Standing at the Twitter Crossroads

twitter_bird-sad-blue.pngI’m getting burned out on Twitter, and well, all the social media stuff.

I’ve compartmentalized my social media as much as I can. I use Twitter for mostly work stuff, and Facebook for more personal stuff (privacy controls and all.) I keep my LinkedIn up to date, but I don’t spend much time there.

I’ve set up a few columns in TweetDeck where I can make sure I don’t miss updates from my friends/family and a bunch of higher ed web people that I’m interested in seeing what they say.

It’s become a big bunch of noise. Foursquare updates. Updates from blogs. Retweets. “What I’m listening to.” “I’m working on something big…”, Hash tags. “I need an email provider – discuss!”, “I’m posting this to win an iPad.” All of it.

As Leo Laporte said, and said very well:

“I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves.”

I miss the early days of Twitter, circa say 2007, when only the really nerdy web folks were on there – and it really was a nice professional development tool. I’d ask a question, Kyle James and Brad Ward and Karine Joly and Karlyn Morissette would share info, and you could get an answer quickly. Now, it feels like everyone’s shouting and it’s less about the community.

I’m not saying everyone shouting is bad, but it’s not working for me.

I’m at a crossroads with this tool.

I find myself thinking about the best way to use Twitter. I’ve un-followed the people who were generating literally hundreds of tweets a day or those that haven’t updated this year. I’ve done some organization.

Do I:

A) Selectively follow the people I’m interested in and manage it with a few tools.

B) Give in to the machine and follow back the over 700 people who follow me. This will dramatically increase the noise, but some creative filtering and grouping would ensure I’m still getting some information that is of value. This will require a bit more effort, but may be worth it in the long run.

C) Chuck it all into the bin.

What method works for you? Which (or some combination of both) is the best way to get value of the tool?

13 thoughts on “Standing at the Twitter Crossroads”

  1. What you didn’t like all of my beer updates 🙂

    Tweetdeck has helped me filter the noise but now my problem is I have a ton of columns to scroll through. Twitter has gone from what are you doing to a chat room which isnt bad if you can drown out what you dont wanna hear. And then throw in the Google Reader updates (which are close to 1000+ a day)

    Unfortunately I didnt take the chance to make a work account when I started at my current job so now I have clients from all over the different businesses on one account. I’m in social media split personality identity crisis burn out.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  2. I feel the same way and I don’t have nearly as many followers and such as you do :(. I usually go through a periodic phase of unfollowing people that either haven’t updated, aren’t relevant, or are spamalots. Lists are helpful as well and many days I just look at my lists to see what’s relevant in my life. Leo Laporte had a great blog post on that (which you quoted) and I find it quite true. Many times, people post things just to see or hear themselves (or, in many cases, complain). It’s frustrating that a really useful tool has become not one of communication, but a mere “soapbox” attitude. Too much promotion and not enough engagement (like, “only 2 more followers until 1000! I’ll follow you back if you follow me!”). Anyway, my rant is over, but you’re completely right in thinking this way 🙂

  3. I do both A and C, decidedly not B.

    Here’s how I deal with Twitter in terms of my personal Twitter account.

    – I use Twitter for professional development, skim it for links and ideas.

    – I limit myself to following (a very higher ed) 101 accounts. If I add someone, I delete someone, and I don’t feel bad about it. Otherwise the volume starts to induce unneeded stress. Who really reads the tweets of 300 people, much less 1,000 people? This is your “A” above.

    – The folks I follow are a mixture of my professional interests, primarily e-mail marketing and higher ed Web. Besides e-mail and Web, this results in enough social media article links to suit my needs.

    – If someone is a heavy per-day tweeter, I drop them, even if 1 in 10 tweets has really valuable info.

    – If I don’t check Twitter for a day or week, I don’t feel guilt or remorse and I don’t look back at what I missed. We aren’t going to be 20% short with our incoming class because I missed a Tweet. This is your “C” above.

    – My persona on Twitter is semi-anonymous, so I don’t feel pressure to follow folks, respond to every general question, etc. Being semi-anonymous, I also don’t have coworkers, prospective students, etc., following me.

    – Related to the previous bullet, I don’t worry about how many followers I have, how many RTs I get, my Klout score, etc. I’m not aiming to score a new job, conference presentation, etc. Having more followers than people I’m following is gratifying enough, as is being on Twitter lists for both higher ed and e-mail marketing.

    – I personally try to Tweet mostly signal, little noise, and push noise off to evenings/weekends or DM.

    – I use Hootsuite’s schedule tweets function liberally to spread out my own tweets.

    – I often use DM to respond to questions and have conversations. Yeah, that somewhat misses the point of Twitter, but it works for me.

    – I use the favorite button and Read It Later to save articles for reading later. Batch process, much more efficient. Too much work to do to sit and read articles throughout the day.


    Are there good ideas being shared on Twitter? Definitely. Are all ideas posted worth pursuing? Obviously not.

    If a person spends more time gathering ideas than executing them, then that is paralysis. Or maybe consulting.

  4. As I approach the 1 year anniversary of my “How I Use Twitter” post (, i’ve been contemplating the same moves.

    Take note of one of the final paragraphs of that post:

    “You’ll Get There One Day

    The day is going to come for you as well.  You’ll hit the point where there’s just too much.  You’ll undoubtedly cut down your list one day after you define and realize how you want to use this tool.  And when you do, when that time comes, I certainly hope you’ll better understand both sides of the issue.”

