Unfollowers, a follower tracking service for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, has achieved the rare feat of becoming a dominant player in a deeply fragmented market. Currently boasting over ten million accounts (nine million from the desktop service and one million from the Android app) along with monthly engagement from six million unique users, it has grown far beyond its competitors. With so many copycat business models hunting the same users, Unfollowers’ success would have been hard to predict at its 2011 launch.
Such services are typically a dime a dozen, started as side projects by young engineers who understand the business potential of 21st century narcissism. Few have staying power however. A quick perusal of various “Best services to track your twitter unfollowers” lists, shows that more than a few have journeyed to the deadpool since Twitter’s 2012 ascendancy. The survivors have split into two main groups: enterprise or personal services. Unfollowers chose the latter and has become the go-to service of choice for desktop and Android users.
Twitter tracking services ranked by social media presence in descending order (as of 26 June 2014)
Unfollowers has grown considerably since its start but is still managed by only two people, brothers Tushar Mahajan, based in India, and Rishabh Mahajan, located in Japan. Tushar initially envisioned the service in June 2011 when he realized that the follower stats of a Twitter account he managed were treading water. Plenty of people were signing up but just as many were leaving shortly thereafter. Tushar reasoned that if he knew who was leaving he could determine how to better engage with his fans. Development of the service was simple – within six days he had released version 1.0.
Now, three years later, Unfollowers has become a global service. Its top markets for the web service, in order, are the United States, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The breakdown for the Android app keeps the United States at the top, but followed by Saudi Arabia and Japan.
“It helps you know who to unfollow”
Tech in Asia spoke with co-founder, and Tokyo resident, Rishabh about the success of Unfollowers. Rishabh attributed the service’s ease of use and social DNA as major reasons for its popularity. The sign-up process consists of nothing more than clicking a “Login with Twitter” button. Unless a user requests otherwise, their account will start tweeting out its follower statistics and promote Unfollowers in the process.
Rishabh believes that users stay with the service because it gives them a stronger insight to their connections. “It helps users know if they have a lot of fake users, inactive users, who have not performed any activity on Twitter. Even if a user has 2,000 followers, maybe half of them are inactive or just fake users. Our service identifies a user base so you can act accordingly,” he said.
The brothers are confident that their user base will continue to grow due to the essential nature of Twitter. According to their data, there twenty unfollows for per one follow on Twitter. Rishabh explained that bots and fake users will follower a user in order to receive a follow back. Afterwards, the bot or fake user will stop following that user. This means that follower lists are in a state of constant flux and in need of management.
Rishabh and Tushar have added Instagram functionality six months ago and Facebook functionality three months ago. Though Unfollowers has far fewer account registrations via Instagram (650,000) or Facebook (200,000), personal brands are now spread out over multiple SNS applications, putting Unfollowers ahead of the competition as a one-stop-shop.
Over the next year fans of Unfollowers have a lot more features coming their way. Rishabh divulged the following targets:
- August 2014 – Android support for Instagram
- December 2014 – iPhone app
- 2015 – shift focus to enterprise users
He also admitted that venture capitalists have shown interest in Unfollowers but the company is not presently inclined to pursue funding. Bootstrapped and monetized via advertising and a premium service for power users, Unfollowers is not in immediate need of capital. For the time being, Rishabh and Tushar will continue nurturing this off-hand side project from India and Japan respectively.
*Image Credit: Polina Kvitko on FlickrEditing by Paul Bischoff