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Following somebody on Twitter is always a small leap of faith. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, for whatever reason. 

A couple of days ago I created an online poll to try to identify the common reasons for unfollowing people on Twitter.

More than 500 votes have since been cast and as such we can now start to analyse the results.

Based on the survey, it would appear as if the worst crime you can commit as a Twitter user is to be too noisy. This was the number one reason cited by respondents for clicking the ‘unfollow’ button. 52% of people said they had waved goodbye on this basis.

In second place was too much self-promotion (48%), so shameless, narcissistic hawkers should keep an eye on their churn rate, if that kind of thing bothers them.

Also scoring highly, in third place, were those guilty of posting too much spam (47%). 

At the other end of the scale, I often see people complaining about being fed up with ironic hashtags, but only 10% of people said this is a reason for unfollowing somebody.

Why do people unfollow others on Twitter: the results in full

  • Too noisy (tweets too often) [52% - 271 votes]
  • Too much self-promotion [48% - 249 votes]
  • Spammy [47% - 245 votes]
  • Not interesting enough [43% - 226 votes]
  • Too much repetition [29% - 152 votes]
  • Too much automation [29% - 151 votes]
  • Offensive / unprofessional [28% - 146 votes]
  • Too many 'begging tweets' [28% - 145 votes]
  • Too quiet [27% - 141 votes]
  • Foursquare / check-in abusers [22% - 115 votes]
  • No conversational tweets [21% - 108 votes]
  • Crimes against grammar [18% - 93 votes]
  • Too many retweets [17% - 90 votes]
  • Auto / DM abuse [16% - 86 votes]
  • Hashtag abusers [10% - 52 votes]

Other reasons

I also included an ‘Other’ option, to allow respondents to suggest their own reasons for unfollowing people on Twitter. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • People who RT their #FFs... This makes me apoplectic
  • Companies constantly retweeting every scrap of positive customer feedback they've received ever
  • Monitoring following/follower ratio
  • Self obsessed/egotists
  • Ghost writers
  • Allowing Klout to broadcast score
  • Swearing, i.e. people who need to wash their mouth out or buy a dictionary
  • No longer involved with an organisation in real life.
  • Bills themself as an expert on a niche subject, but then 50% of tweets are about rugby, cupcakes, reality shows...
  • Bypassing 140 character limit by just spliting into seperate tweets
  • Too negative about everything.
  • Not giving credit to sources. Feeds are fine if I have followed knowing that's going to be the case.
  • Too snarky / political / my-opinion-is-always-right
  • Too many quotations

The poll remains live. You can click on the results, and then select ‘See All’ underneath ‘Other’ to see all 65 responses.

A big thanks from me to everybody who took the poll.

Chris Lake

Published 23 May, 2012 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (17)

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Andrew Grill

Nice survey Lakey!

over 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

"Bills themself as an expert on a niche subject, but then 50% of tweets are about rugby, cupcakes, reality shows..."

I think I know that guy...! ;-)

over 4 years ago

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Val Leedham

Interesting Survey
I thought it polite to follow someone who follows you

I would only delete on the Foul Language
or rude or racist .
Not every tweet will be interesting, but it just may be that next Tweet can be an amazing influence

over 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Chris, there are three other factors which I've found in my experience.

1. Requested retweets - people in the public eye who retweet messages from followers - usually in bulk, and most often due to an overbearing guilt complex. (it's an abuse of said retweeters' follower network to use us in this way)

2. Following on from (1), I find myself unfollowing people who use Twitter sporadically. It's like someone who doesn't talk to you for weeks and then suddenly starts speaking and expecting you to listen. This is also an indicator of people who use Twitter to stroke their own egos and stop using it when the 'stroking' isn't as comforting as they'd like.

3. Finally, one I'm guilty of sometimes. If ever I've carried out an extended conversation or banter (say, more than 4 or 5 exchanges in succession), I lose half-a-dozen or more followers. I've only done so 3 or 4 times in the past 5 years, but it always loses me followers.

Conversely, I tend to pick up new followers whenever I don't tweet, which perhaps says something about my tweets... ;)

over 4 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Andrew - thanks buddy!

@Steve M - we all do... ; )

@Val - I don't think automatically following back is a good idea, not least because you can attract a lot of spam accounts that way. We used to do it but had a rethink a few years ago (http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/5249-why-econsultancy-is-unfollowing-19-000-twitter-users).

