When first starting out on twitter, we follow our friends and people of interest, and some follow us back. Do you find yourself reading the whole stream – making sure you don’t miss anything?
What happens when you’ve found over 50 people to follow – do you still read everything they say?
This is the point when many twitter users reach a dilemma, and its one which probably correlates with wondering what this twitter thing is about, if its only giving me another job of sucking up other people’s content.
It’s a dilemma which Rob Scott @Anders1156 mentioned in my twitter survey, that point where you realise it’s ok not to read everything – to let yourself off the hook.
The important thing to remember about twitter is, whilst you can try and read everything everyone interesting ever says, you won’t. You can’t possibly. And that’s OK.
Last year Mitch Joel, author of the great book Six Pixels of Separation wrote a post called The Dirty Little Secret of the Twitter Elite which flagged up this issue.
This was about the time when several high profile twitter users (those with over 20,000 followers for example) started to find ways to unfollow everyone they had automatically followed back, and some started to blog about this. It became a topic of some debate as many more ordinary twitter users felt they had been duped, given the impression that they were of interest when rather they were part of a numbers game. You can see in the comments on Mitch’s blog post that the reaction was very strong amongst many.
However I think the subheadings on his post make the point well:
- Just because they are following you on Twitter doesn’t mean they are paying attention to you;
- Most people are in it for themselves;
- It should give you pause;
- They’re simply filtering you out;
- The next generation of the Social Web is all about filters and aggregators, so don’t be insulted.
So how do I cope with 4500 followers on my @subutcher twitter account? I follow over 2500 – how do I do that?
Well you’ll notice that I don’t follow everyone back. This is because I don’t follow people who follow me without thinking – I actually follow people I want to follow, just like you do. The 2500 aren’t a subset of the 4500 either – if they were then I wouldn’t be able to share so much new and interesting stuff. No, I follow people of interest to me, and so do my followers.
If you want me to follow you, the best way to get this to happen is to join a conversation I’m having, or start one with me, about something of mutual interest. I often choose who to follow by who responds to what I’m saying. The other way is by searching for people and topics, which opens up new areas of interest.
But what about reading the tweets of 2500 people? How do I do that?
Well obviously I don’t. But unlike the ‘twitter elite’ that Mitch is talking about I do read my stream. With this sort of size of following group, and using tweetie2 on my iPhone which refreshes when I say so, I can dip into twitter when I can and see what everyone I follow is talking about right now. See something I like, and I can join in and share the discussion with my followers if it’s appropriate. I like having a big stream because the conversation is varied and you can get a good feel of what is important to my community at any one time.
What about you? How many people do you follow – have you got past the 50 hump, or do you prefer a small circle of friends? Do you try and read everything or do you like a broad spectrum and accept that you can’t? I’d be interested to hear your views.
Image: On the Platform, Reading by Moriza
Sarah Arrow says
I always think if someone has something they specifically want me to look at, they will @me so I see it or DM me. I follow around the same amount of people as you do and I have them in columns in tweetdeck sorted nicely, so I ca quickly scan and see what is going on, what looks interesting and where to join a conversation.
I don’t see a problem with following a large amount of people if you manage it correctly and get something from it.
.-= Sarah Arrow´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.
Thanks Sarah, Tweetdeck is great isn’t it? They have a great lists directory now too, so we can all find great people to follow
Simon Thompson says
Reading a tweetstream is definitely a learned skill. I follow around 200 people and have developed a knack for scanning avatars and the style of tweet.
Some people’s tweets I will always read. Others depend on the time of day, whether there is a link, what my mood is or perhaps whether it feels relevant to my activity at the moment.
If someone follows me, I will always look at their tweets if I decide they are a real person, I’ll follow them back if I think they’re vaguely relevant to my life, work or interests. If they look like they follow lots of people in the hope of getting some followers back, I don’t bother (any more).
With loose acquaintances, it is worth sending an @message to someone you have just followed to remind them of your connection.
If someone’s tweets aren’t relevant to you, don’t feel any shame in unfollowing them. Similarly, you should try not to be too bothered that someone unfollows you.
My tweetstream is a mix of work, professional interests, media and copyright, personal stuff, and my slanted take on the world – I really can’t expect it to appeal to everyone.
Some good tips here Simon thanks.
I often think that reading everyones tweets all the time would be like listening in to everything they said, all day, every day – too much!
Matthew Franklin says
A very reassuring post!
I have justed reached a point where I am starting to review my twitter use.
I also scan my feed sometimes and have started to check fro DM’s or mentions only when busy. I think I need to set up some groups to help me filter the stream and get what I need at the time (work or play).
When busy I favourite tweets to read later, especially if they contain links.
Excellent, favourites – good point Matthew.
Hover over any tweet on twitter.com and you’ll see the star. Select it and those tweets you have ‘favourited’ appear in your ‘favourites’ stream (available on the right hand side of your home page).
Julie Walraven | Resume Services says
I keep shrinking my following and find I can hear much better. Even with Tweetdeck, there is so much noise. I continue to refine and change my Twitter strategies so it becomes more of a community and less of a noisy crowd.
I learn more that way and I can be more helpful. If someone I follow says something interesting about someone else, I can always RT or respond somehow.
.-= Julie Walraven | Resume Services´s last blog ..Relationships Matter =-.
Thanks Julie, thats very interesting, it is a challenge.
If you want to keep a larger stream for of people you’re following, but there are some for whom you absolutely definitely need to read what they tweet, why not set up a list for those?
It can even be a private list if you don’t want to share it. That way you can ensure you read every tweet in the list and dip into your stream too.
This would work well with news feeds too.
I’ve only recently “got” twitter and I must admit that I started following people just because Bullet Points In Conversations appealed to me. eg @SuButcher just because my cousin-in-law is an architect – I had no idea then that you were such a guru – and would be so so generous with pointers for the noobies (thanks :-)) I’ve started using RT (retweets) as my way of saying “I like what you’re saying so I’m passing it on” – and sometimes I add a comment and sometimes not. I like the favourite tip – on busy days (like all of this week it seems) I build up a good sized stack of faves to look at over the weekend. I’ve started to build quite a suite of follows of all the various things that grab my interest, and have actually started unfollowing things that no longer as interesting. I think that this blog has effectively taken away “The Guilt Of Unfollowing Someone”. Also I’m not now so “keen” to check out MY followers – they can follow me for whatever deep or shallow reason that struck their e-fancy when they found me. But I do check out peeps and their profile and timeline before I follow them. Learning point for today’s lesson – I need to have a few more columns in my TweetDeck and stream them a bit better. Thanks for that tip.
Hooray! I’m so glad you’re getting into it Peter 🙂
Michelle Dale says
Thank you for this and other articles about Twitter (I read half a dozen of them while I was here!). I follow just over 50 people and have been refining that list actively only over the last couple of weeks. I now filter out those who RT every message in which they get a mention (I call them the ‘look at me!’ people) and those who consistently send more than 6 messages in a row, thereby ‘flooding’ my message stream. I can now comfortably scan all of my stream.
I still think I could be using Twitter better though. I see that I can group those I follow but how is this useful to me? I also keep hearing about Tweetdeck but what is it and how does one access it? Maybe these could be the subjects of a future articles?
Thanks again for such interesting and useful information.