Is there garbage in your Twitter stream?

trash stream by David Davies

Is your Twitter stream clean? Do your followers enjoy your contributions to the Twitter river? Being a good Twitizen means more than just importing your RSS feed or Tweeting once a day. I recently ran my Twitter stream through Twit Cleaner, which is a free service that helps you improve your Twitter stream by determining which Tweeters in your stream might be worth cutting loose.

photo: David Davies, creative commons license

Twit Cleaner said 30% of the Tweeps I’m following are potentially garbage!

twit cleaner summary

Here’s a summary of what Twit Cleaner checks for in a Twitter stream to determine if a Twitter account is less-worthy of following. The main categories measured are: Potentially Dodgy Behavior, Other Dodgy Behavior (Now Absent), No Activity in Over a Month, Not Much Interaction, All Talk All The Time, Little Original Content, and Not So Interesting. There are more specific qualifiers within each category.

Let’s examine what things make a poor Twitter stream. While we’re examining, ask yourself if you are guilty of any of these behaviors.

Potentially Dodgy Behavior

Potentially Dodgy Behavior - Nothing But LInks

1. Posts Nothing But Links

These Tweeps’ streams consist solely of links to their Facebook page, Etsy shops, or RSS feeds. Why they do it: they don’t have to do anything to populate their Twitter stream because they have other services auto-tweeting for them. This might seem like a good idea (especially if you don’t have time to spend on multiple social networks), but it doesn’t make for good Tweet.

2. Repeats the Same URLs

These Twitter accounts are guilty of posting duplicate links more than 25% of the time. I noticed, when examining these accounts, that all of them have links Tweeting everyday (and the same URL is Tweeted each time), which also falls under another type of Twit Cleaner don’t (App Spam) which I’ll cover later. The lesson learned here is to keep tabs on what is auto-Tweeting in your stream. It could be adding unnecessary clutter that annoys and alienates your followers.

3. Posting Identical Tweets

This person posts the same Tweet too many times, which is another undesired effect of apps that auto-Tweet. In the guilty accounts I checked out, one was Tweeting about Swag Bucks every day, and one auto-Tweeted every Etsy item she listed. Again, same lesson as in #3: keep tabs on what is auto-Tweeting. Do your followers really want to read about how many Swag Bucks you won every day? No. No more than they want to know that you had cereal for breakfast today. Again.

4. App Spam

Every other Tweet (more than 50% of them) are auto-Tweets from “helpful” sites such as, Foursquare, or GetGlue. While it’s all right to pepper your feed with the occasional app auto-Tweet, it’s really boring to do it more than fifty percent of the time! Do I have to say it again? Keep tabs on what is auto-Tweeting in your stream.

5. Uses Advertising Networks

Yes, we are all trying to figure out how to make money (aka “monetize”) our blogs and other social media platforms. That doesn’t mean people are excited when they see your most recent sponsored Tweet. I’m not judging (goodness knows I’ve tried many different ways of monetizing), but how lucrative are those sponsored Tweets, and are they worth adding to the social media noise? Are they worth being put on the “Potentially Dodgy” list?

There’s another kind of Dodgy Tweeter. The kind who used to do dodgy things, but now isn’t Tweeting at all:

Other Dodgy Behavior, Now Absent

other dodgy behavior

These Tweeps could have engaged in any behavior on the list above, but have been gone for months or years. Not that they are evil or anything, but why are you following them again?

Which brings us to our next group. These Tweeters aren’t dodgy, but they are absent.

No Activity in Over a Month

Maybe it’s an account for an old event (CrafteeDayz2009), or a blog that didn’t make it. Maybe it’s an account that has been abandoned by its owner who Tweets elsewhere now, or decided Twitter wasn’t the right social media venue for them. Whatever their reasons, these people haven’t Tweeted in a very long time.

Is this you? Do you think auto-Tweeting and app spam is better than no Tweets at all? I’d love to hear what you all think about THAT!

Other Less-Than-Awesome Tweeters provide:

Not Much Interaction

not much twitter interaction

1. Not Active Yet

These Tweeps have posted fewer than 10 Tweets, and most of them don’t even have custom avatars. This is a sure sign that they 1.) were born yesterday, or 2.) decided Twitter wasn’t for them. Some of these Tweeps have never even Tweeted. Once. How did you find them, anyway?

2. Don’t Interact With Anyone

These baddies get everything right, except they never answer your Tweets. Or anyone elses, for that matter. Maybe she just doesn’t know how to use Twitter (could happen), or maybe he just posts from Facebook and has it feed to his Twitter account. That would explain why there was no interaction: because he’s not actually on Twitter. Also, maybe this person is a celebrity, in which case, I won’t judge you for following, but I will be embarrassed for you if you Tweet to him too much!

If you’re guilty of not interacting on Twitter, I urge you to hop onto Twitter a couple times a week and answer anyone who has talked about you. If nobody is talking about you, talk to someone else. I don’t like the Twitter site and interface very much. Instead, I prefer to do all my Tweeting from Hootsuite. Maybe you have a similar problem but didn’t know there was an alternative way to use Twitter.

3. Bots

More than 90% of this person’s stream is pumped out from an RSS feed. Hmm, I thought we covered that in the first section (the one where I kept repeating my litany against blind auto-Tweeting). The differences between some of these offenses are so slight!

