The Twitter Cull is On…

Posted on April 10, 2009. Filed under: Where Work meets Life | Tags: , , , |

twitter-bird-deadOh, how this hurts.  I hate breaking up with people.

I am going through my “following” list on Twitter, and deleting one name after another. This involves reviewing my list, avatar after avatar, name after name and bio after bio, and assessing each for whether I want them to continue showing up in my stream or not.  I’m hoping to reduce my list from 1400-odd people I’m following to about half that.

When “Following” doesn’t equal “Friend”
I know that for many power Twitter users, 1400 people to follow seems a drop in the bucket.  Some people who want to build their following to huge numbers play the “following” game to great effect, picking up a hundred or so people each day, hoping to be followed back, then they trim back and add again, growing their list of followers in waves.   They can follow 200o people in less than a month, and as the number of followers they attract gets to about 1800, they can add still more people.   Twitter on “nutritional supplements” is how I think of it.   And if those people are chosen carefully, perhaps it can be a decent strategy for some.   While I love finding interesting new people to follow, this “forced growth” doesn’t seem like the strategy for me right now.

And I’m not “easy”, either
Autofollowing isn’t really doing the job for me, either.  Again, it’s not a strategy I dismiss entirely.  I like reciprocity as much as the next person.  But autofollowing does make me feel like an easy pushover for every marketing guru that comes along hoping to sell me something.  For the most part, it hasn’t enriched the quality of my Twitter experience.  It may have worked for Barack Obama, but even if he wrote his own tweets, I suspect his “people” monitored all the replies and direct messages he received.

Filters help, but can’t do all the work
I’ve got maybe 15% of the people I follow sorted into groups, which makes it easier to follow: local tweeps (for Victoria and Vancouver people) and Don’t Miss (for people both near and far that I’ve made a real connection with).  I could do more, but I feel like I have too many to sort! So I have decided that it’s time to simplify.

So over to my list I go, looking for familiar names and faces to hang onto.  Casually dismissing the spammers.  Agonising over “mom, runner, working from home, social media enthusiast” that I don’t recognize.  Is she using the service?  Is that enough in common to hang onto?  Am I dismissing a future friend or business partner?

Here’s how the cull works:

  • If we have exchanged friendly shout-outs and even confided to each other in direct messages, you’re in.
  • If you live in Victoria BC, you’re probably in.
  • If something about your bio makes me say “oh wait… maybe not this one”.  You’re in.  For now.
  • If you feed me wonderful content on a wonderful basis – news, links, terrific whitepapers and blog articles, you are in.
  • If you are Ashton or Demi… you make me laugh.  You’re in.

The rest of you – well, you can @wordspring me.  Ask me to follow back so we can send direct messages to each other, then give me a little bit of yourself.  It doesn’t have to be much, just 140 characters of  The Real You.  Not your product, not your boss, your publicist or your intern.  Just you.  And I will follow you to the ends of the earth.  Or until Twitter is bought up by Google and the love is gone.

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I Tweet in Real Life!

Posted on February 9, 2009. Filed under: In My Experience | Tags: , , |

dallas-road-seawallLast week, when the weather was giving us West Coasters a glimpse of spring, I went for a run along the Dallas Road Seawall. Of course, I wasn’t alone in my decision to enjoy the mild weather – many others came to enjoy the air, the sunshine and the view, bringing dogs and babies and cups of coffee.

Jogging past my strolling neighbours, I found myself chatting in tiny bursts: “Cute dog!” “I like your stick!” “Good afternoon” – and nearly all these little exchanges were marked with a smile back, or another comment. By the end of 40 minutes’ running, I had exchanged greetings with dozens of people – what’s more, I felt wonderful… connected, even.

I’ve been quite active on Twitter.com for a couple of months, and thinking about the nature of this communication medium: 140 characters to answer the question, as Chris Brogan says, “What has your attention?”. (While the twitter.com home page asks “What are you doing?”, Twitter seems to have evolved beyond the scope of that starting point, and attention is what it’s all about.) That’s just enough for a decent sentence, a quick response, or a kind comment. It’s an awful lot like greeting the folks you meet on the street, or on the seawall.

And to me, that similarity marks the return of something we’ve been in danger of losing – that casual but kind human contact. When we lived in smaller communities, the friendly greeting was commonplace. Everyone knew everyone else’s face, but didn’t necessarly want to become intimate friends with all their fellow citizens. It made sense to lubricate social interaction with a little small talk.

Now, with our big-box stores and freeways, we’ve lost that opportunity for the most part. Seawall friendliness is the exception rather than the rule. And that makes places like Twitter more important than you might imagine. It’s becoming the 21st-century equivalent of the village square, the promenade, the church social. We tweet because we’re human.

I’m not saying that we should all be updating our Facefook status and posting to Twitter multiple times a day. In fact, I’d promote the opposite – take the “listening” skills and the short communication that you learn online, and try applying it to the real world. Next time you are stuck in the grocery line-up, faced with catching up on the tabloid news headlines or choosing which package of gum to add to your purchase, try “tweeting” the person standing in line beside you. It can be something simple, like “wow, look how many magazine covers have the same people on them this week”, or even the classic comment about the weather. You might get a reply. You’ll certainly have made the world a slightly friendlier place.

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