Over the past several weeks I have been watching and following the debate around the Who’s Who in Social Media are universally unfollowing nearly every one of their followers.

The reasons for their “Great Twitter Purge” are all over the board, but include the following:

  • DM usage is too difficult
  • lack of real engagement
  • Inability to please everyone
  • too much noise.

As I examine this list, I want to raise my hand and volunteer to ride an elevator straight to the rooftop and SCREAM “THAT IS LAUGHABLE”

Before I make the case as to the “real reason” for this trend, I want to quickly address the aforementioned reasons sited…

  • DM Usage – Disable it and create an email address for your “fans”
  • Real Engagement – Explain to me again how unfollowing everyone rectifies this?
  • Please Everyone – This certainly isn’t going to do it.
  • Noise – Make lists, Use Tools

Okay, perhaps I am being assumptive, and maybe there is no spin at all and these folks are being authentic (buzz word) in their reasoning. However, from the time I was a child my father told me not to piss on his head and tell him it’s raining. With that in mind, here is why I think these fine folks have made the decision…

They have come to believe that their large following means they are now some type of celebrity, and it is quite “Uncelebrity” to follow back. (In some cases even with those whom you engage)

Disclaimer 1: You will note that I don’t follow everyone back either. I never agreed with the philosophy. I realized early on that it would slow down the building of a large network, but it also forces people to follow you because they want to, not out of some sense of duty. Also I am active on twitter, I share and converse frequently, and I lose followers constantly because I don’t follow them back (or for other reasons I’m sure). The reality is I follow for my reasons which are inspiration, learning, sharing, engagement, and entertainment.

Disclaimer 2: I am not a Social Star, not even close, nor do I aspire to be…although I do love the ongoing conversations on social platforms.

If you have been around twitter for more than a few days you start to realize some things. One of the things you realize is that people will reciprocate and follow you back. Even if you have nothing to add to the conversation. More or less it is a way to gain followers and if you are on Twitter to promote something the assumption is the more the merrier.

The problem with this is that people begin to realize that you can have a lot of followers and have nothing to add to the conversation. Hence, if I follow 500 people every day and 60% follow me back, I can use a tool like Tweepi to unfollow those that didn’t and follow 500 more. Rinse, repeat, and in no time at all you have a big following. Albeit a pretty useless following, however if you sort through the noise you can probably find some valuable connections. (Law of Averages)

After the purge the numbers look strong. They look “RockStar” in many ways having 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of followers while following no one (or very few). With a ratio like that people will blindly jump on your bandwagon. Why not…everyone else is doing it.

The big question, if these folks had been discriminate followers from day one what would their followings look like? I think comparing their followings to true celebrities is a stretch, and since these “Super Bloggers” and “Social Ninjas” are more business than Hollywood, I explored some of the active Fortune 500 CEO’s on Twitter and found that they have very similar numbers in their followings (give or take) as our big name Social Media folks who are undergoing “the purge”

  • Berkshire Hathaway | Warren Buffet | 1 tweets | 62,404 Followers | Following 1 |
  • Costco Wholesale | James Sinegal | 1 tweets | 27 Followers | Following 7 |
  • Dell Inc. | Michael Dell | 553 tweets | 18,005 Followers | Following 515 |
  • Best Buy | Brian Dunn | 916 tweets | 9,859 Followers | Following 1,140 |
  • Supervalu | Craig Herkert | 15 tweets | 73 Followers | Following 17 |
  • Aetna | Mark Bertolini | 46 tweets | 279 Followers | Following 38 |
  • Google** | Eric Schmidt | 48 tweets | 318,412 Followers | Following 96 |
  • Motorola | Gregory Brown | 55 tweets | 162 Followers | Following 18 |
  • Manpower | Jeffrey Joerres | 341 tweets | 61,583 Followers | Following 48 |
  • eBay | John Donahoe | 23 tweets | 2,514 Followers | Following 55 |
  • Campbell Soup | Douglas Conant | 51 tweets | 522 Followers | Following 604 |
  • Fiserv | Jeffery Yabuki | 18 tweets | 191 Followers | Following 5 |
  • American Family Insurance Group | Jack Salzwedel*** | 789 tweets | 754 Followers | Following 29 |
  • Medtronic | Omar Ishrak***** | 3 tweets | 538 followers | following14 |

Data via WCG World June 2011

So why is this “Laughable?”

Bottom line is this. Many of these supposed “Stars” are actually pretty interesting. Some are good writers, some are good speakers, some do both well. On the other hand some, if not all in certain ways gamified the system. They built big followings through a simple and common act of reciprocity. With that following came an audience, and on the backs of that big following they built a brand. With brand came ego, and with ego came the need to look more “celebrity” online. Hence “The Great Twitter Purge”

Moreover I could really care less if these folks felt they were so important that they needed to make this decision. I just hope they realize that some of us aren’t fooled.

So what do you think?

  • Are these “Purgers” as influential as the CEO of a fortune 500 company? (I have an opinion on this…what is yours?)
  • Would they have such great followings had they not reciprocated along the way?
  • Most importantly, what is the real reason they decided to purge? (Confession?)