John Reese & Mike Filsaime Perform Twitter Bait & Switch

by Ben Cook on July 9, 2009

In the internet marketing industry names don’t get much bigger than John Reese and Mike Filsaime. So, when both John and Mike make the same splash on the same day, it’s going to draw some attention.

The splash I’m talking about is abandoning the practice of autofollowing on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know what auto-follow is, why are you reading this blog?

I keeed I keeed!

Autofollow is quite simply Twitter’s version of “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.” For every person that follows you, you automatically follow them back.

Obviously the goal of many people on Twitter, especially marketers, is to accumulate as many followers as possible. As a result, lists have sprung up containing the names of hundreds if not thousands of accounts that use autofollow. Follow a few thousand of the people on that list, and BOOM… a few thousand almost instant followers!

If this whole thing sounds kind of pointless and shallow, especially on a site that’s all about actually connecting with others, you’re absolutely right. As John points out in his post, a bunch of automated followers probably aren’t going to be as high in quality as followers that CHOOSE to follow you.

As a result, John (and subsequently Mike) have both disavowed the practice of auto-follow, and purged the list of people they follow, citing the desire to now have genuine interactions on Twitter.

And, for the most part the move has been praised across Twitter. John’s post has been retweeted by thousands of his followers and….

Wait, what? Oh yeah! That’s right! John and Mike, despite no longer following thousands of people, are STILL followed by all those thousands of people who jumped aboard the autofollow Twitter train. Who knows, maybe John and Mike made use of those autofollow lists themselves.

The point is, by making this noble and bold decision, John and Mike have essentially done one big bait & switch on thousands of their followers.

If anyone else followed thousands of people, and then unfollowed them once they’d triggered the autofollow mechanism, they’d be call a spammer.

In fact, Twitter itself stated in March that they’re going to kill off the “feature” because

” this behavior sends the wrong message. Namely, it is unlikely that anyone can actually read tweets from thousands of accounts which makes this activity disingenuous.”

So, no, John Reese and Mike Filsaime are no longer participating in the “disingenuous” activity of autofollow, but before we all go praising them for their brilliant insight and sudden desire to make legitimate connections, realize that they still have 66 thousand followers between them.

They’re not giving ANYTHING up, they’re simply clearing out the feed that they read and limiting the level of access those 66k followers have to contact them.

I’m sure that was a really difficult decision. I mean, as Mike said, John had to “push him over the edge” after all…

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Yura July 9, 2009 at 10:35 pm

If they didn’t follow people with autofollow themselves, then what’s the problem? Do you have facts on this?

If not, that’s just speculation.

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Skitzzo July 10, 2009 at 12:25 am

Yura, the problem is that Mike & John are parading around acting like they’re the pioneers of this idea of being genuine on Twitter when up til recently they were exactly what they’re railing against now.

Russ, I don’t really think it’s something they planned on doing, but the effect is the same. If I followed a ton of people, or put my name on the autofollow list & then dropped everyone after I got a bunch of followers people would say it’s spam.

Also, they’re milking the concept of being genuine to promote themselves as some social media saints but it rings incredibly hollow to me.

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Garrie Wilson July 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm

I’d like them to ask twitter to reset their followers. Of course we know they wont.

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Scott Lovingood July 9, 2009 at 10:57 pm

I am fairly new to twitter and have looked at some of the autofollow techniques and following people who mention specific keywords. I have around 700 that I am following. I have no idea how to keep up with more than that. In fact I am going to be deleted many of them and finetuning what I use twitter for.

I have some that are very valuable and provide excellent information. For the rest I simply use search. I think Twitter search will be the real winner.

I read a lot of John and Mike’s stuff but don’t follow them on twitter.

I think it will be interesting to see how people change their outlook on follow/followers. I think of it is similar to what newspapers used to report as readers – the number of papers printed.. Didnt matter if half of them were unread they still showed the numbers.

Passionate followers will always beat massive numbers. It isn’t a numbers game any more. It is a connection, relationship game now.

