Go on. You know you want to.
You hover your mouse over the “unfollow” button, poise your finger to click – then back off as the voices in your head chatter: “But what if she gets offended?” “What if they tell everyone I’m a bitch?” “What if they hate me, never buy from me again and spread terrible rumours about my business?”
Neurotic, right? These were the thoughts plaguing my friend Sarah, a smart businesswoman who was bemoaning the management of her Twitter relationships.
“I’m too scared to unfollow someone because I know what it’s like when I discover someone’s unfollowed me,” she said. “I don’t care when I don’t know them. But if I do know them and have had several chats with them on Twitter, I can’t help but wonder if I was too boring, too salesy, too talkative. Social media rejection can be a massive hit to your self esteem.”
I told Sarah that she had to get a grip. This was a #firstworldproblem that was spinning out of control. Seriously, nurturing your Twitter relationships is important – but not if you’re lying awake at night worrying if the mean girls are still going to like you in the morning.
The stakes are even higher when you run a business. Sarah is a consultant. It took me for-freaking-EVER just to get her to consider social media for her business. Before she discovered the virtual water cooler otherwise known as Twitter, she was one of THOSE people. You know who I’m talking about. The ones that say: “Twitter is stupid. I don’t want to know what other people have for breakfast.” Or “Who would ever go on Twitter? It’s such an invasion of privacy.” Or even “That thing called Twitter. You watch: it won’t last.”
Well, it would be safe to say that Sarah is now a convert. However, while embracing this new religion, she also adopted the guilt and shame that seems to come with the territory.
However, Sarah does highlight a real problem when it comes to social media rejection and your business. You might want to clean up your Twitter stream. But what if you unwittingly unfollow an important customer because you didn’t recognise their Twitter handle. They may not care – or (depending on their sanity, insecurity and the value they place on social media relationships) they may see it as a major public snub. There is no way to know what their reaction is going to be.
There is no simple answer to how to handle the delicate issue of social media rejection. However, here are two things to remember that may help people like Sarah sleep at night.
1. It’s all in the lists
Get yourself an app like Tweetdeck and create lists of the people who you want to connect with on a regular basis. The list might be those who are close to you or those who you’ve chosen to keep an eye on. So even if your list of connections grows, you’ll still be able to isolate your core group of people in their own specific stream. This way you don’t have to offend anyone with an “unfollow” but can choose to only interact with the chosen view in your list.
2. Twitter is a river
For those of you getting overwhelmed by the number of Tweets you are viewing, just remember … you don’t have to read every single one of them. That’s just insane. I thought Twitter was best described by US technology journalist and uber-podcaster Leo Laporte. He suggests that you think of Twitter like a river. And every so often you stand on the bridge that crosses the river and watch what goes by.
You don’t have to keep up with what went past a few hours (or days) ago and you can step off the bridge at any time. But while you’re on it, you may choose to interact and respond to whatever you see going past at the time.
3. Acknowledging conversations
Author and former Mac-evangelist Guy Kawasaki has a ridiculous number of followers on Twitter. 488,190 to be precise. He also follows 299,469 (figures accurate at 2 February 2012). It’s insane to think that you can keep up with this. He doesn’t. Obviously, he does not read the Tweets of 299,469 people. Instead, he creates a stream which only shows the Tweets where he is mentioned. Usually these are replies to him. So he’s able to acknowledge those people who have specifically reached out to him.
Social media can be a powerful tool to connect with your customers and prospects. If you are using it for your business, it might be a good idea to treat it like a useful medium – instead of a measurement of your self-worth. Instead of pondering whether to follow/unfollow or friend/unfriend someone, just move on. It might be time to focus on the things that really matter: growing your business, serving your customers and building your revenue.