In 2014, Twitter changed. Ever since, it’s been possible to do something which at face value sounds insane. It’s been possible to pretend to follow people on Twitter. It takes three clicks. Click Follow, click the User Actions cog, click Mute. Job done; you’re pretending to follow someone.
Of course, we all know why, despite the apparent insanity of the notion, pretending to follow Twitter users makes sense. You feasibly prompt them to follow you in response, but without the often considerable annoyance of their worthless clutter on your timeline. So, all good then? Well, not really, no. It’s a fact of life that others will do unto you, what you do unto them. And that, in short, means anyone can, and if need be will, pretend to follow you on Twitter too.
So how do you protect yourself from being instantly muted?… Here’s a list of common mistakes that will ensure a high proportion of those who click your Follow button, will also instantly put you on mute. And in the firmest traditions of Spinal Tap, the list goes up to 11…
When you see in your #analytics that someone clicked to your profile from a tweet, don't get too excited. Chances are they were muting you.—
Bob Leggitt (@PlanetBotch) March 22, 2015
TWO MOST RECENT TWEETS SUGGEST SPAM
Your two most recent Tweets are an incredibly important reference. If the people who follow you inspect your profile, and your two most recent Tweets (the ones they see first) are worthless, you can expect them to look no further and simply click Mute.
Particular turn-offs include bot-like, repetitive Tweets with bit.ly, ow.ly or other mechanically shortened links, famous quotes, repetitive mentions, secondhand news (with “via @username” in each tweet), etc. Anything that looks like it’s come from a bot, essentially. If people perceive from the top of your profile that you treat your followers like morons or just want to sell something, it’s most unlikely they’ll want to see your Tweets.
ASTRONOMICAL TWEET COUNT
If you’ve posted tens of thousands of Tweets (including Retweets, which will also show in your total), then provided you’re not documenting historically significant info, consider getting hold of an app and deleting some. No one is going to read ninety thousand messages, so if it’s all just RTs and automated junk, there’s no point in most of it being there. All that vast Tweet count does is persuades potential new followers that you Tweet too much, and that if they don’t put you straight onto mute, you’ll take over their precious timeline.
However, you should consider whether any of your old Tweets might be appearing on Google and referring surfers to your account from the search engines. Viral Tweets with high levels of engagement will be the likely candidates, and a good indicator that you’re appearing prominently in search will be a steady and predictable stream of new follows without any sign of where they’re coming from.
Viral Tweets may also have SEO value if they incorporate links to your own website, so do think carefully before deleting. But by and large, experienced users will spot a very high Tweet count, and unless there’s an exceptionally good reason not to, they’ll click Mute.
TOO MANY RETWEETS
Often, it’s Retweets that create astronomical Tweet totals, so stop doing them unless you really think each specific case will add value. Remember, Twitter is about the audience, and no audience wants to wade through masses of secondhand crap to find what you have to say. You should only Retweet when you specifically feel the message makes a worthy and new contribution to your feed.
Don’t pay any attention to old-school advice stating that you should keep your account as active as possible, using Retweets to maintain constant activity. That old chestnut was cut stone-dead as soon as the Mute button arrived. True, people might unfollow you if you’re inactive for over a month, but the few who do will be massively outnumbered by the amount who’ll mute you immediately because your content is buried under endless Retweets.
In 2014, Twitter introduced the Mute button. Now it's time for them to finish the job, with this automated message... http://t.co/gfHQUK2ht5—
Bob Leggitt (@PlanetBotch) February 28, 2015
“BUY MY SHIT!”
Okay, so you want to sell your shit. That’s fine. But selling in the 21st century has progressed beyond chucking desperate pitches into everyone’s face before you’ve even introduced yourself. If your bio and/or most recent Tweets say: “Buy my book!”, or “Buy my weight loss plan!”, you’re going to get muted by A LOT of new followers. If people want to buy stuff they’ll go to eBay or Amazon – not Twitter.
The art of modern selling is in engagement. Once you have that, you can sell. But you won’t garner engagement if you’re hitting everyone with “Buy my shit!” before they’ve even found out who you are.
