Much Ado About Twitter (And Why I’m Un-following Hundreds of my Tweeps)

By now, you’ve likely heard of Twitter. Although most online-connected people have heard of it, I find the majority don’t really know what Twitter is or frankly don’t understand the attraction.

This doesn’t surprise me. I was one of them.

I’ve known about Twitter and had toyed with it a few times. Several friends and coworkers are avid Tweeters and I could quickly find out how their day was going or the incredible challenge they faced as they picked a dinner entrée. They tweeted about the trivial aspects of daily life, and while these people are important to me, I admit I had a hard time getting up the energy to care.

When Twitter created the concept of microblogging, this was essentially what they had in mind. It was a platform that allowed you to share the details of your day with those you care about… and do it conveniently and on the go through 140 character text messages that can be sent by cell if not in front of a computer.

Personally, I don’t think my life is exciting enough to burden others with such details.

But somewhere along the way, Twitter made a turn.  It became more than a platform for connecting with a few friends. Instead, it started to become one big, messy, multi-million person conversation with the ability to build networks. Big networks. Fast.

And in that process, Twitter exploded. More than 70% of Twitter users joined the site in the first half of 2009 . The number of applications running against the underlying Twitter platform seems to be growing nearly as fast, building added capabilities for searching, managing the flow of Tweets, managing people you follow, posting, auto-responding, and finding people of interest.

And it was within this timeframe that I entered the Twitter fray. I began by listening and occasionally retweeting (taking others’ tweets and forwarding them to my network with acknowledgement given to the original source). I found a few people to follow and by listening to what they had to say, I found others who were interesting. And as I retweeted them, other people found me.

And here’s where I made my critical error in Twitter network management. I read everything I could find on Twitter etiquette and the consensus is that you should follow those who follow you. This is, of course, the opinion of the many active tweeters who are trying to build their networks – and bigger networks are always better. The easiest way to build a network is to follow anyone you can find in the hopes that they follow you. In fact, there are dozens of tools that do little more than follow tweeters who follow you, and un-follow those you follow who do not reciprocate.

So, after following nearly 1700 people and being followed by 1400, my twitter management was out of control. Even with the help of sophisticated tools like Tweetdeck or HootSuite(which aid in watching Tweets and sorting them into groups), I couldn’t keep up with the interesting information due to the general level of noise.

In other words, I missed the basic concept of embracing quality over quantity.

So I’ve begun to look carefully at the people I’m following. Many are organizations and individuals in which I’m truly interested: hospitals, eHealth thought leaders, entrepreneurs, business people whom I respect, people who tweet in their role as a patient or patient advocate, and, of course, I also follow a few people that I know in real life.  Unfortunately, however, many of the people I’ve been following don’t care what I have to say and are people I likely won’t talk with.

So now I’m sorting through the list of those I follow. As with most aspects of my Twitter usage, Twitter.com’s tools are nearly useless for the task. Instead, I am using woefully immature tools, such as TweetSum.com and Tweepler.com, which are designed for the task. I’ve also set up Twimailer.com to help me manage new followers by providing information that allows me to make better decisions about them from the onset.

It will take me weeks to get the list where I want it, but already, I’m better able to manage the task before me. Newsworthy items are thrown in front of me 24×7 and I’m much better prepared to find those of interest.

And I’ll periodically post about how my twitter use has evolved and show good examples that I’ve seen, particularly amongst healthcare organizations.

And if you have great examples that you’d like to share, post it on this blog or follow me on Twitter.com/benatgeo and tell me all about them!

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

6 thoughts on “Much Ado About Twitter (And Why I’m Un-following Hundreds of my Tweeps)

  1. For those not looking to build a large network then don’t. If you are, then the groups in TeetDeck you mentioned make it easy to only display tweets from people or organizations you want to hear from.

  2. Yes, isn’t it amazing that these new “social networks” really aren’t very social at all. Who has time to build relationships to all those persons? When we barely have time to relate to our own families and friends?

    I liked your description about it all being noise, that’s exactly what it feels like when you try to keep up!

  3. Good article. However, I took a similar approach-the one you took but I shifted earlier-at about 900. I knew approximately the interests of people I wanted. However, I was surprised that people sort of “lie” in bios. Many who should have followed me did not. Interestingly, now some of them are “finding me” and following me. I had unfollowed them weeks ago.

    My point is that the key to Twitter is to be yourself. That includes your follow pattern. Just follow who looks interesting and not the others.

    I would like to know how you do in your realignment. I am doing very well. Better quality people are finding me and are also celebrating who I am. It takes a little time to find the way to that, but it is worth it. One day I unfollowed 250 people or more and it took me down to about 900 follows. I am nearly at 2100 only a month later with zero, NO, mass follows ever. I rarely follow more than ten at a time and that is from FollowFriday suggestions from people I trust.

    The other thing I find different: I never used anything more sophisticated than Tweetdeck. I did not need all those “tools.” Sometimes I look at an avatar and say to myself, ” This person is in my line all the time and I never read or Retweet their updates.” I have also changed in this: one night with help I became fierce about spam and porn. I block and I report immediately now. It increased since April.

  4. Must say that I don’t agree with the premise “bigger networks are always better”.

    Far better to have a network of followers who engage than masses who don’t in my opinion.

    But truly, on Twitter, there are no absolutes. Do what works for you.

  5. I still use grouping to segment the people I follow. I’ve tried filtering off the people I’m not really interested in, but it’s a lot of extra drek to sift through. As I’ve focused the network a bit, I’ve also started to have good success with discovery tools like http://www.MrTweet.com. It looks at your network and the people they follow and retweet and then suggests other interesting people. I have a number of hashtags that I follow, and hadn’t even realized that a number of people that I read regularly weren’t in my follow list.

    Long-term, simply watching who I follow will keep the list pretty clean. It does take a little time, but with the energy it’s taking to clean up after the fact, I’m finding it well worth it.

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