Searching for The Perfect Tweet

9th Sep 2008Twitter

So here’s my dilemma, if I treat Twitter like a blog/microblog, then I only follow people whose tweets I enjoy and learn from.

If I treat Twitter like a social networking site, e.g. Facebook, then I mutually friend everyone regardless of whether or not I keep up with their updates.

Why Does It Matter?

At first it didn’t matter since there were only a handful of people I was following, and I could easily scroll through the updates to see what was going on. Actually, I could scroll through two pages of updates and get a summary of that entire day.

Now I’m following enough people that I can’t keep up, so I just log on and see what’s going on in real time. Unfortunately, that only results in catching 20 to 40 updates and the rest slip through my fingers.

So What’s a Tweep to Do?

Some people say that it’s proper etiquette to mutually follow everyone sans spam and broadcasting Tweeps. The drawback is that you’re inundated with updates if you follow enough people.

Other people say that you should only follow those individuals who you find interesting. The drawback here is that you can come across as a snob by being picky about who you follow.

Yet another group of people say that you should use tools like TweetDeck to help manage your account; yet it would be unfair of me to follow someone and then filter them out.

So Twitterverse, what’s a Tweep to do? I would greatly appreciate your comments, and I’ve also included a poll below that you can use to voice your opinion.


20 Comments Comments Feed

  1. Tyson Crosbie (January 5, 2009, 9:54 pm).

    Twitter is a tool, unfortunately it is a different tool for everyone.

    My current thoughts:
    (which have evolved to this point over time)

    As a service type business owner I use twitter to do a lot of things but the most important are business development and customer service. In this way I feel it is necessary to have a line of communication (dm) open to nearly everyone that requests one.

    However contradicting that I also feel like the biggest benefit to twitter is the people I choose to follow. It is their stories and interaction that I want to be the center of my experience while on twitter.

    This is why I use tweetdeck to manage it. I don’t feel like it is a slight to those that I don’t read every tweet because if they need to contact me I’ve given them the ability to dm me. And I could always add them to my follow list if their experience began to influence me enough. :)

  2. Chris Lee (January 5, 2009, 9:58 pm).

    I prefer following most folks sans spam & broadcasters in concert with TweetDeck. You never know who you are going to connect with.

    I don’t think of using TweetDeck groups as actively filtering people out. I still have the All group available and I check it when I have time. If you follow people outside of TweetDeck, you have to pay attention to it if you ever want to add newcomers to a group anyway.

    With many people following & following them back, not everybody is actively engaged with everybody so I don’t think the use of groups is a bad thing.

  3. md (January 5, 2009, 10:01 pm).

    I have a fifth option. Mutually follow everyone, for at least a week or two, it gives you more time to find out if a person is worth the long-term follow. If they aren’t they probably wont notice, so you can either filter or unfollow (filtering might be better, because it allows you to still have DM contact w/ someone if you/they need it)

  4. Tomas (January 5, 2009, 10:17 pm).

    @Tyson Crosbie, @Chris Lee, @md – Thank you for the feedback! I understand what you’re saying about filtering being an effective tool for managing your followers, and I guess it’s not as unfair as I made it out to be in the post. Actually when I think of it, filtering is something we do in everyday situations as it’s a part of us (e.g. selective hearing, concentrating/focusing). :)

    I may have to give TweetDeck another shot; I wasn’t very happy with the amount of resources it consumes on my MacBook as it sometimes tops Firefox when it comes to CPU usage.

    Also, another idea I’m tinkering with is having a personal and ‘business’ Twitter account. That way, I can keep the personal account nimble while I go hog wild with the business account. :)

  5. Brandon Franklin (January 5, 2009, 10:35 pm).

    Well, I’ve tried it both ways and here’s what I think.

    Initially, I started following people who I “wanted to be connected with” in any way … so basically any PHX local, regardless of whether I was interested in what they had to say.

    I quickly found that my Twitter feed became absolutely useless and uninteresting to me. So I installed Tweetdeck to manage it. Then I had a very unpleasant “Twitter As Chatroom” experience.

    Soon I realized I wasn’t using Twitter; it was using me. I promptly uninstalled Tweetdeck and unfollowed people that I didn’t care to read regularly. My my, suddenly I REALLY LIKED reading Twitter again!

    Then I enhanced the experience further by adding some pre-constructed Twitter Searches to my RSS reader. Wow. So much better.

    So in summary, I don’t give a crap what somebody else just “decides” is “proper etiquette”. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to follow me. That set of etiquette rules is arbitrary and pointless and doesn’t serve any actual goal. It’s pretend universe BS. If somebody wants to see what I say, they can follow me. If I want to see what they have to say, I’ll follow them. If we want to communicate, there are a VARIETY of approaches for that: Jabber, email, Facebook, whatever.

