Using Twitter, what I learned, what I still don't get

I've been using Twitter for a while.  I like it, but am not completely obsessive about it. Frankly with some of the stuff I see flying through my list of followers, I wonder how they get actual work done.  It's like Chatting with a thousand people at a time. That being said I still think its a brilliantly simple tool for connecting people and listening to what people are saying. I recently blogged about a great customer services example here.

I notice some people have thousands of followers (think of those people as readers of your content), some people follow thousands (they read a lot I guess), and some people have both.

First, I would love to have thousands of followers. Sadly I only want people who are interested in what I have to say about Social Media and the Internet.  When someone "follows" me, I go look at their profile and what they have written.  Some people seem to have the same interests, often though, people are following me just to get the reciprocal follow. Or they are trying to get traffic to their site and hope I'll click that link in their profile. One post I read said that if I don't reciprocate then it means I don't want to be part of the conversation.  I absolutely do, just not all of them.  I don't need to follow someone to read what they write (called "tweets").  Also, if I follw them, they can message me directly and frankly I have enough issues with spam in my email.

Second, I haven't followed that many people.  About 180.  Generally I follow those people because I want to be able to direct message them or read what they have to say.  I think people should be able to see my list of people I follow and assume I endorse these people someone.  I guess I want a "follow" to have some meaning.

That's changing quick.  Some of the tools I have been using (like TweetDeck) will let you create groups, but they have to be people you follow.  So even though the people I don't follow publish their info publicly, I have to friend/follow them to group them using this tool.  Hey, I can adapt, maybe I'll follow more people.   I can also search based on words, or popular Hashtags to find content across the entire twittersphere, or twitterverse, or twitopia.. what ever you want to call it. FYI, hashtags are just "purposed words" used specifically to make searching more accurate.  they begin with #.  For example at a recent conference they told everyone to use #SMS08 in their tweets so later we could read the back channel of chatter going on during the conference.  Simple elegant solution for organizing the masses.  You can basically search on anything.  If you click here you will see all the tweets that referenced my twitter name.

Stuff I still don't get

Here's where I run into problems.  Many people Twitter a lot of randomness.  Myself included.  My Twitter updates my Facebook account, so I tweet stuff like "Crossing the border, and almost home".  But if someone follows me for insight into social media do they care? Some will be amused, some will feel like I do and that its noise, or information smog getting in the way of conversations I need to be a part of. Twitter needs to figure that out. Here's a great example.  Forrester Research's Jeremiah Owyang, tweets most of his day. People would call that "Life-streaming". I read his tweets because he researches social media.  However, interspersed in his tweets about social media are his thoughts on current events, a his intention to bake candied yams. I thnk its completely valid for him to tweet this stuff, I just need a better filter.

How do you filter whats on twitter? Who do you follow? How do you categorize what you tweet?  Feel free to comment.
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BY: Bryan Person (11/28/2008 10:15 AM)
COMMENT: David: I actually like the randomness (or most of it, at least) that is interspersed with the more business-like social media tweets from the people I follow. In fact, I think it helps to put a more well-rounded and human face/voice on folks. And sometimes, that randomness leads to new connections. The other day, for example, I was tweeting about Tim Tams, a delicious Australian chocolate that I couldn't get enough of when I lived Down Under for two years. My tweet actually drew a reply from @Barb_G, a fellow Tim Tam fan and the chair of the International Association of Business Communicators. I hadn't known Barb was on Twitter, so this was a fortuitous introduction. I followed her back immediately. I then clicked through to Barb's profile and found a link to her business communications blog, and now I'm subscribed to it as well. So give me the social media/community tweets, but give me other insights into my followers'/followees' interests as well. I appreciate them. Bryan Person | @BryanPerson LiveWorld

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BY: Dana Theus (11/28/2008 2:51 PM)
COMMENT: David: I'm with you 100%. People use these tools for personal reasons, professional reasons and - both. Those of us in social media tend to blend them more than others. I find the blend of personal and professional interests both fun and sometimes annoying (just like in the rw). I think it makes sense from the standpoint of people building their personal brands in the voice they use and in the mix of personal/random and professional/value they offer in their posts. While I experiment with this for myself personally (since my professional and personal brands are one), I'm actually fascinated by this dynamic as a branding/marketer and its implications for organization's brands (i.e., my clients) - though not in the way most marketing agencies tend to talk about it. That's the subject of a larger discussion. I followed you on Twitter. Feel free to do same (dtheus). PS- I stopped following Jeremiah (tho i have his blog in my reader) because his volume was simply too high. I try to be volume sensitive to my readers in all areas for that reason.

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BY: Connie Bensen (11/28/2008 4:20 PM)
COMMENT: I just saw the link to this on your FB update. My use of Twitter has went thru stages that I've documented on my blog. It doesn't control my life. I only open Twitter for specific reasons: 1) to take a break & chat with friends; 2) connect with someone via DM 3) work reasons. I gave a quick impromptu preso on the Business Cases for Twitter at the Social Media Strategies (you had own home so you couldn't heckle me ;) ). ey are listed here And for work, I've trained our sales people to use it for sales leads. Twitter is a portal for agencies needing social media monitoring. If they're actively using Twitter they've achieved a level of understanding about social media & it's value. We monitor the convesation on Twitter for our brand, that of competitors & industry discussion. For statistics- we went from 220 Freemium sign ups in July to 345 for my first month with Techigy. And it also builds brand awareness. Now we have others helping through word of mouth. And Twitter allows me to quickly thank them. :) Ultimately it's a tool that can be leveraged. I do follow everyone back & am at 2700. Twitter allowed me to get to know people like Shel Israel & other helpful people on a personal level & for that I'm thankful. (Note - I don't tweet my blog posts - I get very little traffic from that). Now I intend to tweak my use of Twitter just a bit to provide my users with more value - stay tuned :)

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BY: Ari Herzog (11/29/2008 2:53 AM)
COMMENT: I don't auto-follow people, David. The randomness of tweets, as you attribute Jeremiah, contributes to the person behind the name, if you will. If one tweets the same topic day in and day out, regardless of value, how boring is that? But when there's a sporadic tweet about something different -- instant gratitude indicating the Twitterer is a person, too. You may recall I began following you AFTER we tweeted back and forth about some event your company was co-sponsoring some time ago. So, first we had that connection; and second, I spied a similarity of interests in the same space. And here I am commenting on your blog after seeing it aggregated on Social Media Today.

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BY: Mischa Coster (11/30/2008 7:07 AM)
COMMENT: I had the same problem. My solution involves Yahoo Pipes, which enables me to 'filter' my tweets. That way, the tweets that are displayed on other sites come from a Pipes feed instead of a Twitter feed. In Pipes, I filter out all the 'personal / irrelevant' stuff that is visible on my twitter feed. This way you could also include certain keywords in you twitter feed to enable/disable syndication to other sites. That's the way I do it, but there's a LOT more stuff you can do using Yahoo Pipes... On the other side, the people I follow are just the ones that heve regular updates and newsworthy content. New sites, ideas, projects, interesting thoughts, product updates (like the Evernote tweet) etc.

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