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How I use Twitter

May 27, 2009

It seems you can’t swing a twig without hitting a story on Twitter. Twitter is growing too fast. Too slow. It’s too over-exposed. Twitter experts (whatever that means) think one should have a certain number of follower/people they follow.

In other words: if 1000 people follow you, you should only follow 333.333. See, the theory goes, this makes you look like you’re smart.

Only problem, your smarts aren’t based on your looks. They are based on your words. And therein lies the issue with Twitter.

The things people preach are nonsense.

Yes, you heard that right. It’s a load of nonsense. There are Twitter experts out there who have 1000’s of followers. And they follow 3333.333’s of people.

There are two problems with this:

1. You can’t follow 3333.33 people. It’s hard to even follow 33.33. (And, if you’re still with me, the Xerox machine from Mad Men might be 0.33 people)

2. If you turn out to be not smart, it’s easier to ignore you than unfollow you, and thus the Follower number stays at whatever factor of 3 it currently resides at.

So what do we do? Filter out the noise using Tweetdeck, Twirl, or the tried and tested technique of simply ignoring. And while many people are leaving Twitter (they’re called Qwitters), many more are simply ignoring most of the people on Twitter.

I did a test on Friday. I asked a question on Linkedin, and asked the same one on Twitter. On LinkedIn, I got 6 thoughtful answers. On Twitter, I got none, thoughtful or otherwise.

One could argue that the people who follow me don’t know the answer. But I think it’s more likely that most of the people who follow me don’t really follow me. They are on Twitter to promote their blog, or themselves, or their client and don’t really care what other people have to say.

I just used a pretty broad brush to paint a whole lot of people. So, I should explain how I now use Twitter:

I set up a group of people in Tweetdeck to manage the people I want to follow. I follow about a 1000 people, and when I occasionally see something thoughtful, I add a person to the group called “Smart People”. This means kicking off someone who hasn’t been smart in a while. This is the ultimate Darwinian moment: it’s survival of the smartest. And incidentally, in order to kick someone out of a group on Tweetdeck, one has to add person to group, then un-add them.

The number of people in my group is around 20. That’s the true number of people I follow, even though it’s published as over 1000.

How do you use Twitter?

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