Follow me on twitter 🙂 http://www.twitter.com/scottlovingood

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Russ July 10, 2009 at 12:17 am

Well spotted and well said Ben.
The cynic in me tends to concur that this was a deliberate bait & switch or at least a highly convenient “social conscience” move.
Personally, I would tend to give the benefit of the doubt to John Reese,.. but to the ex used car salesman Mike Filsaime I wouldn’t put such a stunt past him at all!

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Paul, copysnips.com July 10, 2009 at 5:56 am

I guess there will be a product launch in reference to it, soon 🙂

As for the quality thing, I agree that it’s better to have people who CHOOSE to follow you… but I guess for the newbie, that creates a dilemma… how do they get people who have never heard of them to choose them?

That’s why people go on following splurges. It’s an attempt to put themselves “out there”.

And it’s not entirely INeffective, if we’re being honest with ourselves.

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Skitzzo July 10, 2009 at 8:48 am

Paul, how I got people to follow me was simply by following people I found interesting, and then interacting. I have several hash tags that I monitor on a regular basis and I regularly interact with brand new people that way.

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EJ July 10, 2009 at 9:03 am

Absolutely correct! Keep in mind that neither of these guys does anything without there being something in it for them. Altruistic intentions are not part of their psyche. Case in point regarding John’s commentary about safelists: Filsaime runs one of the biggest safelist ad posting services out there. If Mike wants to really be taken seriously, he should disband the safelist service much as he is ‘disbanding’ the auto-follow of twitter. Here’s a thought – with the buttload of money they make, why not hire someone to stay on top of the constant feed? I don’t advocate autofollow but the point is, you made your bed, you sleep in it. Aside from it being hypocrisy, it’s all a big publicity stunt to generate even more buzz to their ‘brands’. Like Paul above says, you can bet either or both of them have some product or seminar they are going to either push or have in development.

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DWcourse July 10, 2009 at 10:49 am

I try to only follow people I’m interested and try to keep that number below approximately 150 (see Dumbar’s Number: http://cli.gs/hue6aj ) by unfollowing folks who I find weren’t as interesting as I had hoped. Still I find it hard to read the feed. I usually just check out the most recent page or so whenever I happen to log on.

I pick up followers by tweeting what I hope is either interesting or useful (and occasionally humorous). I’ve got about 450 followers, which I’m happy with considering my reasons for using Twitter but I suspect I’m lucky if only half of those actually pay me any attention.

Personally I’d be happy to lose ALL of my auto-followers. I’ve sometimes block them when I notice them but normally I figure it’s just not worth the effort.

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Elizabeth Able July 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

If John and Mike think it’s groundbreaking to unfollow en masse, I suspect they’ve been fixated on getting more followers by following back. Marketers can be like that. 😉 Sometimes.

However, the biggest effect for real people is that all those who were unfollowed can no longer direct message John Reese and Mike Filsaime. If someone wants to limit following back, I think it’s smart to use a Twitter bio link that gives a specific welcome to their Twitter audience – offer whatever tweeps are likely to want to know, and, unless you REALLY don’t want to hear back from followers please remember to put a contact form link on that page.

Look at it this way. Having a public email address can generate a lot of spam, but you don’t see anyone backing out of using email for communication. Instead, we’ve changed the way we use the medium, incorporating contact forms, spam bins and address books.

In my own experience, the best one-on-one Twitter communicators have under 2000 followers, often under 100. Sometimes they even network. If I were to unfollow them I’d lose something special.

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Karl Foxley July 31, 2009 at 3:12 pm

You’ve said what I have been thinking… don’t get me wrong I think the guys have some great products and some serious knowledge to share but this seems a bit low… they’ve essentially built a ‘list’ and can share their tweets in what is now a one-sided conversation…

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Michel Fortin August 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I knew this would happen, and I feel kind of vindicated. But this morning, Chris Brogan just stated he’s stopping autofollow. And last week, we had Robert Scoble who did this mass-exodus, too. Here’s a link to a cool article by Shea Bennett on the subject (not affiliated with Shea but I feel it’s appropriate to this discussion)…

http://twittercism.com/mass-unfollowing/

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