May 302013

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by Dr. Earl R Smith II

In an earlier article (Are You a Social Networking Slob), I described how being a slob when it comes to social networking can damage your personal brand. The response to the article was very strong. I got lots of emails from people who never stopped to think about the damage they were doing. One email summed up the common theme. “I always thought that social networking was a game of numbers. I never stopped to think about the quality of my network; only the quantity. Your article opened my eyes and I didn’t like what I saw. So how do I clean this mess up?

Since most of the emails related to Twitter accounts, I’ve decided to start there. Here are a few tips to help you clean up your list of followers and make Twitter a positive, rather than negative, contributor to your personal brand.

Revisit Your Profile: Let’s start with your profile. Although it’s true that most Twitter users don’t to-be-or-not-to-be-raceanu-mihai-adrianspend much time looking at profiles (to them you are just another brick in the wall), the ones that do may be far more important as followers. So, is your photo one of you in a goofy hat or some cartoon character? What impression does the text of the profile convey? Do you come off as a serious and focused individual (remember, even comedians can be serious about their art)? Take the time to think about what you want to accomplish by having a Twitter account and then produce a profile that advances that interest.

Cruise Your Timeline: Now it’s time to begin scraping off the scammers, hookers, halfwits and the unintelligible. Set aside a few minutes every day for a week or so. (After a week things will be cleared up substantially) Pick out the bad apples and unfollow them. At first you will probably be shocked at the number of tweets that you want to rid yourself of. Remember, scammers, hookers, halfwits and the unintelligible are generally in the business of polluting your timeline as often as the mood. Or their profit agenda, stirs them. This is particularly true of the scammers who are ‘selling’ followers. So you will scrape a lot of dog dirt off your shoes during the first few passes. Keep at it and the skies will clear.

Choose Who You Follow Back More Carefully: There is no sense of adding to a mess you are working to clean up. Followers will show up and you will face four options. One, you could follow them back. Two, you could not follow them back and take no other action. Three, you could block them. Four, you could block them and report them as a spammer. You will have to form your own strategy but here is what I do:

  1. I look at the profile of the person who has followed me and ask the simple question “Is this the kind of person that I want to be associated with?” If the answer is yes, I follow them back.
  2. If the answer is no, I then consider why I don’t want to be associated with. If it is merely not a good fit with my interests, I simply don’t follow them back. That means that their tweets will not show up in my timeline but mine will in theirs – at least until they unfollow me.
  3. If I decide that the new follower falls into one of the scammers, hookers, halfwits and the unintelligible categories but is not insidious in intent, I block them. I do this a lot with the unintelligible. BTW, be prepared for a bit of blowback. When I started blocking a particular language, I got a sharp increase in followers posting in that language. It seems I struck a nerve. You see, the scammers meet their ‘quota of new followers’ by creating thousands of new ‘straw man’ accounts. A group of these scammers was apparently creating massive numbers of accounts in this particular language. I was messing with their scam. For a while I blocked lots of ‘new followers’. But, eventually, the scammers figured out that I wasn’t buying onto their scam and went away.
  4. Finally, if I decide that the new follower has some sort of hidden, insidious agenda, I block and report them. I routinely do this with the ‘we’ll get you thousands of new followers for $Xs’ crowd. I figure that I’m helping to clean up the community and twitter in the process. If they get enough of these reports, they may take the step of shutting them down.

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