Making Twitter useful again…

I popped open my twitter account (@jmillsapps) this morning and realized that for the last few weeks I hadn’t really been on much. I remember back when I first got on Twitter I loved it because so much of what I was interested in came to me without my spending time combing the web. I just followed a few people and I got the benefit of their time spent combing and culling the webs content. Now a few years later I find I’m almost never on or only if I have something I want to tweet. It has essentially become a megaphone instead of a two way communication stream.

So…I went to my account and took a look at it. One of the first things that jumped out at me was that I was following almost a thousand people. How did it happen? Well when I first started tweeting I was amazed that people would want to follow me – so I almost always followed back. It kind of felt rude not to do so. Then I realized some of these folks were just trolling for exactly this behavior so I stopped following everyone back. However, I still followed folks that looked interesting back on a pretty regular basis. Also because I was using my twitter account as a way to identify content I might be interested in I would often follow people whose content came to me via a RT of someone else I followed with the thought that I would be interested in other things they have to say.

Today it all came to a head. Following a thousand conversations just isn’t possible and I’d essentially stopped using Twitter because of it. The fact is I love Twitter’s ability to help me find content I otherwise wouldn’t see. Much like Slashdot.com it combs the internet for me and serves up some brilliant content I otherwise would never see. So I decided it was time to get back to a useful number of people I follow. I chose 250 as a max limit and immediately began trimming. The problem is that manually trimming is terrifyingly boring and painful. So I did a little searching and found manageflitter.com. This tremendously useful website allows you to quickly comb through the accounts you follow and unfollow people quickly based on different categorizations like how talkative the account is, how many people it follows, whether or not they follow you, etc. It also has a handy bulk unfollow box if like me you need to do serious trimming.

My goal is to get down to 250 people I follow and then trim judiciously from there. Unfortunately I hit the 800 person unfollow limit that manageflitter has in place and so I was stopped short of my 250 person goal. I’m hoping this makes Twitter relevant for me again. If your Twitter feed has become unmanageable – try manageflitter.com. It makes unfollowing easy.

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I would love to be able to train an application to learn what Tweets I like and which I don’t like, and from there present only what I am likely to be interested in. Even with what few people I do follow, it can get pretty noisy sometimes.

Holly L. Folkers

Josh, thanks for the post. I have to admit, I’m completely in the other camp on this one. I have found Twitter’s usefulness increase exponentially for me. One of the best, and most overlooked in my opinion, ways to utilize this tool is to interact with those you are following or those that come across your twitter feed via RT. You will be introduced to a whole new subset of people you may not have found otherwise. Or you may end up networking with collagues in other agencies. Not to mention it makes your posts, and those you interact with, more interesting! I have met several people through twitter in both a professional and personal capacity simply through interacting with them.

I would also encourage you to rethink your policy of only following 250 people. If you are targeting the right people who are pushing out information that is most relevant to you, then 250 people is not a lot to follow. Mix in news organizations, bloggers, and collagues, and you will hit 250 people rather quickly without really getting the most out of it.

If you follow a lot of people, I would encourage checking out various twitter clients instead of using the stock app loaded on your smartphone as a way to filter your timeline. For example, I use Tweetbot and that allows me to mute certain hashtags for certain periods of time, disable RT’s, or mute certain people I follow for a certain length of time. It is extremely useful in filtering out the tweets I want to see, or don’t want to see, that day/week/month.

My last tip is to set up lists and assign those you follow to specific lists. For example, if you like following people who tweet about baseball, but also like following people who tweet about politics, then create a list for each subject so you can lump them together and get a more concentrated timeline.

Steve, I think the lists and filters could help you focus on information that you want to see as well, I like your idea of an app that you could train to filter things for you, but I’m not aware of any that are out there at the moment.

There certainly is a lot of noise in this world, so I hope these ideas are helpful to getting the most out of your Twitter experience!

Joshua Millsapps

Holly – I love alot of the content that I source from Twitter. I agree it is amazing when it comes to leveraging the power of the masses. I think my issue stemmed more from poor selection of my following. I will def. look into using lists to help me get the most out of twitter. I know other folks use them effectively. I’ll give it a shot and report back. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. It is really great info!