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Thinning Out the Twitter Herd

by Fadra Nally on November 13, 2012

I joined Twitter back in 2008. I wear that like a badge of honor that indicates that I, for once, was an early adopter.

The fact of the matter is that while I joined at an early date, I didn’t really get Twitter until I started using it in earnest in 2009. And then a love affair began. It clicked with me and I got it. I slowly built my following the old-fashioned way. I’d log in, jump into random conversations, and make friends.

I’ve been doing it that way for years but things on Twitter have changed. A big shift started when Triberr came along to automate what a lot of people had already started doing: link sharing.

I love the idea of an online community, or a tribe, that jives with you. You want to support each other and promote each other’s online work. I love to share things that I read because it’s struck a nerve with me in some way. And I believe that authentic endorsements are what really matter to people.

As a result of the massive link sharing, I’ve found myself logging into Twitter less and less. I’ve started spending more and more time on Facebook. Now I love both platforms but Facebook is what I consider a timesuck. It can easily take me down a rabbit hole that usually takes me at least an hour to climb back out of. I want to fall back in love with Twitter. So I decided to make some changes.

Last week, I took a look at my Twitter profile. While I’ve amassed over 8000 followers (the exact number goes up and down on a daily basis), I also followed over 4500 people.

Admittedly, that’s a lot of people to keep up with. I’ve never minded the large number because I’m not the type to log in and catch up on every single tweet. I’m a slice-of-life kind of gal and appreciate reading about what’s going in the moment with the people online in that moment.

But again, I’d review my timeline and see link after link for giveaways and posts that were really of no interest to me. So I’d pull up someone’s profile and look at their tweeting history. No personal engagement, no replies. Just links and retweets. So I unfollowed them.

For a brief moment, I felt guilty. They had chosen to follow me and I had reciprocated and now I felt like I was dumping them without even telling them. But then I felt something else. I felt relief. And I felt a little bit lighter. So I started checking a few other profiles and did the same thing.

Then I decided I needed to dig a little deeper and I enlisted the help of two of my favorite Twitter management tools.

ManageFlitter is my absolute favorite tool. It doesn’t take long to run, puts people in easy to understand buckets, and makes it super easy to unfollow someone if that’s something you choose to do.


The results are returned with followers grouped by:

  • Those not following back (which is sometimes totally okay).
  • Those with no profile image (aka “eggheads”)
  • Those considered spam accounts
  • Those who don’t speak English
  • Those with a high ratio of followers to following (I call them the Collectors)
  • Those who are inactive (usually haven’t tweeted in over 30 days)
  • Those that tweet constantly (what’s wrong with that?)
  • And those who rarely tweet

You can work through the list and get a snapshot of each person before you decide if you want to take action:

Follower details

As a result of my ManageFlitter run, I got rid of about 500 people that I consider “dead weight.” And I suddenly started feeling lighter. So I didn’t stop there.

I was reminded of another tool I used to use called TwitCleaner.

Like ManageFlitter, it’s a tool meant to help you manage the quality of the people you follow on Twitter. While similar to ManageFlitter, it uses different categories to help you find the people that might just be clogging up your feed.


While TwitCleaner has some overlaps with ManageFlitter, it drills down into the following types of groups:

  • Those that use too many @s in one tweet too often. You’ll find a lot of these on Follow Friday.
  • Those people that tweet nothing but links.
  • Those people that tweet the same link over and over
  • Those that tweet the same tweet over and over
  • Those that are responsible for a lot of app spam (like Foursquare check-ins, GetGlue check-ins)
  • Those that do advertisements and sponsored tweets
  • Those that are inactive
  • Those that don’t ever interact with their followers
  • Those that only retweet (no original intent)
  • Those that only ever talk about themselves

Again, you can pick and choose. I don’t expect celebrities to follow me back and most of them don’t interact with their users. But I had to even cut some of them loose. The novelty of following a celebrity has worn off for me.