Two of the most destructive words you can use on any Twitter account. “Check out my Soundcloud!”, “Check out my ReverbNation!”, “Check out my Instagram!”, “Check out my YouTube!” – “Check my shit, Like my shit, subscribe to my shit… blah blah blah.”…
If just one person in the world used this annoyingly unimaginative method of promotion it would be bad. The fact that millions use it makes it excruciating. If you try to use Twitter as a megaphone, and people have access to your battery box, you can expect them to remove your batteries without second thought. The Mute button gives people access to your battery box.
If you want to promote content, give people a reason and a motivation to take an interest. “Check out this!… Check out that!…” is not a reason, or a motivation.
Don’t kid yourself. Automation might build you a high follower count, but does it captivate anyone’s attention? No. Look at a typical automated Twitter account and measure the number of Faves, Retweets and Replies against the actual total of ‘followers’. Even when the accounts have follower counts in the tens of thousands, virtually none of the Tweets get any reaction. Why? Because no one’s reading. People aren’t stupid. What they’ll follow on Twitter, and what they’re prepared to waste their time actually looking at, are two very different things.
“ME ME ME!”
Everyone knows social media is about begging for attention, but if you’re too blatant about doing it, you contradict other people’s egotistical needs. What people will be asking themselves when they follow you is: “How likely is this person to pay attention to me?” If you’re only shouting about yourself, you’re unlikely to pay attention to others, so you’re effectively of no use to them. The result? They’ll blank you out. Because Twitter doesn’t reveal who’s put whom onto mute, there’s a big issue surrounding SUSPECTED muting. If you only seem interested in yourself, people will SUSPECT you of muting them, and they, rest assured, will mute you in return.
Keep your emphasis on the interests of other people. In order for people to read you, there has to be something for them in what you’re saying.
Have you checked the image thumbnail display on your profile page? Does the same image come up more than once? It’s something you may not have noticed, but potential new followers will probably clock it straight away. And if the same image appears more than once, it will only mean one thing to them: SPAMMER. Sorry, two things… SPAMMER, and MUTE.
Even if you’re varying the text, don’t keep Tweeting the same image(s). It’s massively lame, and insulting to the intelligence of your followers.
EGG ON FACE
Still got the default egg for an avatar? D’you know what that means? It means you can’t be bothered. And if you can’t be bothered with the simple task of uploading a personal avatar, are you going to be bothered to post interesting Tweets. Well, possibly, but most people will think not. Therefore, an egg profile pic may well get you instantly muted. You don’t have to replace the egg with a picture of yourself if you want to maintain your privacy. But don’t just leave the egg there, because the message it sends out is: “Zero effort. Not worth reading.”
FOLLOWING IRRELEVANT ACCOUNTS
You should avoid following irrelevant accounts in a bid for followbacks. It’s ridiculous for, say, a diehard football enthusiast to follow members of a knitting circle and expect them to show interest. If any of them do follow back (and people often will, out of politeness), they’re most unlikely to want an incessant feed of football Tweets infiltrating their timelines. If you follow accounts at random in the hope of netting followbacks, be prepared for a high proportion of your followers to put you on mute.
What all Twitter users must now realise is that follows are no longer engineered by social duty and the fear of losing audience. The only thing that controls your real follow statistic in 2015 is whether or not anyone wants to read or look at what you tweet. Therefore, the old passive attitude of assuming followers will read by default, no longer applies. Today, you have to dump that passive approach and go out to impress. Your account has to look like it has value, your Tweets have to have value, and you absolutely MUST persuade new followers that you’re a human being – not some repetitive robot.
Just as if you’re speaking in front of a live audience, you have to now treat Twitter like it matters what you say, and it matters what your words and media mean to other people. You wouldn’t turn up at a live event to deliver a speech, plug in a TV set, loop a video of adverts for two hours, sit there with your feet up, and expect to have a full room by the end of it. That’s just not how engaging people works in the real world. You have to make an effort, you have to be you, and you have to give people something that’s worthy of their time. Fail to observe this inevitability on Twitter, and you absolutely WILL be muted.