Why protect your Twitter updates?

I’ve found my Twitter followers are growing quite rapidly recently, probably as connectors such as Mr Tweet and Twellow become more widely used.
I follow quite of lot of them back (unless they only update via an automatic feed telling Twitter they’ve blogged) as I like having a widening conversation circle – but there are a couple of things in the way of ‘Twetiquette’ that I find irritating:

1. Auto DMs that say something along the lines of: “thanks for the follow. Find out more about (insert pointless marketing opportunity here) by visiting my website”… I love the excellent “Click on My Junk” post by Amber Naslund, which sums this up perfectly

2. The other irritation is this:

So this person is already following me – but how do I find out about my new follower if I can’t see their Twitter stream? Yes, I can click on their profile’s website link but often that won’t tell me if we share friends, if they converse or simply broadcast, or whether they are following me because we live in the same area or work in the same field.

In fact, it irritates me so much that I ended up (once more) turning to Twitter for the answer.

I got some interesting responses.

In the “I don’t do it but understand why some might” camp:
@Torgwen Yes to have small group of friends/for work etc. whereas now any unknown nosey b***r like me can read what you write!
@davidbartlett1 maybe if you say “I’m going to America for three weeks” you fear someone might break into your house?

In the “They’re missing the point” camp:
@editorialgirl I don’t get it either. Some of my followers have protected updates – so I have no idea if they’re worth following back or not
@foodiesarah & what exactly are they hiding? even more ironic when bio says “social networker”. umm, that’ll b on a one-way social network ?

And there’s the “life is too short to bother with lurkers” camp:
@louisebolotin I block unknown followers who have protected their updates!

Confession: When I joined Twitter I protected my updates for about 2 weeks; I stopped because it felt wrong and … precious. Nothing I tweeted was so interesting that it merited forcing someone to ask permission to follow me. Why did I protect them in the first place? Just to see if it worked. Well, it did. I got no new followers for that fortnight, and I switched it off pretty smartly.

Personally, if you protect your updates, I feel as though you’ve already placed limits on our potential conversations and future networks.
It would be interesting to know if many of those who padlock their updates are newsbies to social networks. Do you protect yours? If so, why? Is it because you are fed up with spammers? Block them if it bothers you that much.
Social media is about opening conversations, sharing, linking, building networks; if you put up barriers and police who can follow you too rigidly, you are going to miss out on a lot.

13 thoughts on “Why protect your Twitter updates?

  1. I agree wholeheartedly, as a nosey twitterer, if I have requested to follow someone with protected updates I generally find that they have nothing to say, or never shut up, and therefore unfollow..When trying to explain the whole social networking thing to my friends, I say it’s like leaving your curtains open at night time. As someone who enjoys walking in the dark and getting a peek into others lives, it’s only fair that I do the same!


  2. The Auto Dm’s don’t irritate me too much, probably because I don’t get that many.The protected update thing does irritate me. Like you I want to see if their stream are filled with just blog updates or whether they actually bother to converse with folk.It wasn’t until I checked that twitter grader thing, that I discovered local twitterers. Not that I had even thought to do so till that point. It has opened up a whole range of conversations that I would of totally missed out on if updates where protected.


  3. I did toy with protecting my updates but as a journalist what would be the point of that? It;s in my interest to converse with as many people as possible, or at least make it easy for them to contact me to chat. But I don’t get the “I’ll follow you but if you want to follow me back you need to request approval”. That’s why I now routinely block any new followers who have protected updates. Otherwise, for all I know they are scraping my tweets or whatever and I’ve no idea who they are.


  4. I was a culprit in this protected-tweets crime until a few weeks ago and I now see the error of my ways. It was actually @foodiesarah who got in touch to say: “you follow me, but I can’t follow you and it’s not fair”, or words to that effect. And she’s right.I think the main reason I protected them was that I wanted to know exactly who I was following. But not only are there lots of good ways of monitoring who you follow (tweetdeck for example) it was missing the entire point of an open conversation and for a long time I was just being stubborn. Mea culpa. I’m now nearly on 500 followers and at this rate I will have doubled that by this time next year.p.s. you’ve got to be careful what you say on non-protected accounts however, your comments can and do get picked by roving reporters: http://snipurl.com/tweetreporting.


