Fake following in social media: Yay or Nay?

In the world of social media, establishing, engaging, maintaining and growing your follower base is crucial for any type of success. We use a variety of social networking sites, tools, and platforms to establish and broadcast to our potential and existing follower base. Power in numbers often dictates and dominates the said outcomes. We work hard to establish a manageable and measurable following to listening ratio.

Notification emails are constantly bombarding our inboxes. I enjoy getting notification emails. It tells me right away that someone has expressed shared interests in me, and is now following me on one of the various social networking sites. Notifications serve as a type of positive reinforcement.

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I think people should also be notified when someone unsubscribes from them. My opinion of this, is not a widely shared one. When I mentioned this on FriendFeed, the majority of people who commented are against unfollower notifications. While I can see both sides of the debate, I feel this has opened up the door for misconceptions, because people only see the positive. Sometimes a reality check is not so bad. Realizing that there is not always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow can be a good thing. I also realize that feelings can be hurt by the receiving end of that notification. We are all grown adults. Would such a notification leave your feelings crushed? Maybe my threshold and tolerance level differs from most, but it would not bother me as much as others.

On FriendFeed, I recently started to manage and trim my subscription list. In the process of doing this, I found a few members had unsubscribed from my feed. I spent no longer then 10 seconds asking why and moved on. I even checked those members’ feeds to see if they still contributed any value to me. It did not affect me one way or another. Had they contributed  value or substance to me, I would reconsider not unsubscribing from them. Had I got an unfollow notification, I could of used this as feedback to increase the quality of my postings and learn what caused that individual to unfollow me. Then there are the people who play the numbers game. Their goal is to have the following/follower field even on both sides. Notifications would serve for them as an instant friends list degreaser.

People are going to find out eventually one way or another that you have unsubscribed from them.There are tools that have been created precisely just for this reason. Felix created the FriendVenn which allows you to find members who have unsubscribed from you on FriendFeed. For finding members on Twitter who have unsubscribed from you, there is a new tool in beta called Tweepletwak.

Here is Ed Kohler

While there are certainly people who could care less about this, working under the mindset of, “I’ll tweet about whatever I want and if people don’t want to follow me, that’s fine with me,” there are also people who do care about their followers more than themselves. These are people who are interested in building large, valuable, audiences who would appreciate knowing when they’re pissing people off with overly offensive tweets or burning out their followers with heavy tweet volumes. Unfollow notifications would provide this information.

If that is to harsh of a method, you can always utilize the new fake following feature on FriendFeed.

On the beta FriendFeed you can subscribe to someone, but not see their updates by removing them off your home feed. Using this method makes it appear like you are paying attention to them, when you are really not. I do not see the need for this. If you or the other person  is not contributing, commenting, sharing or liking in a two way fashion, then in effect you or they have already silently unsubscribed. Why fake it, pull the trigger already or go the silent kill route.

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Merlin Mann’s proposal for a pause button is an interesting idea.

Any application that lets you “friend,” “follow,” or otherwise observe another user should include a prominent (and silent) “PAUSE” button.

I think users of apps like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Delicious, and, yes, FriendFeed, would benefit from an easy and undramatic way to take a little break from a “friend” — without inducing the grand mal meltdown that “unfriending” causes the web’s more delicately-composed publishers.

What is the appropriate level of unfollowing someone, silent kill, notification emails, fake following, pause button?


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  • http://www.sheysmith.com Shey

    Ah so that's how its done. I still wouldn't do it — it's pretty cheap, IMO.

  • http://www.sweetsopweb.com Shey

    Ah so that’s how its done. I still wouldn’t do it — it’s pretty cheap, IMO.

  • http://www.profy.com/ Svetlana Gladkova

    Great post, you address the issue I am very much concerned about myself. I do feel this is one functionality of FriendFeed beta that is not actually needed since it seems to encourage abuse in this world where too many users might follow thousands of people to get some hundreds following them as well. Really, I believe the lists are already enough to keep the updates consumption balanced and further cleaning of the home feed is way too much.

  • http://www.profy.com/ Svetlana Gladkova

    Great post, you address the issue I am very much concerned about myself. I do feel this is one functionality of FriendFeed beta that is not actually needed since it seems to encourage abuse in this world where too many users might follow thousands of people to get some hundreds following them as well. Really, I believe the lists are already enough to keep the updates consumption balanced and further cleaning of the home feed is way too much.

  • http://www.sheysmith.com Shey

    Ah so that's how its done. I still wouldn't do it — it's pretty cheap, IMO.

  • soxgal

    Mike, I think it all depends on what each person is using the service for. Some people may not be interested in quickly growing an audience or having a follower/following base that is reciprocal. Although I disagree with the unfollow notifications, it's because for me that serves no relevant purpose. I can imagine situations where an unfollow notice might be useful to a poster, but if people know that notifications will be sent both for subscribes and unsubscribes it might discourage a greater number of people from ever engaging in the conversation at all.

