Seven ways to get unfollowed on Twitter

Steve Ranger's Notebook: Want to keep your Twitter friends happy? Then avoid these pitfalls...

It's easy to lose friends and alienate people on Twitter, says editor Steve Ranger - especially if you insist on committing these seven social media sins.

Even though there are roughly 175 million Twitter accounts in existence it's only possible to follow a tiny fraction of them - say, 300 to 500 - without risking acute information overload. That means Twitter users have to be discriminating about who to follow, and carry out regular pruning sessions to keep it all under control. And that means any of the Twitter crimes below might get you the chop next time somebody decides to have an unfollow Friday.

Now we've not included the obvious crimes - spamming, posting inappropriate content, being an RSS feed in disguise. No, the ones listed here are some of the more subtle crimes you might be committing - and if you want to give your Twitter a high-tech make-over, check out our list of 20 Twitter tools to optimise your tweets, too.

Twitter sins

Are your tweets annoying your followers?Photo: pixelbully

So have you been wondering why your follower list has been going south, rather than north? Here's a list of seven ways you might be irritating your Twitter followers - if you are guilty of any of these, time to give your personal social media policy a rethink.

1. You tweet too little...

If someone is following you on Twitter because they want to hear your opinions and find out what you're up to, and your last tweet was, "Looking forward to New Year. 2007 will be amazing" then expect to get unfollowed pretty quickly. A similar sin - being boring. Surely your life can produce 140 characters of entertainment every so often? If not, you've got bigger problems than people dumping you on Twitter.

2. ...or you tweet too much

Just because someone is interested in you it doesn't mean they want a running commentary on every beat of your heart.

Also, if you tweet 20 times in rapid succession and take over my Twitter feed, you will be classified as one of those unblinking obsessive types who lurk on public transport and harangue tourists. Someone to be avoided.

And don't repeat yourself either. A bit of self-promotion is expected but the tenth time you link to the same mildly amusing post on your blog, people will unfollow.

One fundamental thing to repeat in your head until you understand it: no one cares what you're having for lunch. Unless, that is, you are intending to eat something larger than your head. In which case, supply TwitPic proof.

3. You go off-topic

If people are following you because they have a deep interest in your day job, and you keep tweeting about your kittens and your garden then you are likely to lose friends quickly. Unless your day job is kitten wrangling and gardening - in which case, keep up the good work. Of course, the reverse side of this is that...