Walking the pug is a great way to muse on things because she walks slowly and thinks I should stand there while she basks in the afternoon sun. And so it was that I realized the technique mentioned in my latest UniteBlue post actually does harm to people who have long-standing Twitter accounts with a healthy number of people followed and following. Like me.
The “following 2000″ limitation is the product of a comparison between follower and following numbers and is intended as a spam protector. Spammers, after all, will follow as many people as they can but will BE followed by few. The reasons for this should be obvious.
I follow too many people as it is — around 3600. I have 14600 or so following me. If I were to join UniteBlue, I would be one of the first accounts people would unfollow under the UniteBlue prescription of choosing unfollows based upon where people stand with their follower/following ratios. As it stands, they’ve been led to believe it would pose no penalty to me whatsoever, whereas unfollowing someone close to that ratio might limit how many they can follow.
That assumption is, in my opinion, false. I do believe Twitter also has algorithms in place for people who are followed and subsequently unfollowed in batches, and it wouldn’t surprise me to know they would assign greater weight to tweets that come from people who don’t have that pattern attached to them. So it might do harm and it might not, but at the very least it triggers a flag to look for spam behavior. In that regard, it might actually do grave harm to people who have built their communities carefully.
The bottom line? The “follow more, unfollow to follow more” technique risks marginalizing people who have long-standing accounts on Twitter, who built their communities by hand, and who are not in any danger of being limited or targeted as spammers before such activity takes place.*
And as I mentioned in my previous post, it also excludes some of the best and brightest on Twitter, who do not participate in these schemes because they’re journalists and commentators.
How does that build a movement? It doesn’t. It builds something else, and creates a disincentive for people to join who have organically built following/follower ratios over a long period of time.
Because, and I will keep saying this until it gets through…it just isn’t about who follows you. Not even a little bit. It’s about who YOU follow.
* If I don’t care about followers, why does it matter? When you follow a lot of people (like 2000 or more…) Twitter doesn’t send all the tweets into your timeline. They’ve recently announced that they’re actually weighting tweets for content. Just because I don’t care about followers doesn’t mean I don’t say things I’d like to gain some traction online. Ideas should still matter, right? Being penalized for having the temerity to NOT hit the 2000 following limit is no incentive for quality thinkers to join.