Why I had to unfollow you

Today I unfollowed a charity on Twitter. I’m usually in the habit of following charities, not unfollowing them but it is the manner in which this charity tweets that compelled me to part ways with them. This time is was a case of ‘It’s not me, it is you’.

I unfollowed them (and tweeted about it) and was just going to leave it at that. Then Ian Griggs, journalist at Third Sector magazine, said I should explain to them why I had unfollowed them.

This was met with lots of agreement, from charity people and even charities themselves, as constructive criticism should help them improve. So I sent them a number of direct messages on Twitter to explain why I had decided to unfollow them – the main reason being that they retweet practically every tweet they receive, which clogs up my timeline.

I’ve thought about it further though and these are the three cardinal Twitter sins this charity has committed:

1. They tweeted me and asked me to follow them even though I had never engaged with with them before. And I’m pretty sure they’d never engaged with one of my tweets either.

2. They retweet far too many tweets. Charities – you don’t have to prove to us that people are talking to you. We can see that ourselves by the conversations you are having. Or should be having.

3. They do the whole ‘follow us, we follow back’ thing. Why? As charities you should be selective in who you follow, not just follow people for the sake of a follow back.

As Leo Birch, Digital Marketing Coordinator at British Heart Foundation, so eloquently put it, this charity is committing “social media bad practice bingo!”.

Any other examples you’d care to add that would compel you to unfollow an account?

10 thoughts on “Why I had to unfollow you

  1. I think there’s a difference between individual and corporate/charity accounts. As an individual I’d totally agree with you. I’m selective about who I’m interacting with and I don’t feel compelled to follow everyone who follows me.

    Speaking from the charity perspective though, it’s slightly different. Begging for follows and over-retweeting are definitely no-nos but I’m not sure about following back the people who follow you. Obviously I’d avoid spammers but if someone is sufficiently interested in our work to follow us on Twitter, not following them back seems a bit arrogant.

    We’re not celebrities after all, and I’d feel I was sending a message that we think that individual was of no interest/value to us. Given that we mostly work with lists on Twitter now rather than an unfiltered feed, we don’t have to worry about the feed being clogged up by irrelevant comments.

    Additionally, since a lot of the work we do is support, it makes sense to let people DM us if they need to. If someone needs information or support urgently the last thing they want to do is beg for a follow first.

    For me, the big turn off isn’t the automatic follow back, it’s the automatic “thanks for the follow [insert sales pitch here]” reply that is generated by my follow. Getting a thank you message that at least looks personal is fine, but when they’re blantantly paying lip-service to courtesy, that’s a one-way ticket to the unfollow button for me.

    • Thanks for your comment Carol. The last point is really about the direct ask ‘follow us, we follow back’ , which I’ve seen this charity tweet. I’m certainly not saying don’t follow people back if you are a charity – I’m merely saying don’t follow everyone who follows you, especially if it is at a direct request. There are lots of people out there who just want to bump up their follower numbers so will follow this charity because they know they will get a follow back. But where is the connection to the cause? This charity that I unfollowed has almost like for like following and followers numbers. I just had a quick look at your professional twitter account and you only follow back around 5% of people who follow your account, which is healthy in my opinion.
      Absolutely agree with the automated sales pitch DMs!

    • I don’t think it arrogant to not follow back. I follow institutions to learn about and monitor their work, not to have them following me. In fact I would think it foolhardy to automatically follow back. Having seen that a friend’s cat had 4 followers, one of whom was the Australian Prime Minister, I followed her (the PM) in the knowledge that I could then boast that the Aussie PM follows me. She will no more see my tweets than write any herself: it makes a mockery of the account.
      On the other hand, I do appreciate the acknowledgement that some institutions send automatically, as it shows that they are on the ball, have taken time to think about who might be following them and why, and perhaps provided some useful information to draw their followers closer.

  2. I respect your honesty and attempt at putting your reasons to the charity. Let’s be hoped they take the comments on board. I have done similar over the last few days with re-tweets being the main cause – usually sycophantic.

  3. I’ll almost automatically “unfollow” poor writing and incorrect grammar. It’s not that organizations backed by poor writing shouldn’t be taken seriously; it’s just that it takes work. I think our job in the world of development is to make it easy, effortless and maybe even inevitable to care. Good writing gets out of the way and into that groove. I’ll follow it almost anywhere.

  4. I don’t use Twitter often (I’m too verbose for 140 characters) but when I do, I prefer to follow businesses and charities that aren’t constantly active – maybe they tweet a few times a day or maybe they tweet a whole lot in little spurts at lunchtime but it’s always something meaningful they’ve done or something relevant to their cause or interests (and therefore relevant to my interests). The re-tweeting thing can be annoying in that respect. Why fill up my feed with re-tweets?

    I also find too many quotes annoying – I know there are speakers and writers out there who have already said it better than we can, but I can’t help but think that a quote does not encapsulate the genuine feeling that can come from personally wording a post, regardless of whether the quote is pithier or funnier or more attention-getting. Be yourselves, charities. Be genuine. Make an occasional typo (but not too often, or I’ll suspect you hired a high-schooler to be your social media intern).

    And finally, I like it when charities find and show off networking buddies – other charities (both worldwide and local) sharing the same goals and sometimes working together. I think it’s awesome when the New York Public Library follows and shares articles about other public library systems, and I engage with charities who network the same way. Be a good neighbor to fellow tweeting charity accounts! Share ideas, collaborate… and engage your followers to share and collaborate as well!

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  6. I think it’s interesting (and correct me if I’m mistaken) that you tweeted them the reasons you were no longer following. I think that’s poor communication. With 138 characters for each tweet, this must have meant a few tweets, each rolling in with a negative comment about how they use Twitter. That must have been nice for them!
    Why not contact them directly with an email? Or call them?
    You stopped following because of poor communication on their part, then paid them in kind.
    Interested in your feedback on this.

    • Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. No, I didn’t tweet them my feedback,I private messaged them. Also, I made sure I wasn’t negative but rather constructive. Unfortunately I haven’t heard anything back from them…..

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