    Okay so I have strong feelings on this. :)

  6. Brian (January 5, 2009, 11:58 pm).

    All of the options “work”. It really depends on you and which method results in a better experience. Since you’re a savvy guy, it seems like the TweetDeck approach would fit you well. Get more data so you have better range, and for the people you value more than others, put them on a pedestal.

    The option I would recommend least to you is to follow *everyone*(-but-spammers). Don’t follow anyone unless you would at least rate their tweets 1 out of 10. I don’t recommend TweetDeck to “filter out” people you don’t want to see. It should really be used to “filter up” the people you really don’t want to miss.

    Tune into the rest like you would a (DV-R-less) TV. If you’re there when it happens, good. If you’re not, oh well.

  7. Ms. Herr (January 6, 2009, 12:28 am).

    @Tyson, @Chris, and @md all bring up very valid points, and I agree with them all conditionally. When you are using Twitter as a business development and customer service channel, it is important to be as open as feasible to anyone who wants direct communication with you. And @md’s suggestion to follow people for a week ties in well with my own thoughts about using notifications to get a real sense of who they are.

    As the owner of multiple Twitter accounts, I can tell you that I subscribe to the “follow everyone sans spam & broadcasters,” but ONLY on business or project related accounts. I’m much more selective with follows on @MsHerr, my primary and personal account. My reasons vary from being genuinely interested in [almost] everything someone has to say to wanting to have DM capability.

    Twitter follow reciprocity may have been good etiquette when Twitter was young, but as the user base swells, so does the presence of those trying to game the system.

    Consider those who might follow you simply with the hope, or expectation, that you will follow back. These people then unfollow if you choose not to reciprocate. In a brief five week experiment, I used Qwitter to track my unfollows. Nearly two-thirds of new followers unfollowed me within five days if I did not reciprocate; half of those people only gave me two days to reciprocate. These numbers are disappointingly high.

    @twetiquette says “unfollowing someone is not impolite.” I’d like to extend this statement and say that not following someone is not impolite. The same logic also applies to filtration.

    Whether you subscribe to follow-all-who-follow-you or more selective follow and filtration practices, it is vital to acknowledge and respond to those who @ you. In a public setting, it’s bad policy to completely disregard someone who calls you by name. You wouldn’t do it offline, so don’t do it online.

    Remember, this is YOUR Twitter account. It is up to you to choose who to include in your feed. Do not let anyone, yourself or another user, guilt you for your choices.

  8. Tomas (January 6, 2009, 2:05 am).

    @Brandon Franklin – Nice comment, looks like you’re keeping it real! :) Actually, the philosophy I would like to follow falls very much in line with what you said. :)

    @Brian – It’s funny because that’s exactly what I do with Google Reader; I “filter up” blogs that I enjoy but still have a whole slew of great blogs that I rank accordingly. :)

    @Ms. Herr – A light went off in my head after reading your comment and now I realize that I failed to mention that my Twitter account is as much a socializing tool as it is a business tool since it’s a representation of my ‘brand’ as a freelancer too. That’s where it gets difficult because as much as I would like a more personal Twitter, part of me also knows that I need to be out there meeting new peeps and networking. Which again brings me to the idea of having separate accounts for personal and business which I know several people on Twitter do (including yourself).

    Which brings me to another thought and maybe this is an idea for someone else to blog about, but it would be interesting to know how to best transition in your Twitter business account when all your followers are on your personal account (and know you by your personal account)? If anyone has any good resources for this, feel free to send them my way. ;)

  9. Derek Neighbors (January 6, 2009, 8:08 am).

    I think I agree most with Brian here. Different strokes for different folks but here is my current strategy…

    Follow anyone except flat out spammers. I do this simply to increase the chance for serendipitous moments to occur as well as ensure that I can dm anyone in network without hassle. This has paid off more times than I can count. It has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with being open minded. I don’t see networking as a “what can i get out of you” proposition. I think of it as a “what can i do for you”.

    This of course produces a large amount of noise that needs some kind of processing. I think Brian’s analog is quite good. I use tweetdeck to DVR everyone in the network. Then I create a couple of groups that include people that I want to see in “real time”. This is small feed that I check regularly. Then when I have time I browse what was DVR’ed.

    Additionally, tweetdeck allows me to follow things relative to what is important and the time via saved search phrases, like integrum, gangplank, authoritylabs, datedesigner, merb, etc….

    The only real drawback is tweetdeck is not mobile. To solve this I have a select few that I want to be ULTRA real time. I subscribe to those people via SMS. This way when I am out and about I get their tweets w/o needing to use a shitty iPhone twitter client. If they are in a conversation with someone that is outside my condensed list, I can always open a twitter client to view my full stream and follow the conversation.

