Using Twitter, a less-than-ambitious but humanistic approach

There are a lot of folks who are really working Twitter. They’re getting to 10,000, maybe 50,000 users as fast as they can….good for them. They use auto-follow and auto-unfollow tools and plan to turn that huge twitter base into cash.

Frankly I think at this point in the twitterverse, that’s a fool’s game. Twitter has stalled at about 300M users. Why? I think it’s the fact there is too much commercialism and advertising, so it’s getting harder to build a really interesting community. Meanwhile, the big followings are being gained by existing personalities (celebs, etc). I think it will be phenomenally hard to become famous based on Twitter being your marketing arm, but I see lots of folks who seem to think they can. I can only imagine their twitter feed is nothing but a machine, run by machines, and most likely, it isn’t doing a damn thing for them. The Kardashians of the world have sewn up any commercial value in Twitter.

That said, twitter can be used without you being a Kardashian. It’s a good tool to find some like-minded folks, get a laugh at a shared joke, see something beautiful/odd/touching/fascinating you would have missed. For artists and authors, it’s a way to connect with users. Authors who share a piece of their weird and agents sharing tips add to the public good, along with scientists pointing out stuff that might impact our life, or our planet.

I think a high-quality feed and a quality following that enriches your life is a rational, rewarding goal. Building a following this way takes time. It’s what I call the humanistic approach. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Discovery: Follow my interests, click around and see what’s cool and who’s feeding it. Follow people followed by people I like. Follow people I’ve come across IRL or reading other sources.
  2. Filtering: Look at the feed.
    • If it is 100% retweets, it’s a bot. Pass.
    • If it’s 100% epigrams/jokes/inspirational crap, it’s a bot. Pass.
    • If it’s 100% advertising the same damn book/service/person over & over, it’s boring as f*ck and a bot. Pass.
    • If it’s 100% rotating through the same 10 book adverts, it’s a book-promo bot. Pass.
    • If there’s too much religious stuff, please note I don’t take my spiritual direction (if any) from social media. Pass.
    • If there are no retweets, this person is as interactive as a dessert fork. Pass.
    • If the tweets grind on the same ‘issue’ day in, day out, no matter how righteous I may feel it is, it’s not sharing, it’s flagellation. I don’t need flagellation to act on righting the world. Find a new note. Pass.
    • People that constantly moan about their lives (“FML!”) should get on a plane to India and check out the families huddled under a blanket inches away from the side of the highway and shut the hell up. They have a computer, they’re in the West, they got nothing to complain about. Pass.
    • If there are some (non-re)tweets that show individual thought, go to the next step.
    • If some of the tweets are pretty, cosmic, funny, sentimental (but not mawkish), educational, or share a piece of human nature/fate/truth from personal experience, it goes on the list.
  3. Review followers. If it’s a bot, block. If they pass the above filter, I follow-back and put them on a list.
  4. Organize, with lists. I have a number, most of them public, but I have a few private ones:
    1. Buds. Tweeters of general/broad/personal interest who actually interact. This is a very short list, sadly enough.
    2. Faves that think. Again, general/broad/personal interest. People who may not interact much, if ever, but I like to read their stuff nonetheless.

Note, I don’t do any of the ‘post this if you follow-back’ kind of stuff as

  1. I think that’s just for folks who want to build lists at any cost, with no attention to quality.
  2. I really dislike people trying to strong-arm/guilt me into posting something.

I do, when I’m not desperately trying to wrap up 6 days of work into a 5-day workweek, do the Friday Follow tweet. It’s a relatively low-key way I think of advertising folks who I think are actually interesting to follow. Many FFs I have checked out are junk. I try to keep mine real people, with interesting feeds.

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About H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.
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