One of the elements of Twitter’s Mute function that’s only just beginning to sink in across the wider reaches of the site, is that in practical terms, it’s irreversible. Okay, so in technical terms, after a Follower has muted you, they can feasibly seek out your account and unmute it. But how many are actually going to do that? None. Once a Follower clicks on Mute, that’s it. Unless you proactively do something about it, they’ve silently unfollowed you, for life.
Twitter’s Mute function evokes some unexpected feelings. Much as I vowed that I wouldn’t employ it, I have done in certain instances. I’ll still typically unfollow in preference to muting, because many accounts on Twitter are unpredictable and prone to morphing into something else entirely. One minute you’re following a blogging tips account; the next it’s turned into a “cake decorating advice” account which spends literally all its time tweeting spam links to “Win an iPhone!” con sites.
Accounts like that I’ll always unfollow. You’ve no idea where things are going next, and the thought of being associated with potentially offensive or dangerous (racist, sexist, extremist) accounts puts me off muting. But I’ve still started to use the function in certain instances, and it’s moreish. Mute a few very heavy tweeters, and it can make such a positive difference to your timeline that you want to do it again, and again.
Perhaps the most unexpected sense you get when you start muting is a desire to mute some but not all of an account’s content. Kind of like: “I wish I could mute this account’s auto-spam, but I’d still like to see the person’s own Tweets.” This is a sore point, and it’s why I think Twitter should have taken a tough line on automation rather than trying to get users themselves to push it out through the back door. But the site is what it is, and in truth users should now be gaining the common sense to stop using auto-routines and over-Tweeting.
In the coming months Twitter is going to become a more moderate and much more selective experience. People are not going to read spam when they don’t have to. It’s as simple as that. But the evidence so far is that spammy users are NOT moderating their output. Some clearly don’t get what’s happening at all, and actually appear to be shouting louder, more often.
DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM OF MUTING
So let’s say that in six months’ time you realise (with the help of Twitter’s Analytics page) that you’ve ended up with a Twitter account no one reads. You’ve got 10,000 followers, but each Tweet is getting about 15 views. You know you’ve been mass muted. What do you do?
Well, if things are that bad I’d suggest scrapping the account and starting again. You may be tempted to start from scratch within the same account, because a head start of 10K Followers at least looks impressive to outsiders even if none of the ‘Followers’ are really following you. But remember, if you stick with the same account, you can’t easily regain any of your existing Followers – virtually all of whom have silently unfollowed you.
Mute status is a state of flux. Starting afresh with a new account enables you to get at least some of those Followers back using the same tactics you used when they originally followed you. You have the advantage of knowing who they all are and how you attracted them the first time around. Get as many as possible to follow your new account. This time, though, DON’T SPAM THEM, obviously.
If things are less clear cut it gets complicated. Maybe you know that a lot of Followers have muted you, but a substantial number are, for the moment, potentially still reading. The first, obvious action if you recognise that a large number of Followers have muted you, would be to pinpoint why. Likely causes will be…
- Tweeting too much. Too much of anything is too much.
- Using automated routines. People aren’t stupid. They’re not going to pay attention to a piece of simple software.
- Repetition. Tweeting the same link ten times in a day? Would YOU sit there reading the same thing over and over again?…
- Undesirable content (particularly graphic images of unpleasant things). You may be championing a worthy cause, but if people keep muting you because you constantly throw horror into their faces, it’s counter-productive. The Internet is not like real life. No one has to sit there looking at stuff out of courtesy or because they want to look caring. If they don’t like it, they’ll get rid of it, and then that’s you silenced for good.
- Mismatched interests. Maybe you’re a great guy, but you’re always on about football. If someone thinks you’re a decent bloke but isn’t interested in football, they might mute you.
Above all, though, the biggest problem will be Tweet volume. If you’re only tweeting once or twice a day, unless people take serious exception to a particular Tweet, they’re probably not going to mute you.
Once you’ve recognised the causes, address them. This will almost inevitably involve moderating the number of Tweets you post. Be extreme with this. If you post 100 Tweets a day it’s no use reducing it by ten down to 90 and expecting success. It’s still spam and you’ll still get muted. It’s much better to have two high quality Tweets per day read by 5,000 Followers, than 90 pointless Tweets per day read by just 50.
DO I ATTEMPT TO REGAIN THE FOLLOWERS WHO’VE MUTED ME?
This is the big question. My answer would, in a general sense, be no. Just accept that you’ve been stupid and paid the price for insensitive conduct.
I dare say that quite a few of the people who are going to end up in this situation will consider Direct Messaging everyone with some kind of thinly-veiled motivation for Followers to unmute them. Like: “I’m going to be doing this really interesting incredible thing, but you need to be able to see all my general Tweets in order that you don’t miss it. Make sure you have me on your timeline!…”
Of course, all of this is very hypothetical at the moment because Mute hasn’t been with us long enough for the long-term effects to be clear. But I’d expect a tactic like that to result in more muting. Rather than the muters saying: “Fair enough, I’ll take you off mute”, there’ll be a range of non-muters realising it’s a reference to muting and thinking: “Oh that’s a good idea! Why don’t I mute this account?” Most muters probably won’t admit they’ve muted you anyway, and all mass DM practices are extremely stupid in my opinion.
A more subtle option would be to use something like Storify to egotistically engage (or re-engage) your followers. The idea is a bit manipulative, but it’s got a heck of a lot more chance of working than a mass DM. Storify allows you to collate together people’s Tweets and perhaps eulogise them a little, then automatically tweet each of the people whose work you’ve included, letting them know. It’s quite a similar concept to paper.li (theoretically ego-tripping people into paying attention), but Storify is better, is used by a lot of serious journalists, and unlike paper.li, people don’t (yet) associate it with spam. Storifying people’s Tweets would be a time consuming solution, and you’d have to target it at specific followers (whom you suspect have muted you), but it provides a good excuse to @mention your Followers and get back into their lives if they have you on mute.
The REAL solution, though, is to think of the future NOW. Prevention as opposed to cure. Recognise the implications of muting, and take steps to ensure your Followers don’t do it in the first place. I had to laugh a short while back when I followed a user back, only to be greeted with a ‘welcome’ Tweet basically warning me that if I ever unfollowed he would unfollow me straight away. Some welcome! He’s already on mute for his attitude alone, so I actually have unfollowed him. He just doesn’t know it. But this is a measure of how much the Mute button changes Twitter. You no longer can resort to threats and ‘sharp practices’ to force other people to read stuff they don’t really want to read. We can all now, without consequence, opt to read whatever we like and block out what we don’t want. Only those who recognise that, and make sure they’re well behaved, will prosper in the long term.
Need something more specific? How about 11 Mistakes That Will Immediately Get You Muted on Twitter?