Twitter is a great tool. I’ve been using it since March of 2006 and it’s certainly here to stay as a communications tool for the foreseeable future.
When Twitter hit the big time some years ago there was no manual for how to use it or even any best practices as we were all just experimenting with what was a new form of networking.
I remember reading a great line someone wrote about the genesis of Twitter – “Twitter founders threw a bat and a ball on a field and Twitter users invented baseball.”
One practice that was very common then and still is to some degree was that of following lots of people, particularly those that followed you. In fact, this became a bit of a way to build a following – follow lots of people and they follow you back.
Of course as is no plainly clear today all this following made some Twitter functionality impossible to use. If you follow 20,000 people (19,472 that you don’t know) it’s impossible to use the main Twitter stream to keep up with and share content from trusted sources you follow.
Many people adapted by creating lists and groups in 3rd party tools for the people that “actually” wanted to follow.
Over the course of the last year or so I’ve seen a real shift in Twitter habits. Many people with very large followings stopped automatically following back and some took the more aggressive step of a “do over.”
I stopped auto following long ago but still found myself following a little over 29,000 folks.
In an effort to take Twitter back and render Twitter more useful I chose to take the time to edit my follows down to a number I could manage. I know this sounds almost “unsocial” but, as many others have found, it actually allows me to be much more social because I can now actively engage some of my most important relationships on Twitter.
If this idea interests you I’ll share how I accomplished this task.
I suppose you can manually unfollow a few hundred people a day if you like, but if you have anything more than a thousand or so, you might want to employ another process.
I chose to use a service called ManageFlitter. ManageFlitter actually offers a host of Twitter management features, but for my purpose, the unfollow tool was what I was after. (This is a great way to prune off fake or inactive follows even if you don’t want to pursue the do over option.)
ManageFlitter offers free services, but because I wanted to do a large number quickly so I opted for the paid account as it allowed me to unfollow up to 5,000 people per day. There actually is no mass follow or unfollow option for Twitter so in order to remain within the Twitter terms of service people still have to be manually unfollowed by clicking a button for each. Fortunately, ManageFlitter also has an option to pay someone else to do this task remotely – again, probably a good option – I think I spent $25 in total for this.
The trade off is that likely I will miss some things that are interesting, but I can more easily see the things that my carefully curated list is up to and it just makes Twitter so much more useful and clean. It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you tackle cleaning out the basement. There was all this clutter down there that I wasn’t using anymore and it made going down there at all less pleasant. Okay, maybe referring to people I followed as clutter is a bit harsh sounding, but what I really mean is my own clutter.
I thought long and hard about both doing this and writing about doing this, but I still think it’s the right approach. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to add more people, but this time I’ll do it more fully understanding the role that Twitter plays in my marketing and outreach today.
Obviously, I welcome your thoughts and tips on making Twitter more useful day to day.