  • http://www.profy.com/ Svetlana Gladkova

    Great post, you address the issue I am very much concerned about myself. I do feel this is one functionality of FriendFeed beta that is not actually needed since it seems to encourage abuse in this world where too many users might follow thousands of people to get some hundreds following them as well. Really, I believe the lists are already enough to keep the updates consumption balanced and further cleaning of the home feed is way too much.

  • soxgal

    Mike, I think it all depends on what each person is using the service for. Some people may not be interested in quickly growing an audience or having a follower/following base that is reciprocal. Although I disagree with the unfollow notifications, it’s because for me that serves no relevant purpose. I can imagine situations where an unfollow notice might be useful to a poster, but if people know that notifications will be sent both for subscribes and unsubscribes it might discourage a greater number of people from ever engaging in the conversation at all.

  • http://blog.justinkorn.com Justin Korn

    NAY NAY NAY. Specifically for FriendFeed, I've written up how I pick my subscriptions and I stick by it. Subscribe to those that provide you information you are interested in. If someone subscribes to you, do them the favor of checking out their feed, but I don't think you should be obligated to subscribe back.

    A pause feature might be useful, but in the end, I think people would abuse it.

  • http://www.technologyevangelist.com edkohler

    Great write-up. If people don't understand that they're losing their audience they'll never improve the quality of their messages.

  • soxgal

    Mike, I think it all depends on what each person is using the service for. Some people may not be interested in quickly growing an audience or having a follower/following base that is reciprocal. Although I disagree with the unfollow notifications, it's because for me that serves no relevant purpose. I can imagine situations where an unfollow notice might be useful to a poster, but if people know that notifications will be sent both for subscribes and unsubscribes it might discourage a greater number of people from ever engaging in the conversation at all.

  • http://www.justinkorn.com Justin Korn

    NAY NAY NAY. Specifically for FriendFeed, I’ve written up how I pick my subscriptions and I stick by it. Subscribe to those that provide you information you are interested in. If someone subscribes to you, do them the favor of checking out their feed, but I don’t think you should be obligated to subscribe back.

    A pause feature might be useful, but in the end, I think people would abuse it.

  • http://www.technologyevangelist.com edkohler

    Great write-up. If people don’t understand that they’re losing their audience they’ll never improve the quality of their messages.

  • http://www.justinkorn.com justinkorn

    NAY NAY NAY. Specifically for FriendFeed, I've written up how I pick my subscriptions and I stick by it. Subscribe to those that provide you information you are interested in. If someone subscribes to you, do them the favor of checking out their feed, but I don't think you should be obligated to subscribe back.

    A pause feature might be useful, but in the end, I think people would abuse it.

  • http://www.technologyevangelist.com edkohler

    Great write-up. If people don't understand that they're losing their audience they'll never improve the quality of their messages.

  • KarenSwim

    I would love to know when I am being unfollowed. As you noted, I want to provide value to my network. If my posts are missing the mark I want the opportunity to fine tune my messaging. Social media for me is a marketing tool and with all marketing tactics you want to track and measure your results. Would my ego take a temporary hit – yep? However, that does not stand in the way of the value of being able to measure my results.

  • KarenSwim

    I would love to know when I am being unfollowed. As you noted, I want to provide value to my network. If my posts are missing the mark I want the opportunity to fine tune my messaging. Social media for me is a marketing tool and with all marketing tactics you want to track and measure your results. Would my ego take a temporary hit – yep? However, that does not stand in the way of the value of being able to measure my results.

  • KarenSwim

    I would love to know when I am being unfollowed. As you noted, I want to provide value to my network. If my posts are missing the mark I want the opportunity to fine tune my messaging. Social media for me is a marketing tool and with all marketing tactics you want to track and measure your results. Would my ego take a temporary hit – yep? However, that does not stand in the way of the value of being able to measure my results.

  • http://ryanagraves.com/ ryangraves

    While I don't want to be bogged down with unsubscribe notifications it would be nice to see who follows and unfollows in a short period of time. There is a large difference between somebody who follows for a month then decides not to follow and someone who follows for a day and unfollows. Maybe if Twitter let you set your customized period of time between follow and unfollow in order to drive a notification. But we all know Twitter isn't exactly feature rich! Just an idea. For more ideas check out my blog: http://ryanagraves.com

  • http://ryangraves.org Ryan Graves

    While I don’t want to be bogged down with unsubscribe notifications it would be nice to see who follows and unfollows in a short period of time. There is a large difference between somebody who follows for a month then decides not to follow and someone who follows for a day and unfollows. Maybe if Twitter let you set your customized period of time between follow and unfollow in order to drive a notification. But we all know Twitter isn’t exactly feature rich! Just an idea. For more ideas check out my blog: http://ryanagraves.com

