You know what used to be a key Twitter “growth hack”? Following a heap of people, giving it a few days to see who follows you back, then unfollowing them all en masse. Rinse and repeat a couple of times per week, and you’ll be on the fast track to thousands of followers.
Those followers, of course, likely aren’t engaged – they likely don’t care what you’re tweeting about, who you are, what you have to say, etc. But who cares when you can show off your massive Twitter following? And even today, there are still many business owners and leaders who would be willing to part with large sums of money to be educated on Twitter “strategy” by the latest guru who crosses their inbox touting his or her skills in amassing a huge Twitter “audience”.
But it’s false, its a facade. And over time, as social media becomes more ingrained into everyday business culture, and as digital literacy is also becoming more robust, people are learning that there’s more to Twitter, and every social platform, than building out vanity metrics.
That’s why this new Twitter update is so good.
Up till now, users have been able to follow up to a 1,000 accounts per day – though that limit does vary depending on how many profiles also follow you. Now, Twitter is more than halving it, which may be something of an annoyance for spammers and those using automated third-party tools to artificially inflate their presence. But for everyone else, it’ll be a much welcome change. Now, you’ll see fewer of those same profiles showing up in your notifications every few weeks, who’ve once again followed you because you didn’t follow back.
The move is the latest in Twitter’s ongoing efforts to rid its platform of misuse. Last July, Twitter implemented a range of new API restrictions to impede the use of bots for artificial tweet engagement, which it ramped up again just recently, cutting off access entirely to a range of well-known third-party apps. Even before that, between April and June last year, Twitter says that it shut down more than 143,000 apps for similar usage violations, which the company has sought to eliminate in response to concerns about social media misuse and user manipulation.
The move also aligns with Twitter’s wider reassessment of the value of the metrics it displays. Last November, during an event in India, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that follower counts on the platform were ‘meaningless’ and hinted that they may look to de-emphasize them in future. The only official update Twitter’s implemented on this front thus far is to make the font of the follower and following counts smaller on iOS, but it might also shift them aside completely – as they’ve done with Likes and Re-Tweets within the twttr beta test app.
It’s interesting to see Twitter moving away from its popularity focus, though it makes sense, given the growth of messaging apps and similar platforms which don’t make audience size a priority. Arguably, the quality of connection in those apps is improved as a result, while it may also lessen the need for algorithm intervention, as users feel less pressure to boost their perceived presence, and therefore don’t end up crowding their following stream with accounts they actually have little interest in.
If your go-to Twitter “strategy” revolves around following many many people and hoping they follow back, your model just took a hit. Maybe time to re-assess your processes.