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.



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.


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?