Twitter confirmed this week it recently ran a test suggesting accounts to unfollow.
The test lasted for only a few days, was applied to a small fraction of users, and has since ended, according to a report by Slate.
Twitter would not comment on whether or not any brand accounts, or accounts belonging to high-profile personalities or politicians were included in the test; but, per Slate’s report, one user did receive a suggestion to unfollow ESPN commentator Katie Nolan, whose Twitter account has 420,000 followers.
A Twitter spokesperson sent Marketing Land the following statement on the test:
We know that people want a relevant Twitter timeline. One way to do this is by unfollowing people they don’t engage with regularly. We ran an incredibly limited test to surface accounts that people were not engaging with to check if they’d like to unfollow them.
Twitter has taken an eagle-eye approach to making its timeline more relevant and improving the overall health of the app during the past year. Since both Twitter and Facebook discovered their platforms had been plagued with bad actors aiming to influence the 2016 US elections, each company has taken several steps to clean up their feeds. In the past months, Twitter has launched new political ad policies, limited third-party app access and tried to improve how conversations happen on the platform.
But some of Twitter’s steps to fix itself have affected how brands use the platform. In February, Twitter stopped allowing simultaneous posts by multiple accounts that included identical content — a policy that directly impacted brands and publishers managing numerous accounts.
Suggesting accounts to unfollow based on low engagement may demonstrate Twitter’s commitment to improving the user experience, but at what cost to brands and influencers?
Without knowing what signals were being used to set the parameters for the test, it’s impossible to know whether or not Twitter’s algorithms would suggest unfollowing brand or publisher accounts that do not interact with followers in the same way an individual may. The idea that Twitter could possibly suggest users unfollow such accounts is vaguely reminiscent of Facebook’s decision in January to change its algorithm to de-emphasize branded content.
While Twitter’s test may have only included an incredibly small group of users (and is no longer even a thing for now), it demonstrates the need for brands — and any others using the platform as a marketing tool — to reconsider their Twitter strategy and how they engage with their followers.