Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Great Cull - 'Unfollowing' on Twitter and 'Defriending' on Facebook.

The other day I was in an office at lunchtime and a colleague was checking his personal Facebook. Work usage aside (check the corporate social media policy post), it was his exclamation which interested me:

"Dammit Megan, I don't care whether i've survived another friend cull. Who does that?"

I've noticed that many of my Facebook contacts have started 'culling' their Facebook friends. Statuses like this are appearing regularly on my feed:

Announcing that you've de-friended people on Facebook can alienate some people (like my colleague) but judging from the number of 'likes' the post above got, it also has the effect of reinforcing the relationships you value.

But, why delete contacts?

These are two very different questions from a business and a personal perspective. On a personal level when I first join any social network I add almost everyone I know, a few people I almost know and a whole bunch of people of people i've just met (this isn't necessarily best practice, but it's very tempting!) A few weeks, months, years later and i'm left wondering who on earth that person is that has just posted a status about their cat on my feed, but leaving them be in case they get more interesting.

Yesterday I attempted my first personal Facebook and Twitter cull, and discovered it's not easy. I tried to be ruthless, and reasons for de-friending included:
  • Irritating/immature statuses
  • No statuses
  • Couldn't remember who they were! 
To my shame also, a few people were saved from the cull because their work info included something interesting like Google, or UK Parliament. They may just come in handy one day...

Twitter was even more difficult as I tend to follow quite a lot of people and their statuses are generally interesting and informative. I do tend to keep my 'following' count under my 'follower' count as a rule of thumb however. Eventually I only ended up 'unfollowing' the accounts that I don't remember seeing a tweet from, and only then if any tweets on their feed are dull or spammy.

Should I ever delete, block or 'unfollow' people from a business account?

99% of the time, no. If you have a business Facebook persona that has friends (not adviseable anyway) then anyone agreeing to be your friend, knowing that you are a business, must really like your brand. De-friending them would be a complete faux pas. Even if people are posting criticisms or complaints, a complaint that you can resolve, will mean that a customer is 70% likely to do business with you again.

Unfollowing on Twitter is a different matter. Although websites such as TweetEffect can tell you which Tweets gained/lost you followers, it's very hard to find which individual has unfollowed. This means that on a corporate level you can unfollow without causing offence.

Important things:

  • Don't be offended. If you are unfollowed learn from it and think what you can do to make your tweets/statuses more interesting.
  • Some platforms (especially Twitter) can have 'bugs'. My 'following' count sometimes fluctuates of it's own accord, but is usually rectified.
  • People can be useful. You never know when you might need to get in touch with the Ukelele society (well, ok, but you know...). Without sounding too cynical, maybe only remove people who you no longer know well enough to ask a favour!

I don't mean to sound ungrateful in this post. I have a great many people who I am friends with on social media platforms who I go back a long way with, and I truly value their online and offline friendship. Some people, however, I met once, possibly with drink in hand, and added them the next day because they made an impression. I doubt they remember me either by now!

What does anyone else think? Feel free to post your 'culling' experiences in the comments.


  1. Facebook/Twitter culling is so difficult! I attempted it a few months back, getting rid of several people I'd fallen out with/found annoying/didn't care about enough to want to keep their friendships.

    All that happened was that most of them sent me friend requests again and I felt too guilty to say no!!

  2. In my experience any status about defriending or culling people is guaranteed to get an enthusiastic reaction (presumably driven by a desire for self-preservation), so it's fun for attention seekers like me.