    This seems to be working okay for me currently, but admittedly I am well under 1,000 followers so it might not scale well beyond several hundred.

  10. Jeff Moriarty (January 6, 2009, 8:14 am).

    I struggle with this, too, and my approach is also evolving.

    I started using Tweetdeck and then started following more people back. I use a special Group to track the people who I just do not want to miss what they’re saying. The Everyone column now becomes a stream that I eyeball when I can, but if I miss things I don’t sweat it. I often find new people this way to follow more closely, or get in touch with real-time discussions.

    So Tweetdeck lets me have both of the situations you’re referring to. I just wish you could Export/Import group lists between machines/installations.

  11. Konstanze (January 6, 2009, 10:20 am).

    @Thomas @Brandon Franklin
    I have been pondering this issue and concur with other commentors here that tweet streams cannot fulfill all communicative needs or rhetorical situations. However, as my tweet stream grew, I lost sight of it. Actually, never had that sight until it became hindsight. So, I got disillusioned because I didn’t really see a value in spending all this time and not really getting anything out of it anymore. In now more lucid hindsight, I see four main uses: (still have to decide what I want, really)
    - private/personal
    - Community of Practice-like
    - business/marketing
    - exhibitionistic/voyeuristic (not quite parallel)

    Private/personal: Probably a smaller stream if you are looking for ambience awareness of ppl you personally know and care for. Relatively little time spent yields the tremendous satisfaction of keeping up with friends and combating any feeling of lonliness. :-)

    Community of Practice-like: Probably a larger, select stream of individuals who hold knowledge you want that allows you to tap their explicit and tacit knowledge about topics of personal/research interest. The time spent browsing around/Twitter searching keywords seems useful enough and is satisfactory when you discover knew knowledge or are able to share your knowledge which in turn enhances your standing among the tweeps.

    business/marketing: Huge stream of followers for most ubiquitous coverage of your message. No need to follow others, except to not appear rude or snobbish. Satisfaction is measured in monetary units as afforded by increased respect for the product/company and the enhanced status as ‘trusted advisor’.

    exhibitionistic/voyeuristic: Let’s be honest, both these are valid sentiments and Twitter is the fitting response to these communicative needs, or should I say exigencies. There’s an element of both in all aforementioned uses and, for that matter, in all blogging/micro-blogging activity. Satisfaction clearly comes from a sense of accomplished self-importance (no matter how many ppl actually read your tweets) and from a less glorified need to ‘snoop’ in others’ lives (satisfying nontheless!)

    As for the etiquette, I believe that we are in the midst of forming one. However, I also believe that it will, for the most part and rightfully so, be kept an individual matter simply because the technology affords us to tune in and out as we please. No need to put up with anyone/anything. This also is one of the major difference between f2f and online communication – the power to turn it off (one can always fall back on the old ‘my browser crashed’ excuse if s.o. complains.) So, translating rules of f2f etiquette to the tweetverse might not be necessary at all depending on your personal communicative need. Obviously pissing off potential customers is not desirable.
    Twitter is all about YOU, YOU, and YOU.

  12. Tomas (January 6, 2009, 12:29 pm).

    @Derek Neighbors @Jeff Moriarty – More and more I get the feeling that TweetDeck is the superior tool when it comes to managing a large Twitter following. Maybe I’m just being overly critical of how much resources TweetDeck takes up on my laptop, and I’m probably in the minority of individuals who sees a CPU usage of 7%-12% as a bad thing. :)

    @Konstanze – I really like how you broke out each use for Twitter, and I think that ultimately I have to do some soul searching and decide what category I’m ultimately aiming for. :)

  13. Steve Belt (January 6, 2009, 12:45 pm).

    I follow 800+ people, so obviously I cannot read every tweet from every person. Given that my name is my brand, it doesn’t make much sense (for me) to have two twitter handles to separate biz from social.

    I think I get 5+ new followers every day. Currently, I follow back about half of them. If someone is an SEO hack or mortgage hack from across the country, I’m not following them back. If someone is a REALTOR from across the country, I will probably follow them back. If someone is following 2000 tweeps, with a 3 day old twitter account, I probably won’t follow them back. In fact, if someone varies greatly between followers (high) and following (low), I’m not likely to follow them.

    Local to Phoenix, given my business, I follow darned near anyone that appears to be minutely interesting. I’ll be honest with regard to Phoenix, it’s because it’s another chance to get my name in front of them. But, I really do care about what’s going on in and around Phoenix, and I think I follow every single person that’s replied to this post. And you folks, I pay attention to quite closely (of course, with TweetDeck).

