How I Made Twitter Infinitely More Useful

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.

twitter unfollow

photo credit: Joffley via photopin cc

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.

What Works With Twitter Today

Marketing Podcast with Dan Zarrella

BeakerTwitter has been with us for a while now – about a century in Internet years. While it has changed and grown and evolved into a staple of the media landscape, many marketers have grown to effectively tap Twitter in a handful of useful ways as well.

I know, blogging about Twitter? How 2007 of me. (Just for fun have a look back at an eBook I wrote on Twitter in 2009 – Twitter for Business – lots of services no longer exist but the content is still mostly relevant.)

Like most Internet tools and social networks things change and there are always new and better ways to use them meet your objectives. Now, mind you I didn’t say right and wrong ways because, frankly, there is no right or wrong way, only the way that serves your unique objectives.

For my view some Twitter best practices look like this.

Consider objectives

The first thing you must do in order to use Twitter effectively is to clearly state and understand why you’re using it at all. For me, it’s a tool to amplify my own content, filter and aggregate other people’s content and network for links and conversations. I always share content I’ve written, content and ideas I’m wrestling with and eight to ten pieces of content from others that I think is useful.

Share routinely

There are two primary reasons I share on Twitter. 1) – my hope is that people that follow me on Twitter appreciate that I find good marketing related content for them and save them the work of rooting it out themselves 2) – my other hope is that some of the people who’s content I share will at least consider whether my content is worth sharing. Networking in this manner is simply one form of the new link building. However, it’s still networking and will fail if the only goal is reciprocation. Think value and links will come.

List wisely

Go out today and put your customers, competitors, partners and media sources on Twitter lists so it’s easy to keep up on what they are doing, asking, sharing and requiring on Twitter.

Employ 3rd party tools

At the very least get a Hootsuite account so you can follow your lists easily. Also get a Buffer account to make sharing content buffered out through the day a snap. Use an RSS reader like ReederApp to make it easier to scan for sharable content. Head on over to Topsy and keep tabs on popular content others are sharing on Twitter.

For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I also sat down and chatted with Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella about some of his most recent findings on the finer points of Twitter use.

Zarrella spends more time than anyone I know trying to get at what creates followers and engagement in social networks in a scientific way. His book The Science of Marketing delves into things like when and what to tweet.

He’s created an interesting little tool called ReTweetLab that lets you analyze any Twitter account and discover what works best, when and how to tweet and what calls to action generate the highest engagement.

Dan’s work across all networks is shared in his latest book – The Science of Marketing.

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