You can’t follow everybody.
And less really may be more.
Those are two lessons many social media pundits are learning as we stumble to the end of this rocky 2009.
The rest of us will probably catch-up in 2010 when we realize that enormous, cumbersome loads of followers on social networks – particularly Twitter – aren’t an advantage, but, in fact, might be a determent.
Is it just a coincidence that “unfriend” was the word of the year?
Blogger and PR guy Todd Defren is the latest to admit that he’s gotten overwhelmed by following too many people on social networks. Todd wanted to do the right thing by following everyone back who decided to follow him on Twitter, but as Todd recently wrote:
“But as the hordes started filling up my chat channel — and as my own work on other fronts crowded my time — I found myself doing more pruning than tweeting: cleaning out spammers, etc… So I am going to START OVER. I am going to perform a FULL SCRUB. If you see that I’ve Unfollowed you, please don’t take it personally.”
Even the poster child for following thousands upon thousands of people, Blogger Robert Scoble up and dumped tens of thousands of followers on Twitter after years of advocating the “follow-back” policy (which meant if you followed him – he’d follow you right back). Scoble once boasted to following more than 100,000 people – and while he admitted that he couldn’t read everything on his screen he said that the vast numbers allowed him to quickly spot emerging trends.
But even the mighty Scoble experienced the information overload that comes by following too many people. So he sliced and diced his Twitter list down to about 1,000 (it has since crept up to more than 16,000. I guess he can’t help himself!).
I’m guilty of trimming my Twitter followers myself (although I don’t have the large number of followers of Todd, Chris and Scoble). But I find that if I start to follow more than 1,000 people on Twitter – I miss too many things. It becomes overwhelming. But like many people, I want to do the right thing and reciprocate when people follow me.
And I also know that the best way to get people to follow you – is to follow them first. And who doesn’t want a lot of followers? Most people with thousands of followers on Twitter (who aren’t celebrities of some sort) did it by following lots and lots of people and getting reciprocal follows in return.
But ultimately you can’t control who follows you – only who you follow. And one of the lessons of 2009 is that following smaller numbers of people might be more valuable. So expect this lesson to gain traction in 2010 when “unfriending” and “unfollowing” become even more popular – and a necessity to get social media circles to more manageable levels.
Twitter, for example, simply doesn’t work as well if you follow huge numbers of people. You miss things. You get bombarded by DMs. And at some point – the number is different for all of us – when you follow too many people you end up following nobody at all.
It’s just too noisy.
So what do you think? Are you planning on trimming friends and fans in 2010? Have your social media circles gotten to big to manage?