  14. a few considerations before starting that 2nd, or 3rd, Twitter account « Ms. Herr when online (January 6, 2009, 12:54 pm).

    [...] is a worthwhile conversation emerging on this subject on Tomas Carrillo’s blog. I highly encourage you to read both his original post and the comment [...]

  15. Tomas (January 6, 2009, 12:57 pm).

    @Steve Belt – I’m glad to see your comment, especially since you talk about your criteria when it comes to which Tweeps make the cut and which don’t. :)

  16. Time (January 6, 2009, 1:35 pm).

    @konstanze – I must begin by inquiring as to how many of your four uses were satisfied by your post. :-)
    I certainly concur with your breakdown, though. There is a certain rhetorical situation that twitter fulfills for most people; it largely has to do with sharing insight, humor, personal events, etc. with other individuals with whom we feel some connection. There is, of course the faction of twitter users who chose to use it largely for business purposes (not SPAM). However, most of what comes through is more social in nature. All of this is really framed in the exhibitionist/voyeur concept; we clearly have a desire to make public the tweets that we do and receive some satisfaction when doing so, regardless of how many people read them (albeit an increased satisfaction exists when we get feedback proving someone is aware of our posts). Merely seeing that someone follows us (back) also adds to this feeling.

    I also find an important point in what md points out, if you are following someone (and they follow back), you have the option of DMing when needed. This does not mean you need to watch every tweet.

    As I am in the 200-250 range of followers/followings (a small fraction of other tweeps), I have reached the point that it is impossible to follow everyone actively. So, using a tool like tweetdeck is great, even advisable. You are going to miss a huge chunk of them anyway, so why not “filter up” as @brianshaler, et al. suggest.

    That said, I do not use tweetdeck, although I think I should. In truth, I have a handful of people that come directly to my phone (33% of which have already responded to this post). In this way, I see all their tweets. Then, since I am at a computer all day and night :-/ , I keep twitter open and pop over every now and again to check it out in real-time. There are some people who pop out and I read with more interest than others that I may skim over. Admittedly, stating I have twitter open always suggests that it is really more important in my life than it really is, and it CAN be a distracter; but it is really just a minimized window to check on occasion. I do pretty much practice the follow “most” followers largely for the point that @dneighbors brings up: it increases the chances of serendipitous moments. Also, it increases the chances of forming more solid friendships with like-minded folks with who you might not otherwise.

    Etiquette? Well, I must concur with @msherr and the group; twitter is for you! unfollowing and not following someone is not impolite (although it might initiate a minimally awkward conversation if it is with someone you often see). That said, do not feel guilty about removing your affiliation w/someone who’s just not doin it for ya.

    @tomas, your original dilema was how to treat/use twitter. Clearly, you understand the difference in the option. The question is how do you want to use it and then apply the method that is going to make it work best for you.

  17. alandd (January 6, 2009, 11:31 pm).

    I am in what appears to be a unique position in the Twitter crowd. I cannot use Twitter during the work day unless I leave the office for a wifi hotspot. Employer blocks Twitter and I don’t have a smart phone.

    The effect of this is to limit my tweeting time to before work and after evening activities. I go as long as 14 hours before checking in. I handle the backlog by keeping the number of people I follow low. I also check to see if someone is very active. It’s not an automatic veto but weighs heavily in the decision.

    I am also preparing to migrate some of my online identity to something new. This discussion helps me think about larger online communication issues, especially as it applies to multiple identities. Ms. Herr’s insights on that issue were great.

    I like the filtering ideas and features described for Tweetdeck. I’ll have to start using it to conquer the tweet flood at the end of the evening!

  18. Konstanze (January 7, 2009, 8:45 pm).

    You all might have already seen this, but just in case I’m adding it to this discussion: Twitdom’s most popular apps

  19. Steven Shaffer (January 9, 2009, 10:27 pm).

    Basically, I use a strict formula: “Whatever feels right for as long as it feels right.” I don’t mean this in a conceited way. As I gain new followers, I check them out. I’m curious about who cares what I have to say. If they are interesting I’ll follow back. But only for so long as they are interesting. (By interesting, I mean do they fit my interests at the time; all people are interesting in and of themselves).

    I don’t feel any guilt when I unfollow people, nor to I feel slighted when they unfollow me. We are the first generation facing the challenge of parsing so much information so quickly. Our attention spans haven’t been primed since childhood to accept such a data stream, we’re just learning. The only right answer, is the one that’s right for me.

  20. Brandon Franklin (January 9, 2009, 11:41 pm).

    Hear, hear! to what Steven Shaffer said

The comments are closed.