today:

  1. BackWhenIWasAKid
  2. Ash Wednesday
  3. #MakeMeSMH
  4. Lent
  5. Borderlands 2
  6. Marie Colvin
  7. Sweet Home Chicago
  8. #startupriot
  9. Star Jones
  10. Kourtney Kardashian

Now I'm sure those trends are interesting to some, however not me and not (from a business perspective) my clients. What I need is a tool that tells me what's going on with my own Twitter community, not Twitter on the whole.

Twitter Search Doesn't Help

Twitter searches also don't do it for me. For anyone that's watched a stream of meaningless tweets come in while searching for keywords related to your business, you'll understand. If you've never done it, try it and let me know how it works out.

The Community Matters Most

When I follow people I wasn't simply hoping they would follow me back. Just like with RSS feeds, I subscribe to many because I want that information. You never know where your next inspirational idea or bit of truly helpful information will come from.

The more data you are colliding with the more likely serendipity is to occur.

More people, more data, greater likelihood of serendipity.

Current Tools That I've Found Don't Help

Currently in Twitter trends only apply at the higher level, in my case the worldwide, the United States, or a single state. None of today's trends (or just about any day for that matter) apply to my business or will help my customers in theirs.

I haven't found anything that provides insight into my own community. And while tools like suggest people I should follow/unfollow, identify influencers and more, they still don't tell me what the people in my Twitter community are talking about in a way I can handle (meaning not reading thousands of tweets).

The Tool I Want

What I am looking for is a tool that will analyze all the tweets of the people I follow on Twitter (soon to be in the thousands again) and tell me what they're talking about.

What products are they talking about? What sites are they linking to? Are a group of people linking to the same sight? Do the people in that group have similar profile information?

Inquiring minds want to know!

If you know of a tool that exists today that does that please let me know in the comments, along with how much it costs to use.


  1. Wow, lots of good information on this page, Robert!

    Not just your article, but also the various comments that are left by many bloggers.

    Well, now to your question: I don’t think there is a Twitter tool that can answer your question, maybe you should develop one, like you said. I am still using checklist app and everything is going great so far.

    Now to the twitter tools I use. I used to use lots of them but lost track on all of it, since I recently deleted my twitter account (I started another one since I shut down my old blog and started a new blog).

    Right now, Buffer app and Tweet deck are the only twitter apps that I really use (along with your checklist app :D).

    Anyways, thanks for sharing the awesome post, Robert!

    Jeevan Jacob John

    • I’m a fan of Buffer and for some reason can’t get away from web-based Twitter clients. I use HootSuite.

      As for building a tool that’s in progress. It’s definitely a non-trivial problem that requires a lot of continued processing of data, which is why I’m sure it hasn’t been done, yet.

  2. I’ve only just signed up for this service myself, but I’m thinking it may offer what you need.

    I plan to spend the next week or so having a play with it and discovering what benefits it’ll give me.

  3. Hi Robert,

    I have also been looking for a tool like the one you’re describing. I don’t unfollow people on Twitter, well, unless they unfollow me. I have been using lists to find out what a few of my followers are talking about, but I believe that lists can’t be used for a lot of people, that’s just ends up in chaos.

    I’m also using an automated search in HootSuite for keywords I find interesting. But it usually ends up finding conversations my followers are not part of.

    I can see that there are some suggestions to new tools in the comments, please let us know if you test some of them and they’re interesting enough for us to try as well πŸ™‚

    • Hi Jens – so far none of the tools that I’ve checked out do what I’m looking for, which is gaining insight into my own Twitter community along the lines of who is connected to who, seeing trends of conversations over time, and much more. Some of the CRM tools are definitely good but not what I’m looking for.

      I will say this – the information I’m looking for is not easy to mine from a never ceasing stream of tweets from tens of thousands of people. It takes serious programming and infrastructure.

      Having said that, I’m currently in research mode to see what I can come up with myself. It’s geekery meets marketing at its funnest.

      I’ll definitely keep you in the loop as work progresses.

  4. Have you checked out PeekYou Analytics? They are in beta. I like what they are doing as they help analyze your real following, meaning real people versus bots etc. They then pull in data such as education, age, gender, interests, other social profiles they’re on etc.

    For me the reports of my following validated our tactics and strategies for following, unfollowing etc. The analysis they did for me was just about exactly where I thought it would be and wanted it to be.

