You and ‘SuperJenn’ were once pretty good friends, online. But one day you logged in and noticed that she’d axed you from her friends list. Shocked at first, you thought it must be some kind of accident. But after a few moments of soul searching… you realize that you probably over-engaged in one of the 11 behavioral triggers that can cause people to drop friends online.
It’s okay to share some trivial details of your life – but live-blogging your lunch, alerting the world you’re at the post office, or saying “Good morning, Facebook Friends!” increases the noise and doesn’t interest most people – especially those who don’t know you in real life.
Ask yourself before sharing: Who will be interested? What entertainment or value will people get if I broadcast this?
Narcissism is an excessive interest in oneself and one’s appearance. You see it online when people blog about themselves constantly, preen over their own pictures, and not-so-subtly seek admiration and attention. Some celebs get away with it, but many people will find it plain annoying.
Ask yourself: Will people think this is vain or self-centered? Should I lavish attention on someone else instead?
If you’ve got a blog that’s dying for comments, some classes you teach, or you need new clients – it’s okay to let people know about it in moderation. Some have suggested the 90-10 rule, where you aim for 90% of your updates be insightful and helpful to others, and only 10% be directly beneficial to you. Social marketer Marty Weintraub says his company drops one promotional link for every 25 useful links they share.
Ask yourself: Can this wait a few days?
4. Pushing an Agenda
Maybe you’re really passionate about solar energy. Or a killer rock band. Or you think marijuana should be legalized. Sharing this kind of legitimate buzz is totally acceptable in social media, but if people begin think you’re an agenda pusher more than a person – they’ll give you the cold shoulder.
Ask yourself: Have I been talking about this to much? Could I strengthen a relationship by helping to promote a friend’s cause instead?
Negativity usually detracts from your status. The only time negativity can win you points is when you’re the first one to complain about something that’s starting to irk other people, also. But if you’re late to complain, or your negative opinions don’t resonate with a majority of people – they’ll see you as a downer, a dark cloud (or dead pixel) on their pretty screen. And they’ll be much more inclined click the “remove friend” button.
Ask yourself: Do I need to share this at all? Can I add a humorous twist or useful tip about this negative situation?
6. Lack of Reciprocity
“I just think it’s rude not to follow people who follow you,” says freelance writer @DorianDavis. Although many people staunchly reserve their right to follow only people they know or find interesting, an increasing number of people think it’s polite to follow back – seeing celebs and people who don’t follow back as elitist snubs who violate the law of Twitter reciprocity. There are now enough tools to filter you Twitter & Facebook updates + Digg submissions that allow you to follow a lot of people without losing your closest friends’ content in the shuffle – if you choose the ‘follow everyone’ route.
Reciprocity also means conversing with your followers, rather than just collecting them like baseball cards.
Ask yourself: How’s my social media karma? Am I missing out on important conversations and insights by not following people back?
7. Politics & Religion
If you single out any specific political party or religion, you’ll lose followers. That means: No Obama. No Republican. No Christian, No Jewish, No Buddhist, No abortion / gun control / gay rights or Gaza. Rob says the only safe way to vent about politics is to speak in generalities, and to call out both sides on an issue (i.e., “Both the Democrats and Republicans are are totally missing the boat with their economic bailout plans.”)
Ask yourself: Am I prepared to lose followers or score “negative points” by talking about religion or politics (no matter how carefully I say it)? Is it worth it?
It’s okay to re-tweet interesting stuff – and to post old links occasionally. But word travels fast online… plus, some people are snobs about smoking nothing but the latest and greatest digital info-crack. And if you ReTweet heavily or blog “I read this great article“-type of posts too much, you become seen as an echo that’s safe to ignore.
Fresh links and original perspectives will get you bonus points.
Ask yourself: Do most people already know about this? What value or perspective will I add by sharing it again?
Some people will drop 50 interesting links a day, 7 or 8 of them in a row. If someone is new to a social site and doesn’t have hundreds of friends, then your information updates can be overwhelming and seem disproportionate. Don’t dominate the data-stream or conversation!
Ask yourself: Have I talked / tagged / tweeted / text’ed too much, today? Should I spend more time listening what other people have to say?
If you live an elite lifestyle filled with conferences, first class flights to wine-n-dine foreign CEOs, luxury yachts and hot babes – and you brag about it online – it can make people jealous and feel distant from you. A majority of peeps online are stuck in an office somewhere, have screaming kids to feed, or worry how they’re gonna cover rent this month. They might be tempted to unfollow you:
Ask yourself: Will sharing this make people feel jealous or distant from me? Is there anything more humble or universal I could say?
11. Direct Hostility or Attack
A hostile attack is the quickest way destroy a relationship with someone. But it can also damage your own reputation by branding yourself as a temperamental bully. Some people will drop you in advance, to avoid the risk of possibly getting on your bad side. Others will see your attack as an invitation to scrutinize your own behavior and criticize you back. In social media land… we live in transparent glass houses, our neighborhoods are filled with voyeurs, and any stones we throw go on your permanent digital record. Think twice before stomping someone!
Ask yourself: Is it really, really worth it? When will burning this bridge gonna come back to haunt me?
Do you agree or disagree with any of these unfollow triggers? Did I leave an important one off the list?
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Brett Borders, the author of this article, is a professional copywriter who specializes in increasing website sales and signup rates. I'm available now to write for your website and optimize it for maximum sales and profits. Please contact me now for a free consultation.