Lessons from unfollowing inactive Twitter accounts

Ross Hall

July 27, 2021
(Updated on August 5, 2021)

Constructivism inspired illustration about unfollowing inactive Twitter accounts

Over the past few days I’ve been cleaning up my Twitter profile. One change is a clear-out of the people I follow: I’ve been unfollowing accounts that are no longer active. What’s the point of following someone who said nothing in the past 3 months? Or five years?

Long ago Twitter blocked tools that would automatically unfollow, so I’ve been going through the 700+ inactive accounts by hand. Thankfully there’s Circleboom to do the heavy lifting for me and pick out the potentially dead accounts. This is what I found.

There are a lot of inactive accounts

At the start of July 2021, I followed about 1,600 accounts. Of these more than half hadn’t tweeted in the past 30 days. You could put this down to the “Covid effect” with people turning away from the platform as they’re furloughed, ill or passed. However, that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as the pace at which accounts became inactive seems to be relatively steady.

That said, more than a third of accounts I followed hadn’t tweeted in over a year. The oldest inactive account last tweeted over 2,800 days (8 years) before I removed them.

Extrapolated over my followers, that makes my potential audience about a half the size I think it is before I factor in people who’ve muted me, are casual users and so on.

Inactive accounts can be quite large

Some of the inactive accounts I removed had five and six-figure follower counts. Several had 500,000+ followers, many were actively tweeting before they simply vanished.

The only correlation I thought I’d found on my dip-check was interacting with other people’s tweets stopped 2-3 weeks before they went inactive. The accounts that did this appeared to schedule tweets in advance, so my assumption is they gave up and let the queue run down.

“Social Media Experts”

It transpired I followed a lot of so-called “Social Media Experts”. These got particular attention, as I was curious to know if they were still active elsewhere. My theory was they’d adopted a new account to fit in with a change in branding.

About half the inactive “experts” and “agencies” I dip-checked had vanished completely. The other half still had websites, and some were active on other channels. All of them linked to their inactive Twitter account. Maybe they hoped no one would notice?

Big lesson here is to check your potential SME is walking-the-walk with their own accounts.

Reach out

If there are accounts you used to interact with often, or whose tweets you enjoyed, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask if they’re OK. I found a couple who were just taking a break, or who were fine but not using Twitter at the moment for other reasons. They got whitelisted so I know not to remove them next time.

Be ready for some static to come your way though. One account I reached out to blocked me, another seemed to think I was asking them on a date and gave me short-shrift for it. The latter I still haven’t got my head around.

If you’re going on holiday, schedule tweets

A word to the wise if you decide to take a Twitter Break. Circleboom and other tools set a threshold around 30 days to flag your account as inactive. There’s no harm in scheduling tweets to go out while you’re away, even if you’re not going to respond to any likes, comments or retweets for a while. It’ll help signal to those clearing up their accounts you’re planning on coming back.

How frequently is up to you, although keep in mind the longer you leave it, the harder it’ll be to reconnect with followers.

Bottom line

My account is a little slimmer and more focused. I’m still working my way through the inactive accounts and keeping an eye out for new ones. It’s been a useful exercise to go through these accounts and remove those no longer tweeting. I recommend doing it every few months, just to see who’s still around.

I'm Ross, a digital editorial designer and content creator from the UK now living in Japan. I help growing companies plan, source, produce and promote a range of content. Find out more

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