    I am happy to make an introduction for you to PeekYou in interested and see if we can get you on their beta list?


  5. I dont know how many thousands of people you follow but an easier way might be to put people into lists – and then unfollow them. If you cut down the clutter in your own twitter stream it is visually easier to follow for one thing. Then go to each individual list and skim those tweets to see what’s going on. Create your lists according to business type, or geographical area, or whatever criteria is going to help you most – for me the lists are band, mgmt, photographer, artist, writer, etc.. and i can keep tabs on the conversations and links much easier than having my time line flooded – sometimes a new tweet every second! its too much. You spend more time filtering tweets than you do making connections and doing business.

    • Thanks for the idea Donna. I’ve tried using lists but the issue becomes reading a vast amount of tweets to get an idea of what’s going on. If I could get a “trends” for my own Twitter network that would rock.

  6. Hey there mate,

    First, digging the new design – very clean and punchy, I like it. Though the right hand content area and left sidebar (even minimal as it is) may take some getting used to. πŸ™‚

    Have you looked at Bottlenose?

    Playing with it at the minute and a very cool way to dissect conversations and where the threads go.

    Also, my company may have the very platform you’re looking for in the next couple of months – stay tuned!

    Cheers, sir!

    • I’ll check out Bottlenose. And as for waiting months, in Internet time that’s years! I might have my own solution by then too. Interested to see what you all come up with πŸ™‚

  7. Greetings Robert from the sunny, NC Coast….

    Ah…that explains it, I wondered why you had unfollowed me a long time ago. I first I was hurt..and then angry…and then I realized it was all me…

    I don’t know the tool you speak of – I just do the legwork which is probably more time consuming than necessary. I put my favorites on a locked list and scroll through past comments, check their blogs, check who’s commenting on their blogs and kind of social “stalk” them from afar. Then, and this is thanks to my photographic memory, I just remember who’s streams to go back and check.

    Occasionally I go to the main stream and engage with folks at random; this is how I meet new folks.

    Hope things are great in Thailand –

  8. Two things you could try…

    First, – It shows you the top words used by a Twitter user (I linked to your profile so you could see if it is accurate or not. Of course, you have to go one by one.

    Two, You don’t have to tweet the paper if you don’t want to, but you can create one based on you follow, a particular Twitter list, and so on. It will collect the top stories from the group of people you specify and put them in a daily paper. Might be a good way to get a daily glance at what the people you follow talk about.

  9. Well that comment was completely unhelpful!

    I’m not quite as fast and adept with technology tools like you are Robert. I’ve had a tendency to stick with the tools I figured out how to use – not the best way to go, but I do get some things done πŸ™‚

    Now that I understand your question and post better (duh) A tool like the one you speak of would be super helpful/ cool.

    I stopped following people a couple years ago and basically get maybe 5 to 10 follows a day. From these I check out their social footprint, bio, etc. and follow or not. Maintaining and slowly growing the community is much more manageable this way.

    A tool like the one you mention would be great too for identifying those people you would really like to connect with and you’d probably miss a lot less too πŸ˜›

    Let me know if you find a solution for this please πŸ™‚

    • Not unhelpful at all Mark thanks for sharing how you use Twitter search. It’s a great method you mentioned.

      We’ll see what I can do for us πŸ™‚ Definitely a non-trivial challenge.

  10. Robert, aloha. Sounds like a great tool and I hope that someone gives you the answer. Will be following this thread with interest.

    While twitcleaner doesn’t give you the info you want, it does at least tell you when a person last tweeted, if they just repeat the ssame URL at least 25% of the time, if they only tweet things like so perhaps it will be of some benefit to you.

    None of those trending topics do it for me either. Enjoy a terrific day. Aloha. Janet

  11. Hey Robert – I’ve always just used Twitter search to tap relative conversations I’m interested in, which has led to interesting people I’ve connected with, which has led to profitable business over time.

    • I’ve connected with many great people using the same method Mark. However as for analyzing what’s going on within the group of people you follow, do you have any solutions for that? I just checked advanced Twitter search and didn’t see any way to limit the search to people you are following.

      Also that implies that you know what you’re searching for in the first place. What if you simply want to see trends of what people within your group are talking about?

Speak Your Mind