How to put off Twitter followers

If you haven't a clue what Twitter is, read the bit in italics at the bottom first!

Most users of Twitter want more followers. I won't say it's quite an obsession, but they watch the number of followers as assiduously as authors track their books' Amazon rankings. However, a surprising number of Twitter users don't seem to think through how they tweet to make sure they are encouraging potential new followers.

Whenever someone starts following me - or I see an interesting comment retweeted - I take a look at that person's recent tweets. Two things particularly put me off following them. One is if their recent tweets are dominated by replies. A few replies are interesting - it gives the reader a chance to check out new people. But a whole string of replies starts to become a barrier to getting any feel for the person's twittering. Secondly I'm put off if the majority of the tweets are just 'I did this' or 'buy my stuff'. I don't mind the occasional bit of self-promotion - we all do it - but too much and it becomes tedious.

So get the balance right. If you've done a couple of replies, slip in an interesting link or a spot of wit or a great observation. If you've encouraged people to take a look at your product, tell them about something completely different. You only have a few seconds while I (and other potential followers) scan down your recent tweets to capture our attention. And because you never know when a new follower is about to check you out, you need to keep this pattern going. Of course you might not want followers, and that's fine. But if so, you're in the minority.

You can follow me - I'm @brianclegg - if you like what you see.

Twitter is often described as 'micro-blogging'. Like a blog it's posted to the world - anyone can read what you say - but you are limited to 140 characters. Despite this restriction it is proving a powerful means of communication, more open than a social network like Facebook, and providing a continuity through the day that isn't possible with a conventional blog. Twitter really takes off when updated from a mobile phone.

Broadly twittering splits into three types. 'What I'm eating' - an update on what you're up to, only really interesting to friends unless you are a celebrity twitterer like @stephenfry, 'witty observation' - something interesting or amusing that strikes you (here a camera phone can be particularly effective as you can link to a picture), and 'interesting finding on the net' - with a suitable link.

You can get a Twitter account (it's easy and free) at


  1. Ah, Twitter. I'm there as HPRW, but I still haven't properly got to grips with the whole thing, and everyone else seems so very GOOD at it.

    I shall follow you now, and leave you a whole trail of messages to read about my day, and what my dog did, and what I think about what you've said. That'll teach you.

    (I'm here from my pitch party, by the way. It's working surprisingly well again.)


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