My Social media strategy’s Shawshank shaming

I got an email today titled “James’s twitter strategy”. Inside the email it only said: “Attached Screenshot for you to consider. Best, Andy [Dufresne].”

The screen shot was this:

You see? “Pathetic mate”. Andy thinks my new genius plan was to orchestrate having more people following me than I followed. New strategy – boom. The General idea so it probably seemed was to look better, get more Klout and rise up the influencer rankings to world domination. Next stop, Zoella’s next launch party and a blue tick!

Awks. I wish it were that simple. Although, I see how it looks…not good, Andy, not good.

The 4chan-esque email from said anon [but is it an anon because Andy called me ‘mate'? Ha.] social media crusader definitely gave me food for thought, though. It’s a foghorn of a lesson in social media learned. It’s also that time when someone feels so strongly about the need to call you out on a slight, they make up an email, shop a picture and send it in.

Where did it come from? We’re unlikely to learn who Andy is. He [or she] has made their bed. Anon. They may well read this and reply, or just cackle into a keyboard – lols achieved. I get to just be me, which is probably a bit nicer.

But it’s kinda my fault – you can see I’ve unfollowed a bunch of folks. I didn’t make Anon slightly-troll me by email. Anon probably already disliked my tone or how I do things. That sucks, but it happens. I did inadvertently fan the flames, though.

For a long time now I’ve followed people back who followed me – not everyone, but accounts that looked vaguely real. So about a week and a bit ago, I unfollowed about 1.5k accounts. Then I tweeted something (which in hindsight only fuelled Andy’s urge to email his neat takedown.) I tweeted that I’d changed my twitter “strategy”. Oh, earth, swallow my blushing self up. It sounds so jerk, in hindsight. I have a strategy? I’m one of those… almost.

And it must have seemed that way, as Andy seems to be calling me out for it. That mentality would be pathetic, I guess. My intention was then to spend the next couple weeks going through my followers and individually engaging and r-following based on a new basic rule — i’ve been doing that. Following count will creep and maybe charge up again. It’s not the ratio between the two that was the issue!

It’s strange when someone takes the time to email this kind of ridicule to you and yet does so without telling you who they are. Were they motivated by anger, resentment or just saw an ego in the ether and wanted to make a point? Either way, I guess the effort deserves consideration. It clearly took them some time to formulate their sentiment.

To be honest, I think there are three mistakes on my part. The first is that I called a way to use Twitter a “strategy” in a tweet. It sounded more contrived then it probably was. The second is that I actually said anything at all. It’s an example of what not to do. I guess I didn’t think it would irk anyone. I feel really bad that unfollowing people could cause such ill-feeling. I guess pointing out I’d done it seemed mean.

The third mistake is trickier. Do you know, I was actually following back everyone who followed me pretty much – out of politeness, I guess. I hadn’t ever really considered what that looked like after a year and a half or what effect it would have on my twitter.

Andy has now made me think further. What are the follow back rules for un-celeby types? And what is the inflection point where follows are ignored by the person tweeting? Does @jack even notice or care you follow him enough to consider following you back? Does this follow back etiquette I’ve been seemingly called-out on apply to other mediums, too? If I read your blog, and comment – if you have less than five thousand twitter followers – should you comment back, or take the time to read one of my blogs and comment back? Surely not. Surely that’s a mad world. But if that’s what you’ve done and then you stop – is it that which is perceivable as pathetic?

I didn’t mean to project ego. We all have them, though. I honestly feel chuffed even one person follows me – and I love twitter for the range of media and opinions you can read and debate with. I could get lost in it, and do. But a blue tick is never going to happen for me. If you’re on social media for that, you’re a full timer or you’ve already nailed your day job. Me, I’m still working on it.

It was silly for me not to have created some rules to keep the experience valid, relevant and manageable. And it created a rod for my own back. There are bots out there that look for folks like the old twitter me – a guaranteed follow back. And I genuinely thought that’s what had happened – and it meant the rate of random accounts following me was starting to increase. I still followed lots back… someone from Minnesota? Yep.

By unfollowing a bunch of accounts I suspected weren’t really following me for my tweets – they were getting my follow for them – I fully expected to shed followers! And have, 60+ and counting…sometimes you gotta take a loss to get to the right place. The opposite of some master plan to look good – it was a bit of a fresh start.

Andy might suggest they unfollowed me because i’m the guy that had a fix to look good and [seemingly] smugly publicised it – lauding it in the face of the unfollowed who still followed me. They saw that and thought what he thinks: pathetic. Maybe.

Then again, maybe you should follow someone without expecting anything back. Giving a follow is exactly that. It’s one way. People should follow who they want, not for follow backs. I follow some people I would love to follow me – they don’t. That’s life, no offence meant and none taken.

But the fact remains having a strategy [call it what you will] is better than not. Because in the not-version, it kinda ruined my twitter experience. It meant my timeline was random and almost impossible to read. The stuff I like and need to see for work was getting lost amongst random stuff, rage and retweets. It’s a fine line to tread but I decided to spend a couple hours getting back to basics and cleaning it all up. Being polite was no longer an option.

There’s no hard and fast rule to social media etiquette – I will try to stick to following people or media outlets with aligned interests to my own, other founders, or those who are personal contacts. Is that not reasonable?

I still feel bad, though! Did I unfollow ‘Andy’? I guess if I was unfollowed by someone I would appreciate/notice had followed me, be it a peer or professional I respected, it would pinch if I was still duly following them and they made it clear I was expendable to their social media experience. Ouch.

I’m really gutted “Andy” got so upset by this. I wish the real Andy just emailed me as an actual person. That I could respect.

Whilst I’ve thought about this and realised I probably didn’t handle the process correctly – and some people I followed who follow me will be like “huh?” – I definitely will remember the case study.

Sometimes you get a bit of mud thrown at you for your opinions or behaviour. You’d be remiss not reflect and see if you could have done more to remove their urge to chuck it. All too often you probably could. Hate-trolling aside, this kind of [ish] trolling by “Andy” is inoffensive, because it’s insightful.

For Andy, though, I hope this is a rarity rather than a norm. It’s best to just focus on being the best person you can be, as random anonymous messages are just another yard down the slippery slope to the dark side. There aren’t any blue ticks for those types of strategies.