New Research: Why People Unfollow on Social Media

Hey guys! Where ya going? I thought we had something special here …

If you’ve noticed your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media accounts are losing followers, the reason could be closer than you think.

Recently our friends at Sprout Social released the results from their survey of more than 1,000 Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram users to find out what annoys them most about the brands they follow … and which brand behaviors drive them to un-follow.

First the good news: 86 percent of social users want to follow brands on social media, and they do. So if your CMO is trying to wave off your losses with “nobody follows brands anymore,” you may want to encourage a closer look.

Top 5 Annoyances on Social Media

When Sprout asked respondents what most annoyed them about the brands they followed on social media, more than half (57.5 percent) cited “posting too many promotions.” The next three most popular responses concerned style and tone: using too much jargon, having no personality, and trying to be funny when they’re not. And nearly one quarter (24.7 percent) were most ticked off by lack of responsiveness to their messages.


  • I’ve noticed among my own clients that, if sales start to drop or the industry hits a slump, the first thing they want to do is amp up promotions. And while I can understand their motivation, this is a good way to lose followers. Keep your social focused on engaging content and let promotions make up no more than 20 percent of your total activity … yes, even if you’re feeling desperate.
  • Remember, social media is all about conversations with real human beings. So save the jargon for your peer get-togethers and let people see the humanity behind your brand. And for heaven’s sake, if humor isn’t your thing, don’t try to be funny.
  • Respond, respond, respond. Sometimes brands hesitate to respond when they don’t yet have an answer to the question or issue at hand. But you must let people know you’re listening. At least tell the original poster you received his or her message and are working on finding the answer. Then follow up as soon as you find it.

Top 6 Reasons to Unfollow a Brand

Sprout then asked respondents to cite their top reason for un-following brands. While three of the top annoyances (see above) — too much promotion, too much slang/jargon, lack of responsiveness — made a repeat appearance, three new concerns appeared: irrelevant content, over-tweeting, and (this one’s my favorite) being “too quiet”.


  • Go back to your audience personas and make sure that your social content is addressing the topics, issues, and challenges that are most important to them.
  • Yes, over-posting will lose followers on social media … but so will under-posting. Find the right posting schedule to keep you in front of your audience without bombarding them.

Most Annoying Industries

Do some industries tend to be more annoying than others on social media?
According to Sprout’s survey respondents, the answer is a definitive “yes!”

So, are you doomed to social media failure if you happen to find yourself in one of these industries? Absolutely not! If anything, following best practices will help you stand out among the lame-o’s. And we all know what those are, don’t we?

  • Know your audience.
  • Share quality content that speaks to their interests, challenges, and hopes for the future.
  • Speak to them in their language, not yours.
  • Post just often enough to be present without being annoying.

So, as we work on our content marketing strategies for next year, keep these “annoyance factors” firmly in mind to ensure that your day-to-day practices keep you on the path to success.