Twitter’s one of the most useful tools I’ve ever come across – it’s facilitating instant conversation, making it easier than ever to connect with people, get questions answered, and find out what’s truly going on in the world, right now.
But it’s a pain in the you-know-what to manage. Particularly as you start to use it more, you want to follow more people, you’re being followed more, and you run into a common dilemma: how do I follow lots of people, engage as many as possible, and make sure not to miss anything I really care about?
Here’s how, in five steps:
First, follow everyone who follows you. You can do this manually, or with any of a number of different applications – SocialToo is my personal favorite. This serves two purposes – one, it makes your Home feed ridiculously cluttered, but we don’t care because we’re learning to ignore the Home feed. Two, it makes it so that you can send and receive private Direct Messages to everyone who follows you on Twitter. As you move toward deeper relationships on Twitter, being able to send one-on-one messages is huge.
Second, find a third-party app that works for you. There are two that are really the gold standard of desktop-based tweeting – TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop. Personally, I use Seesmic Desktop, but either one will suit our purposes. Bonus points to TweetDeck for having a companion iPhone app, and to Seesmic for having a Web app. You can pick any app you choose, but it has to support grouping of Twitter folk, as that’s the key to managing Twitter effectively.
Third, make your two groups. The first is people with whom you regularly engage on Twitter, and from whom you don’t want to miss a single update. My list is made up of people I know offline, as well as people I talk to the most often on Twitter. This group, which for me is called “Personal Contacts,” shouldn’t have more than 25 people. With only 25 people, you can easily go through the whole list in a couple of minutes, and catch up on everything you missed.
The second group is what I call “Interestingness.” This is people who you might not talk to all that often, but who regularly post things you care about. This list can be bigger – say, 50 or 60 people, and acts as something of a “what’s going on?” feed, full of interesting links and tidbits for your perusal. If you miss out for a little while, no harm done, but it’s the stream you want to hit right after the A-list.
Fourth, Put the big stuff front and center. One of the best things about TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop is that they let you see, in side-by-side columns, your Mentions (tweets directed at you, but sent publicly) and Direct Messages (tweets sent only to you). These are the most important columns, and they’re where you’ll want to track the conversations you’re already involved in.
Fifth, set up searches. Pick a couple of search terms (or more, but they get cumbersome fast), and track them – easily done in most Twitter apps. Any time someone tweets with something matching your search term, it’ll update in your app. I do my name, The 2.0 Life, and at any given time, a few terms that I’m interested in what people are thinking about.
Now, you’re in position to be able to engage with every person you follow, and every person following you. You’ll see the most important tweets and twitterers in one place, and all the things you’re most likely to find interesting in another. If you’re feeling adventurous, plow through a bit of the Home feed, and see what other people are talking about.
Twitter’s not the easiest thing to manage right now, especially as you scale to more engagement, and with more people. But it can work.
How do you manage the information rabbit hole that is Twitter?