  • http://ryanagraves.com/blog/ ryangraves

    While I don't want to be bogged down with unsubscribe notifications it would be nice to see who follows and unfollows in a short period of time. There is a large difference between somebody who follows for a month then decides not to follow and someone who follows for a day and unfollows. Maybe if Twitter let you set your customized period of time between follow and unfollow in order to drive a notification. But we all know Twitter isn't exactly feature rich! Just an idea. For more ideas check out my blog: http://ryanagraves.com

  • http://www.graymatterminute.com/ usegraymatter

    Interesting. I happen to agree with you (and Ed K.). The key differentiator on the debate seems to be in how you view Twitter (business network or personal network)…and likewise with the other online “social” venues. It's when you use it as both business and personal the water starts to get muddy, for me at least.
    Personally, I'd rather focus my following/followers on building a community of people who value what the others in that community tweet (or post, or put on a wall, etc).
    This is also why i try to steer clear of politics and religion on these sites (though I may be among the few who do and sometimes I find it hard to hold my screech…er, tweet in). Those posts can be incredibly divisive and those conversations aren't why I'm engaged in any of those online mediums (though that may be the kind of community/conversations another person may want to find/build).
    I'm still assessing twitter….initially following only a small few…looking for value in their postings. Hoping to provide value in mine. The marketer in me wants to know why a valued follower might decide to unfollow (akin to “listening to your customers”). But if others were to be cautious and selective about who they “allow” to follow them…I may not be able to freely choose to follow some of the high-profile tweeters b/c they might decide my tweets are not valuable.
    It's a circular discussion, I suppose.
    The answer obviously depends upon individual perspective: Is Twitter a tool or a toy?
    Do you mind sifting through your twitterlog of tweets to find the golden eggs?

  • http://www.graymatterminute.com/ usegraymatter

    Interesting. I happen to agree with you (and Ed K.). The key differentiator on the debate seems to be in how you view Twitter (business network or personal network)…and likewise with the other online “social” venues. It’s when you use it as both business and personal the water starts to get muddy, for me at least.
    Personally, I’d rather focus my following/followers on building a community of people who value what the others in that community tweet (or post, or put on a wall, etc).
    This is also why i try to steer clear of politics and religion on these sites (though I may be among the few who do and sometimes I find it hard to hold my screech…er, tweet in). Those posts can be incredibly divisive and those conversations aren’t why I’m engaged in any of those online mediums (though that may be the kind of community/conversations another person may want to find/build).
    I’m still assessing twitter….initially following only a small few…looking for value in their postings. Hoping to provide value in mine. The marketer in me wants to know why a valued follower might decide to unfollow (akin to “listening to your customers”). But if others were to be cautious and selective about who they “allow” to follow them…I may not be able to freely choose to follow some of the high-profile tweeters b/c they might decide my tweets are not valuable.
    It’s a circular discussion, I suppose.
    The answer obviously depends upon individual perspective: Is Twitter a tool or a toy?
    Do you mind sifting through your twitterlog of tweets to find the golden eggs?

  • usegraymatter

    Interesting. I happen to agree with you (and Ed K.). The key differentiator on the debate seems to be in how you view Twitter (business network or personal network)…and likewise with the other online “social” venues. It's when you use it as both business and personal the water starts to get muddy, for me at least.
    Personally, I'd rather focus my following/followers on building a community of people who value what the others in that community tweet (or post, or put on a wall, etc).
    This is also why i try to steer clear of politics and religion on these sites (though I may be among the few who do and sometimes I find it hard to hold my screech…er, tweet in). Those posts can be incredibly divisive and those conversations aren't why I'm engaged in any of those online mediums (though that may be the kind of community/conversations another person may want to find/build).
    I'm still assessing twitter….initially following only a small few…looking for value in their postings. Hoping to provide value in mine. The marketer in me wants to know why a valued follower might decide to unfollow (akin to “listening to your customers”). But if others were to be cautious and selective about who they “allow” to follow them…I may not be able to freely choose to follow some of the high-profile tweeters b/c they might decide my tweets are not valuable.
    It's a circular discussion, I suppose.
    The answer obviously depends upon individual perspective: Is Twitter a tool or a toy?
    Do you mind sifting through your twitterlog of tweets to find the golden eggs?

  • http://www.baliinc.net/domain-search.php Domain Search

    Agree with SoxGal : Some people may not be interested in quickly growing an audience or having a follower/following base that is reciprocal.

  • http://www.baliinc.net/domain-search.php Domain Search

    Agree with SoxGal : Some people may not be interested in quickly growing an audience or having a follower/following base that is reciprocal.

  • http://www.baliinc.net/domain-search.php Domain Search

    Agree with SoxGal : Some people may not be interested in quickly growing an audience or having a follower/following base that is reciprocal.