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