    Welcome to your day. Make it yours. 🙂

  5. Mike, just do what feels right for you (but, don’t you dare unfollowing me ;0)

    As I told Brad last year when he wrote his Twitter post, I’ve never been able to follow more than a hundred folks. I always try to reply to tweets that are addressed to me, but I can only do what I can do.

    I wish the automatic updates from Foursquare and al. were less frequent. While I’m not a big fan of updates from the exercise/running applications, they might have had a subconscious effect on getting me back to work out again.

    I also wish you answered my emails when I sent one ;0)

    You should pick up a copy of Bit Literacy, that book has changed my outlook on the way I manage my digital life. Really.

  6. I’m nearing the point where I will be following 1,000 accounts. It’s definitely harder to keep track. I may do a culling fairly soon. I call it the “bradjward maneuver” 😉
    There are some moments when I miss the small crowd feel… However, I seem to find new folks on a daily basis who say interesting things. My biggest pet peeve are all of those “7 ways to do blah, blah, blah” tweets. Way too many of those hitting my feed. Almost always an unfollow unless I know the person in real life.

  7. I don’t follow people – at all. I’m not very interested in the personal lives of most people and even if I were I usually don’t have the time to pay as much attention to them as they deserve. Instead, I follow specific topics. I use Tweetdeck and I have about six columns with all but one tied to specific hashtags. This works reasonably well in helping me balance the flood of information of questionable utility I don’t want and the truly interesting, topical information I do want.

  8. It’s funny because I remember years ago when people complained constantly that Twitter couldn’t be organized. Now that it can be organized, people don’t really utilize those features.

    My answer is this: I follow a lot of people, and I use the tools to organize them so it makes it more manageable. Sure, there is noise (and yes, sometimes I’m the one contributing to it rather than being helpful), but it’s not as difficult to navigate through as people think – it takes less than a second to discard a piece of information that is not useful to you and move on. No, I don’t read every tweet that comes across my feeds, and I don’t necessarily feel compelled to.

    But the community you talk about in this post that existed in 2007 still exists. Want help? Ask @kuratowa what he thinks of the community today since all he had to do was ask and he got the money for a bus ticket to HighEdWeb. I don’t mind foursquare updates and running updates at all. Why? Because the people that send them are my friends and I care about what they’re doing. The ones that are just “people I follow” rather than people I actually know….well chances are, I’m not even letting those tweets into my consciousness. And for a sure way to get someone’s attention, @ or DM them when you’re looking for info.

    Personally, I feel that people who keep those they follow at a very low number are suspect – it shows me that they are more interested in making noise rather than being part of the community. It also shows me that they’re more interested in focusing on the negative aspects of this free tool, rather than utilizing all the free resources they have been given to solve what they are complaining about. If I unfollow people, it’s typically because they do this sort of thing…unfollow or they get removed from all the lists and groups that I actually look at regularly.

    Anyway, that’s my rant for the morning. Good luck!


  9. I took a break from Twitter for a few months this year. It was good. It helped me to remember some of the reasons I first started using Twitter – primarily as a place to casually connect with like minded people. I would agree that as the community has grown it has become much more difficult to do that, but I have found that using some of the filtering tools has helped. I have identified a group of “core” people that I want to follow and have a column for them in Tweetdeck. I still check in on the full stream regularly, but I only get on screen notifications from my core. I have slowly grown the group to include some friends of my core group and people that have engaged with me as I have sought feedback from the community. It is not perfect solution, but it has been working well for me.

  10. MIke – I totally agree with you. It seems like Twitter has grown so much and a lot of it is noise. Like the #highered hashtag, before it was a handful of people that would chime in and it now has a new update every 5 seconds by someone outside of the community. For that reason, I moved to a new hashtag #HEmkting for those in the higher ed marketing community. Like you say, there are tools and features that help filter out noise. Every once and a while I try to look for the new tools/features and take time to try to apply them to how I would like to use Twitter. It can get a bit overwhelming when schedules are already so full and our minds are always being bombarded with this kind of stuff.

    I agree with Karlyn – people following too few or too many people are a bit suspect for relative reasons. Looks like a spammer or the person really doesn’t want to be too involved.

    We are started a quick poll on our website about a week and a half ago about social networking burnout (see the orange thumbs up/down vote box on the right So far the results are speaking about the same as to what you are talking about.

  11. Spoon mentioned “chat” in his/her comment but I don’t think that anyone has really noted the growing use of Twitter to schedule topic-specific semi-synchronous chats. It’s a very different use of Twitter but it’s a fascinating evolution of the tool and how it’s used. The more organized chats bring some level of order and focus to their discussions so even if you’ve not available during the pre-scheduled time slot you can get some good info by reading the transcript.

  12. Yeah, I’ve given up on trying to keep up with Facebook and Twitter. Right now the closest people to me are in private groups. I use tgethr, but Google Groups can accomplish similar if you want free. One thing missing though is that not everyone is as good about emailing the group with what’s going on in their world. What they need is a way of pulling in Facebook updates of just people in those select groups into the conversations. You might want to give just some very strict private groups of your friends or family a try?

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