Once you review your list, you can simply click on those you want to unfollow and, unlike ManageFlitter that unfollows all at once, TwitCleaner will slowly unfollow those you selected.

Too many links

When my cleaning was all said and done, I had dropped about 1000 people I was following.

Did I still feel a little guilty? Of course, I did. That’s just my nature. So I put a little disclaimer out there.


I’ve noticed that my following has gone down as well. Perhaps some of the people I unfollowed returned the favor. But I never ever keep track of who comes and goes. That’s one form of mental torture I don’t need.

  • Erin Margolin


    I use TwitCleaner, too. And then I feel guilty. I probably need to delete more in earnest. Sigh. This is a really helpful post, I hope tweeple will put it to use!! ;-)

    • FadraN

      I think it’s time to be a little selfish with our following. If I don’t stop being too generous, I’ll lose interest in Twitter altogether. And I DON’T want that to happen. It’s taken me several cleanings before I was ready to cut ties with people that were following me. It’s not personal, though. Really.

  • Kalanicut

    Like all your thoughts about thoughtful Twitter use. Thanks for sharing. 

    • FadraN

      If it gets overwhelming, it doesn’t become a source of engaging conversation (which it should be).

  • FadraN

    If it gets overwhelming, it doesn’t become a source of engaging conversation (which it should be).

  • Kim Samsin

    I used to follow back just out of politeness–and especially because as someone with a comparatively low follower number, who am I to not follow someone back? I cull who I’m following every few months, and mostly it’s because of the criteria listed after the TwitCleaner example. Or sometimes it’s just that sixth tweet about a blog post that hits me the wrong way. No one’s paying me to be on Twitter so I might as well make it into something I can enjoy while I’m there. (I also love that with Tweetdeck I can filter tweets that come from spam-senders like Triberr and and various horoscope providers.)

    • FadraN

      I use Tweetdeck all the time and never knew they specifically had a filter like that. Great to know! And you’re right. It’s your space online. You should absolutely make the most of it.

  • frannybolsa

    I am an unsuccessful Twitter user.  It always feels like a trip to Vegas when I’m on Twitter. All lights, flash and not much else. I’ve only been on Twitter for a little over a year and haven’t yet figured out how to have “real conversation” on there.  I really don’t want to be someone who just shares blog posts on Twitter. Which is what I have been doing here recently. Which made me feel like a really annoying house guest. Which made me step away from Twitter. 
     So…..  how does one engage with people on Twitter? And by engage I mean joke, share witty repartee or have deep philosophical moments in under 140 characters. Is it rude to interrupt? Jump in on random conversation? 

    • FadraN

      GREAT question. These days, I don’t usually follow back unless someone engages me in conversation. (They comment or whatever on one of my tweets). It lets me know “Hey – I’m here! I’m interested in conversation!” and then I usually follow back.

      So no, it’s not rude. It’s how the conversation happens. It’s a little chaotic at first but you’ll get into the groove. I highly recommend reading my friend Melissa’s article:

  • Andrea B

    *Cough cough* You’re welcome. ;)

  • Andrea B

    Oops! That was’t supposed to post yet. :P But that’s HILARIOUS now that it has. 

    Great post and take on your experience. You already know I think that’s outta control that you were following so many peeps. And while it’s awesome that you have 8K followers, I’d honestly consider weeding out the un-real ones there, too. I may have missed that, but yeah, I’d drop a few. I do that so I can at least know who is following for just their made up not real reasons that might make it look like they can reach me. And that makes no sense but I have a killer headache right now. Which is probably why my other post posted already. :P 

    Miss you, Fadra!!!

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  • Baby Bump & Beyond

    This is great!! I’ve been needing to do this but with 2 little ones and everything that comes with being a mom and a business owner, cleaning out my twitter gets pushed down the list. I’ll have to try the manage filter tonight. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • FadraN

      I just used it yesterday. I think you’ll like it!

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