Every 3 Months, I Unfollow Everyone on Twitter


Twitter is one of the most underutilized learning tools available. Every second, there are 6,000 tweets about life, experiences, news, and learnings. Learning changes every time we are presented with new information and Twitter holds massive amounts.

Over a year ago, I started to analyze the information that I was taking in on Twitter. I was following a few lingering friends from high school, random people from college, co-workers, and a few successful C-levels. My Twitter feed was full of ordinary information.

My Twitter feed was like me.

But what was I learning?

  • That Search Engine Journal had another great article on SEO?
  • That my friend’s husband had a awesome car?
  • That Search Engine Watch had another great article on PPC that was different than Search Engine Journal?

My knowledge was limited by the people I was following.

One day, I was browsing Twitter, and I found a tool to analyze my tweets. Being a data nerd, I jumped in. After checking the results, one stat stuck out: “@elioverbey retweeted 71% men and 29% women.”

eek.

I had broken Twitter.

Based on the stark results above, I knew I probably had more unbalanced issues. The tool didn’t analyze my followers – just my tweets – so I went and did that myself. After a quick analysis, I realized I was following mostly 25-44 year olds with advanced degrees.

I was following me. How could I be learning the best information if I was only following me? And the even scarier thought:

What if I was learning wrong information? What if I could be learning more?

I use Twitter solely to learn business practices. I quickly realized that the people I was following were only teaching me the stuff I knew. What if there were better articles for SEO, PPC, digital? And what if I had to get out the “normal” circle to find it?

At that point, I decided Twitter would no longer be for connecting with friends, but as a specific learning tool. If I’m wasting time on Twitter, I will be on Twitter to learn.

I picked someone and followed everyone they followed.

I changed it up. I decided to unfollow everyone.

Then, I’d pick someone I respected in business and follow everyone they follow for 2-3 months. I don’t have many requirements except that they must have 5k followers, must not follow more than 500 , and must be known for being smart (I’m not going to follow the person who RTs many articles with 10k+ RTs from Search Engine Journal (or “Big name pub”). I want to follow the person who finds the gems: those content pieces that teach you things you had no idea about).

Finally, they must work within marketing in some capacity.

I understand this strategy has it’s own pros and cons:

Pros

  • I have the unique ability to learn what someone I respect is learning. I can learn all that Rand Fishkin or Wil Reynolds is learning on Twitter – perhaps before him. That’s handy, right?
  • I can learn various disciplines within marketing. Let’s leave the SEO crowd behind and go hang out with some PPCers.
  • This keeps me from randomly picking people to try and balance my followers.
  • On Twitter, you miss most “replies” and only see one-off tweets. However, if you follow everyone someone else follows, you see the full story.

Cons

  • The person I pick – they probably follow people just like them. However, if I pick someone completely different than myself, I am bound to learn more.
  • They could follow people that are really annoying? Yep, but it’s all part of learning.

One catch: I’d only follow the business professionals [read the Bios] (avoiding their personal contacts).

With that in mind, I’ve done this three times. I’ve followed everyone Wil Reynolds (Founder, Seer Interactive) and Martin MacDonald (Head of SEO, Orbitz) follow. Currently following Stephanie Chang (Etsy).

What have I learned?

That I have a lot to learn. All are outstanding.

Wil uses Twitter to communicate. He is constantly engaging with users on Twitter (which I respect). I’ve learned tons on SEO, Paid, and Growth. Wil leads Seer (SEO, PPC, & Analytics company).

Apart from learning about work, Wil also reminds me to think outside of myself:

(Wil slept outside to raise money for homeless youth).

Martin MacDonald is a smart guy (I did catch him over the holidays when he was on a Twitter sabbatical).

With Martin, I quickly realized everyone in SEO /Internet Marketing follows the same people.. It’s great that there is such a tight circle, but also eye opening to see if we can learn from others.

Some examples that everyone seems to follow: Alan Bleiweiss, Ross Hudgens, Duane Forrester, Rand Fiskin, Larry Kim (PPC), Danny Sullivan, Greg Boser, Dr. Pete, Cyrus Shepard, Ian Lurie, John Doherty, Will Critchlow, etc..

Don’t get me wrong: These are some great people. But how will you ever find the next Rand Fishkin if you follow the same people? What about the next great Aleyda Solis?

Most Importantly: How will you get ahead of every digital marketer out there if you are all consuming the same information?

To that end, I change it up.

Currently Following:

Stephanie Chang (Etsy). If you’re in SEO, and wanting to learn, Stephanie if a excellent person to follow (also, a great person to break up the monotony from above). I just started following in January, so I don’t have a summary yet.

What’s Next?

One of the skills I’ve always desired to attain is the ability to be self-aware. I want to know my strengths only if balanced with my weaknesses. This strategy on Twitter has kept me learning: I’ve quickly learned there are unlimited things to learn and millions of people to learn from. Every day I see a new article about some digital media practice that I did not know before.

Who’s next? Aleyda Solis and Anum Hussain. Then Ross Hudgens.