@Steve - we're all guilty of doing some of these things. Give me too much coffee and I probably become noisier. Also, you may perceive noise in a different way to me... you might have more or less tolerance for it. You're definitely right on the 'please retweet' front, though I've seen studies that suggest it works!

over 4 years ago

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Ralf Skirr

Interesting results, Chris! If tweeting too much is the #1 reason for losing followers, the next thing to find out would be:
How much is 'too much'?

over 4 years ago

Steve Davies

Steve Davies, CEO at Fitch Media

Ralf, to provide myself as an example - I send out between 15 and 25 tweets per day, 5/6 of those would be to promote new content I have published, 10/12 of those would be in reply to people who have mentioned or tweeted me directly, whilst around 3/4 would be other content I have discovered during the day.

I try not to tweet more 2 or 3 messages within an hour.

Provided the majority of these tweets are relevant to my follower 'group' (rather than an individual) then I either maintain or increase my follower count.

One thing I should have added in my comment yesterday is, I don't actually care how many followers I have - it's of far greater interest how much those followers interact with me, the insights they tweet back in response and the way my followers engage with each other. I'd rather have fewer followers who are real people, than thousands of voyeurs and stalkers.. (I've got close to 2,800 at the moment which feels ok)

over 4 years ago

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Julian Bradder

...obsessed with gaining followers whether relevant or not - I like my timeline to make sense to me.

over 4 years ago

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Vtlrockz

I have no idea how the total is 435% while % means per hundred...

over 4 years ago

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Stefano Marra

good survey, i made an infographic about this pool (I linked this site :) ).
so, hope you like it! :) grazie.

over 4 years ago

Stewart Longhurst

Stewart Longhurst, Director at V1 Digital

So, who are the worst offenders?

In my view Mashable falls foul of much of the top half of the list of reasons.

So why don't we all unfollow mashable? Is it because they are the #1 source of "news" in our discipline - or is it because we don't want to be seen to be unfollowing them? We don't want to be the last person to hear about the "next big thing".

over 4 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Ralf - Good question, though I think that's a personal thing. You might be more or less noise sensitive than me!

@Steve - Definitely agree about quality of interaction. I also think it's a good idea to have a cull of spam followers from time to time.

@Vtlrockz - You could vote for more than one reason.

@Stefano - Bravo!

@Stewart - It's hard to avoid Mashable stories as they're shared around so much. It's a fantastic success story to show what happens when you encourage sharing. So popular that perhaps you don't actually need to follow them!

over 4 years ago

Stewart Longhurst

Stewart Longhurst, Director at V1 Digital

@chris - yes, I actually tried not following them for a while thinking I'd get it all from retweets but then ended up getting it all several times, such is the popularity of retweeting mashable! Instead I unfollowed the retweeters! :-)

over 4 years ago

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Malley

Hi there to every one, it's in fact a nice for me to pay a visit this site, it contains helpful Information.

about 4 years ago

Margaret Robertson

Margaret Robertson, European Marketing Director at Canvas HolidaysSmall Business Multi-user

Good survey and some interesting insights, although I think most of these comments do depend on your own tolerance levels and context. I quite like the guy/girl who is a niche subject expert but tweets about human stuff, as even in our day job there is only so much marketing advice you can handle, as long as when they do talk about their niche topic it is of value.
Mashable is tricky as often the links it refers you to are quite light on info, but overall it is worth it.
I totally agree with the snarkie/ negative thing particularly prevalent in some political folk I follow. As in real life is wearing after a while. @marob23

about 4 years ago

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elena crescia

so the total of all percentages add up to 435%??? sorry, I don't really get this...
I've redone the statistics assuming 100%=2270 total votes
Too noisy (tweets too often) [12% - 271 votes]
Too much self-promotion [11% - 249 votes]
Spammy [11% - 245 votes]
Not interesting enough [10% - 226 votes]
Too much repetition [7% - 152 votes]
Too much automation [7% - 151 votes]
Offensive / unprofessional [6% - 146 votes]
Too many 'begging tweets' [6% - 145 votes]
Too quiet [6% - 141 votes]
Foursquare / check-in abusers [5% - 115 votes]
No conversational tweets [5% - 108 votes]
Crimes against grammar [4% - 93 votes]
Too many retweets [4% - 90 votes]
Auto / DM abuse [4% - 86 votes]
Hashtag abusers [2% - 52 votes]
now i can keep tweeting... ;)

about 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

Hi Elena. People could vote for more than one thing (tick boxes, not radio buttons), which is why it adds up to over 100%. I know because I was one of the 500+ who voted. Hope it makes more sense now. :-)

about 4 years ago

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