November 20, 2008

If you want me to follow you on Twitter [Update]

[For update see end of post]

I'm pretty late on the Twitter bandwagon. Actually that's not true. I was a very early adopter but then couldn't work out how to use it for anything interesting. When I first started it was just load of folks sending "I'm just waking up and getting coffee" type messages. I couldn't be bothered with that.

However, I recently went back and gave it another go. The reason for this is that the whole social media environment has moved on a little more and Twitter is now starting to become quite a social and useful weapon for a blogger/author and communicator.

This is because Twitter as a stand alone tool is still fairly limited, but linked in with some of the complementary tools now available it works very well.

For example I have my blog feed linked up to twitterfeed which automatically tweets a new message out to the Twitterverse whenever I post. I also have my Twitter account attached to Friendfeed where I generally access everything from.

In addition to that I use twitterfox as a plug in on Firefox to enable me to see my stream as I'm working. It's better than looking at the main page and manually updating.

I'm also subscribed to trendingtopics which shows me keywords that a lot of tweets are using.

So, knowing that, here's how I use Twitter.

1) I use it to tell folks about interesting sites I've found
2) I use it to converse with interesting users in areas I'm focused on
3) I use it to get updates on key areas of interest (for example I am subscribed to the Indianapolis Colts feed (coltsNFL) which catches all the media output on the Colts).
4) I use it to identify people I want to follow. Generally I will check out several dozen people a day to see if I want to follow them. This is through following conversations and seeing who is active. I will then look at their profile and check a number of things
a) Are they active? (a couple of posts per day or 10 per week is usually a minimum I look for)
b) Are they showing me things I don't know? (Links to good pages, breaking news or opinions are good)
c) Who else are they following? If they have 3 followers and follow 12000 people themselves it could mean they are indiscriminate followers. I probably don't want to follow people like that.
d) Do they have an up-to-date Bio on their Twitter profile? I like to know the areas they are interested in and what I can expect them to be talking about. If they have a blog or web-site I might check that out too.

So if you want to follow me, please do. I'm always open to having new followers. If you meet the criteria listed above I will follow you. But I do review this regularly. I was following an individual who was the owner of a magazine dedicated to high net worth individuals. But he started using his Twitter account purely to send the same message every day - a promo for his magazine. I stopped following him (and incidentally within 10 minutes he had stopped following me.... what does that tell you about his marketing methods?). If you're only following me because I follow you then.. well that's your own decision. I'm not worried if I follow you and you don't follow me. Only follow me if you think you'll get something out of it, please! On a similar topic, Tim Ferris has an interesting view on using Twitter which might be worth a few minutes of your time..

There is obviously something about Twitter (and Friendfeed and other social media), but I think you have to decide what you want out of them before you wade in and start following all and sundry.

What do you want out of Social Media?

Some people I'm following:

ScribeFire From the people who brought you the best blogging platform tool.
Rodney Rumford
Orlando Thompson
DowningStreet (Yes, that's the UK Prime Minister: He's on Twitter)
Tim O'Reilly
Macworld Yes. I use a Mac....!
Fast Company
Stu Maschwitz Founder of 'The Orphanage' Special Effects house and ex ILM.
Scott Stratten
Dan Ackerson
Steffan Antonas
Dion Hinchcliffe
Cristina Costa
Ben Werdmuller
Jeremiah Owyang

If I'm following you and you're not on this list, don't take it personally, this is just a subset.

[Update: I have started using a tool called Twollow. This will read tweets, identify keywords I have specified and will then automatically follow people who use those keywords. This is both good and bad.

It's good because it identifies people I wouldn't otherwise have found to follow. Many of them follow me back (Thank you if you do!), and my numbers have risen from less than 40 to over 110 in less than a week.
It's bad because there is no quality control of the tweeter. By that I mean there is no check to see if they adhere to the criteria listed above.

As a result of this my following number have gone from about 80 followers to almost 230 in about a week. However a lot of these people did not meet my criteria and have since been 'unfollowed'. If this is the case for you please do not take it personally. There was one account which started sending spam tweet advertising which was immediately unfollowed, and there are a number of accounts which are marginal regarding adherence to the criteria listed above. I am keeping these marginal accounts for the time being but will review these over the coming few weeks.]


  1. @Gary - Good post. I also use twitter primarily as a listening and sharing tool. People are still the best way to get up-to-date information on what's going on in the world, especially in tech. Following super-connected people (like Tim O'Reilly, for example) who share what they are reading and experiences they are having, is a great way to get news before it breaks in print and stay in tune with hot topics as they're being discussed. Again, good post, and thanks for the mention. I'll try to keep it interesting!

  2. @Steffan - I think that Twitter and other Social Media tools are still very much trying to find their footing in terms of what people want to use them for. There are still those who just want to tell the world "I'm up and drinking my first cup of coffee', and that's fine if that's what they want to do.

    Personally I'm with you: I much prefer the ability of people to use SM to share topical and relevant information across the 'blogosphere'

    Thanks for taking the time to drop in and comment.