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Clean Up Your Feed: How to Do a Successful Twitter Purge

Posted by in Social Media Strategy

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After 6 years of organizational changeover, you might find yourself at the helm of a messy and disorganized Twitter feed. Should you hit the reset button on your inherited social accounts? The answer is yes. Probably.

I started my first Twitter account for business in October of 2008, at a small arts organization, when Twitter was just getting its sea legs as an actual thing that organizations did for marketing. Whoever manages that Twitter account today inherited all the early setup I did, including everyone I followed. Back then, people weren’t exactly using Twitter strategically, because best practices and strategy had hardly been established. There’s no telling who I followed in an attempt to grow that following, but I’d wager some accounts were irrelevant, and a lot of them are probably no longer active.

At Mightybytes, we see our clients struggling with this frequently. Someone new takes over the social media accounts and finds themselves at a loss to sort out who the account is following and why. Too often, organizations feel compelled to hang on to these legacy follows because, well, someone must have followed them for a reason, right?

Not always. As the new social media manager, you have to take back control of your feeds so that you can understand and utilize them. That’s why it’s okay to hit the reset button on your social accounts for a full-on Twitter purge. Just be sure to do it the right way.

Steps for Cleaning Up Your Twitter Feeds

Smooth the transition by managing the changeover.

If it’s at all possible, talk to the person who previously managed the social media accounts to get a brief rundown on how they’re being managed, what lists are being curated, who is being followed, and why.

Negotiate authority over the Twitter feed you manage.

If you’ve been hired to manage social media accounts, you need to have the final say over how they’re used. In other words, you don’t want to have to ask permission to unfollow someone. Your boss should trust that whatever you’re doing on social channels is in the best interest of the company, even if it means immediately unfollowing 500 people.

Don’t follow more people than you have followers.

Give yourself a goal of cleaning up your feed at least to the point where you’re not following more people than are following you. Twitter has limits in place designed to curb the practice of aggressive following. Once you follow 2,000 people, you’re subject to a limit on the number of people you can follow based on your follower ratio. Following fewer people not only makes you look like a cool kid, it helps you avoid seemingly arbitrary limits on growing your network.

Be ruthless about purging people from your list of people you follow.

If you can’t understand why your organization would follow a person simply by looking at their bio, unfollow them. You can always start following them again if it’s clear why they’re a relevant addition to your Twitter feed. You don’t want to sit at the helm of a Twitter feed that’s following a bunch of random friends of the previous social media manager, and that’s often what you’re dealing with.

Make lists! Make lots and lots of lists!

Rather than adding everyone you’re interested in keeping track of to your feed, curate lists — both public and private — that help you organize the folks you need to keep up with. Use public lists as a way to market your business. Use private lists as a way to keep tabs on competitors, potential clients, sales targets, etc.

Clear out any sales targets right away.

Not everyone understands the concept of private Twitter lists, so you might inherit a Twitter account that’s following sales prospects. This is a disaster! Not only can your competitors see who you’re going after, you run the risk of looking like amateur hour when it comes to successfully using social media to drive sales. Immediately unfollow those prospects and add them to a private list. It’ll clean out your feed and make you look more professional.

Anyone can view the people you follow, so design a curated list.

Remember that anyone can view the list of people you follow on Twitter, so curating a highly relevant list of people and organizations makes you look good, flags you as a resource within your industry, and gives people more reason to follow you — because they can easily understand the circles you move in and how those circles relate to their own goals on Twitter.

Curate your feed with an eye toward handing it over one day.

Remember, someone might be inheriting your social feeds one day. It may be your replacement, but it might also be an intern or someone you’ll directly manage one day. Curate your feeds, including your public and private lists, in a way that doesn’t require a lot of outside explanation. Give lists appropriate internal titles, like “Sales Prospects” and “Friends of the Boss.” Wherever you can, annotate and make clear your intentions as you build your network.

Concerns You Might Have About a Twitter Purge

Will people see that I unfollowed them?

Some will, if they have unfollow alerts set up through a third-party application, and that’s okay. They’ll get over the hurt and the pain by the end of the work day.

What if this person is an organizational VIP, and I offend them by unfollowing them?

Maybe you’ll hear about it, in which case, you can explain the situation and follow them again. Now you at least know who they are! Keep in mind: a VIP to one person isn’t a VIP to someone else. You’re curating your feed so that you can manage it — because that’s your job! It’s okay to be ruthless.

One note on this: it might work to ask your boss to make a list of sacred cows before you start your Twitter purge. Anyone not on the list is free to hit the chopping block!

What if I lose a bunch of followers because of this?

You might lose some, but it’s not likely that you will lose a lot. Most people don’t pay attention to the people who unfollow them, as Twitter requires a third-party application to be able to do so. Even fewer people retaliate by unfollowing people who unfollow them.

In all, the most important thing when you’re running an organization’s Twitter feed is to curate that feed in a way that makes it easy for you to manage. If you understand what’s happening on your social feeds, you’re so much more likely to engage with a community on Twitter. And that’s a win-win for both you and the business.

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Mightybytes is a full-service digital agency in Chicago and a certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest or fill out our contact form.