Tipping Pitches: Technology: Settling into Twitter


Friday, February 12, 2010

Technology: Settling into Twitter

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Getting initiated to Twitter is a long, slow process. And it is a process. You can't get it in one day. You can't get it by reading a how-to guide. You have to figure it out over the course of several months.

Back in December, I wrote about how I refused to follow more than 200 people because there was no possible way I could focus on everyone. I did not understand those who would follow thousands. They did it either as an insincere gesture (returning the favor for following them) or ended up focusing on a single list and not reading anything most of those people said anyway.

Well, I've altered that stance, though ever so slightly. I still care about what everyone I follow has to say, and I continue to refuse to use a list to focus my attention. I really don't use lists at all, to be honest. Created them, but haven't created a column in TweetDeck for them.

I now follow 354 people.

Eesh. I know, that's a lot. Or a lot more than I ever thought I would or could follow.

But this is the thing. As I've used the service more, I'm not overwhelmed by those 354 people. Back when I followed 150 or 200 people, I was determined to read everything that everyone said from sun up to sun down. That was the source of my fear of the 200 barrier.

I was in the Facebook frame of mind. But as I've used Twitter more, I've realized that I don't need to read every single tweet that comes through. I can take breaks, and when I come back I don't need to start where I left off.

It's a fire hose. But I'll check it when I can and I get a lot of good stuff out of what comes through. No pressure to read it all. And a lot of people I follow will repeat tweets, especially when promoting their blog.

It all clicked when I stumbled across a wonderful blog post by Cindy King about creating your tweet plan. Essentially, she suggests you plan out five tweets per day and schedule them with a service like Hootsuite.

I encourage you to read the article. It's good stuff. And it's perfect for someone like me. I am not a consistent tweeter. Some days I'll tweet a lot, then I'll take a couple of days off. Probably annoying to some followers. This way, I'm always putting something out there.

And so I'm clear, this does not replace your personality on Twitter. It simply assures that you are always putting something out there every day. I reply and retweet and get into conversations as well. But this assures that I'm not left stale if I fall off for a day or two (or three).

The stuff I'm putting into my schedule (my tweet plan) is some of my "timeless" blog entries. So, in case you missed it the first time (likely you did), I'm putting it out there again. So in addition to keeping my activity at a constant level, I am maximizing eyes on my blog. Not only does this give me more traffic, but it helps my followers get a better grip of who I am.

Why does this have anything to do with number of people I can follow? Simple. Stop worrying about catching every tweet out there. People miss stuff. I will miss stuff. You can combat that by tweeting things multiple times (as long as it isn't an annoying level of repeats).

Now that I've accepted that I can't read everything, I am much more comfortable with the number of people I follow. It is a coincidence that I'm following more. Follow Friday has done wonders.

I admit, I struggled finding the right people to follow in the beginning. Very difficult. And it makes me feel for new users. Followed a lot of the wrong people. Tried to force a fit. Just didn't work.

But now that I've found a solid core of people I enjoy following, Follow Friday has become a gold mine. As a result, I'm following a lot more people. And these are people who may also enjoy my blog due to common interests, so it works both ways.

Following more people has greatly enhanced my experience on Twitter, I admit it. And unless you're famous, it's the only way to grow your network. Because seriously? The only people I don't mind following who don't follow me back are celebrities (for the most part). You need to have mutual relationships. It's not that you need an insincere gesture. You simply want to share conversations. Makes it difficult if it's a one way street.

And that was my problem before. I wanted to grow my base, but I didn't want to follow more people. Just not possible.

Now let me be clear, I still am careful about the people I follow. Even though I'm following more people, I do not open myself to spam by following everyone who follows me. I still only follow people who are interesting to me. It's just that I somehow broke through with my network and now have no trouble whatsoever finding those people.

So my advice? Be sincere. Follow those who interest you. Don't limit yourself, but be reasonable. And to help stabilize your own content, create a tweet plan. Best thing I've ever done.

What do you think? Is there a maximum number of people you will follow? Do you supplement your tweets with scheduled tweets? Let me know how you use Twitter and what works for you.


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