  5. I find everyone’s thoughts on this really interesting, particularly as the Twitter community is growing so quickly right now. Mandy, I love the curtains analogy – it’s so true! And Clare, Grader was helpful for me too – I appreciate the fact that my network has expanded from being based around my profession.It would be interesting to see if people who you ditch actually realise that they’re shrinking their community by being so shielded, Louise. But I suspect many of them don’t notice because they aren’t conversing.And Mr Smith! I forgot you protected your updates for a while – you could have been a case study for me 🙂Glad you’re unpadlocked now – although I bet in your job you get tonnes of spammy followers as a result. Re ‘watch what you say’, I’d have to agree although I don’t always follow my own advice (in fact, I ignored it today, ho hum).


  6. Sadly, they probably don’t realise they are shrinking their Twtterverse. Adding to that, today I trawled my followers list and blocked 27 people – some of those were companies only tweeting their own PR or people pushing their blog posts. Some were people who followed me but hadn’t updated in months and even their old tweets were just junk (of the what I ate for lunch variety). None were people who had ever once said hi to me. I can’t follow everyone back or I’d never get any work done but I always say hi to new followers every so often and invite them to @ me and start a conversation. If they can’t be arsed, though, why should I?


  7. Hmm… must say I never follow anyone with protected updates unless I already know the person well. Patrick’s a good case – only started started following him on Twitter after he stopped protecting his updates:-)But my pet hate is people who give me no clue as to who they are: neither use their real or full name nor provide a photo and blog url. I’ve had people who’ve followed me for months without me following back as I had no clue who they were – until, all of a sudden, they uploaded a picture and I realised we knew each other (had I known I would have followed back instantly). The worst is journalism students who don’t list a url, preferably a blog (how can I know what they’re about when they don’t?). As the founder and administrator of Norway’s online news association (NONA), and one who regularly talks to journalism students about social media, I would have followed back straight away if they only had a decent blog….


  8. Yes Kirsten, I find myself scrutinising their other follows to see how I might know this person, or why we might be connected. A bio takes no time, and I’m baffled by j-students who don’t blog. It’s essential to me in learning new things and testing ideas!


  9. I find it a strange practice as well. I can’t shake the feeling that if you feel the need to protect your updates on Twitter it’s not really for you. It has a certain purity right now, and I hate the idea of anything that breaks it down into private groups. If you want a private chat with your mates, you have lots of other options.The only thing that irritates me more, I think, is celebrities who follow zero people. Yes, we all now a bit part of the reason why Twitter has gone so mainstream the last few months is the endorsement of some A-listers, but then we’ve got a sudden influx on there of others who follow either nobody or just a few other celebrity mates. Again, not really getting it, are we?


  10. Let’s face it; Twitter is already a pretty self indulgent time suck that I find myself pulled into several times a day.Especially for those steeped in any attempt join the digital “conversation” or “participate” in this space – it mystifies me why these folks keep their updates under lock in key.


  11. The whole celebrity thing baffles me Sheamus. I follow Stephen Fry, because, well, everyone did when he signed up for Twitter and – fair play to him – he is interested and interesting. I also follow Neil Gaiman, because I love his books, but the likes of Chris Moyles, Jonathan Ross etc just broadcast and aren’t engaging people anyway. And Zach, it is the biggest time such ever. It eats my day if I let it…


  12. I love this post. I keep reading it just to make sure I'm not missing anything.
    I'm moving toward “anybody who is on twitter and protects their updates” is creepy. I wonder if they think they are smarter because they know how to keep their privacy safe.

    I'd like the twitcreeps to consider that maybe, just maybe, I am twittering information I WANT people, all people, to know.


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