4. Hardly Follow Anyone

Why are you not following me back @BarackObama? Many of these guilty accounts belong to 1.) famous people, 2.) websites, 3.) corporations or other kinds of accounts who aren’t really on Twitter to make a personal connection. They are using Twitter as a media outlet. That’s an acceptable use of a Twitter account, but it doesn’t take advantage of the community aspects of Twitter.

So what kind other kind of person is on the Bleep list?

All Talk, All the Time

all talk all the time

This is a special Tweep. This person averages more than 24 public Tweets a day–that’s more than one per hour, round the clock! These Tweets are non @reply and non DM. Twit Cleaner isn’t saying you shouldn’t follow this person, but maybe, just maybe, their Tweets aren’t of the highest quality. Quantity, maybe.

Speaking of quality, here are a couple other types of accounts that might not be of the highest-quality.

Little Original Content

little original content

1. High Percentage of ReTweets

Nothing says echo chamber like more than 70% of your stream filled with reTweets. If your stream is littered with RTs, maybe you should cut down on repeating people and focus on crafting an original Tweet for every two you reTweet. Or at least make sure you are adding commentary about WHY you chose to RT.

This is another place where you should examine what is auto-Tweeting. One of these feeds was filled with Pinterest Tweets,

2. High Percentage Quotes

These Tweeps are so unconfident in their own words that they only share quotes from others. Even if quotes are your thing, don’t be afraid to pepper your Twitter feed with your own observations about the world. The more often you make them, the more often you will be quoted.

Which brings us to our last major category of Tweeter.

Not So Interesting

self obsessed tweeters

1. Self-Obsessed

These people appear to to talk about themselves a lot. Like 50% of the time. When I checked out a few of the Twitter feeds in this list, I discovered that many of the accounts weren’t exactly self-obsessed, but they DID RT Tweets that had their own Twitter handles in them. So, to keep from appearing narcissistic, remove @replies to yourself when you reTweet.

2. Relatively Unpopular

There are several reasons these people seem unpopular. Maybe because they follow a large number of Tweeps who never follow anyone back (like the aforementioned celeb Tweeters), or because they have protected Tweets so most people don’t bother following them (or they don’t approve many followers). They could also have incomplete profiles that don’t invite others to follow them, or they could have off-putting avatars or descriptions (or even Twitter Handles – who wants to send an @ to @sweatynipples?). They might also have a combination of problems listed above, or maybe they just have virtual halitosis. Now, like your mom, I’m going to tell you that just because someone’s unpopular doesn’t mean they aren’t worth knowing!

I Learned Something Today, Kyle

And that is mostly:

Watch what you are auto-Tweeting!


Auto-Tweets often lead to unwanted noise and/or low-quality Twitter feeds


Tweet people as you want to be Tweeted

I believe your social media accounts are yours to do with as you want. I don’t think you need to follow any rules (mine, or Twit Cleaner’s, or anyone else’s) unless you want to. Your Twitter feed is your domain, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to use it any other way than how you decide to use it.


When you use your social media accounts in unfriendly or annoying ways, people will respond by unfollowing you. Or just being annoyed by you, which I’m pretty sure isn’t your social media strategy.


banner ad

6 Responses to “Is there garbage in your Twitter stream?”

  1. Si Dawson says:

    Hi Heather

    Thanks so much for writing such an incredibly thorough review of Twit Cleaner. Wow, I’m impressed.

    You’re quite correct actually – there is lot of overlap between “Post nothing but links” and “Bots.”

    The logic here is mostly historical – initially I only looked for people who only ever posted links. Reason being: they’re very likely not talking to anyone – ie, they’re using Twitter as a broadcast medium, not for communication WITH people (which is Twitter’s great strength).

    Much later on, I started identifying bots – where the person isn’t even present (& likely doesn’t even look at their Twitter feed from day to day). These are where people hook a bot up to post for them, with zero effort from them. So, twitterfeed, facebook etc. If they’re not even present on Twitter, why bother friending them?

    So: it’s quite possible for people to post nothing but links, without pumping it all out from a feed. It’s also possible (but less likely, I admit) that someone would hook up their RSS feed but not have links in every tweet. I have seen it happen, but it is less common.

    Love this post. SO much detail here. I swear, you have more explanation than the official Twit Cleaner site. *laugh*

    Si Dawson
    [creator of Twit Cleaner]

  2. J. Hill says:

    This service is very cool. I eliminated a few accounts because I think they signed up for Twitter and then forgot about it. Now they just need to come up with a similar service for facebook friends….

  3. Kacey says:

    Great article. I’m new to Twitter myself, so it helps to know the things I should and shouldn’t do to have a great feed. it’s funny, I sent a tweet this morning asking if auto tweets were ok. I was starting to see them on other streams. Thanks for the info. I’ll definitely check out Twit Cleaner.

  4. Lynda says:

    Another great post! Again, I learn so much for you! Thanks so much.

  5. Vicki O'Dell says:

    Hi Heather,
    Great article! I didn’t even know Twit Cleaner existed. I ran it on my stream and deleted several tweeps. A few of them I knew were doing things I didn’t like so much but thought I’d delete them “later”. Today is later. 🙂

    I was happy to see that none of the companies I tweet for came up on the Twit Cleaner. 🙂

    I will definately share this one!


  6. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Heather, you are as always my go to source for bloggy/social media techy stuff. (like that labeling, did ya?) I haven’t heard of twit cleaner before, but I am interested in checking it out. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *