When I interviewed entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki recently, I chatted with him at great lengths about his Twitter publishing habits. Take a look at his feed, and every few minutes you'll see a new post, from why videos go viral to Playboy's plans for a strip club. With so much tweeting, I asked him if he lost followers. In true Guy style, he admitted that yes, he had lost followers—but not nearly as many as he gained. Incidentally, in the time I wrote this post, Guy Kawasaki tweeted five times and gained 41 new followers, debunking the theory that too many tweets is bad for your presence.
While Guy's follow/loss philosophy make sense, for most people it's unsettling to see our numbers on social media sites take a hit, even temporarily. However, we rarely talk about what actions will hurt your friend and follower count in the social space. With that in mind, here are five ways to drop your network numbers in a flash.
1. The self-congratulatory retweet. While a little self-promotion is good for personal branding, you can take things a step too far. I'll be the first person to admit that every now and again I'll retweet a compliment from a follower, immediately realizing that I forgot to retweet with comment or a "thanks." Yes, this itsy bitsy RT with comment feature is your friend. If someone tweets about something you do or why they think you're great, make sure that you thank them in a retweet with comment, but avoid retweeting without any humbling context or word of gratitude.
2. Bad tweet timing. About a year ago Kenneth Cole pushed "send" on an unfortunate tweet that caused a digital uproar. The fashion designer said "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online." Ouch. Timing was everything (wrong) with this message, which was sent during the dawn of the Arab Spring; it came off as crass rather than triumphant. While online users love humor, this tweet deserved the hashtag #toosoon. Don't make this mistake.
3. Too much automation. Services such as HootSuite make it easy to cross-post to multiple social networks. Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing, recently shared a tweet from a company called Von Zipper (@VonZipperUSA). The message read, "You think this post can get a thousand likes??? Let's see if we can get there!!!" This is a perfect example of automation gone wrong. If you are using a social media dashboard, you most likely have the option to select which networks receive a tweet. Try to avoid cross-pollinating language. In other words, avoid the @s if you're sending a message to Facebook and the "likes" if you're posting to Twitter.
4. Offensive comments. When you're participating in the social media space, you always need to remember that in one fast click you're defriended, blocked, or uncircled. According to a December 2011 Nielsen McKinsey survey, the number one reason Facebook users, for example, remove friends is due to offensive comments. While the digital space welcomes healthy debate, it's not so kind to rudeness.
5. The silent treatment. If I follow someone but eventually notice that they don't follow anyone or they fail to reply to tweets, I often unfollow. Twitter is about good dialogue, having a conversation. Unless you're the Dalai Lama (he follows no one, which somehow seems apropos), chances are that your followers will expect more engagement. Don't sweat it if you can't reply to every single person all the time, but at least try.
Want more tips from the pros on personal branding and working smarter? Check out Amber Mac's Work Flow series.
[Image: Flickr user Kapungo]