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Monday, January 19, 2009

Twitter-Blocked: It's Nothing Personal, Just Business

It's been more than a year since I first logged into Twitter and blogged about my early experiences and thoughts for turning the service towards business use. I walked away for a while and came back late in 2008 and found myself hooked in a serious way. I now find Twitter to be an indispensable source of information, interesting links and conversation with like-minded colleagues around the world. I've even been surprised to find a growing number of Twitterers interested in following my own postings.

But all this has come at a price — my attention seems more and more divided trying to keep up with a growing stream of posts from those I follow. I admit a twinge of anxiety creeps in when I'm NOT scanning through tweets, wondering what I'm missing. My Twit-addiction is probably not unique — I've recently read about more and more people claiming to "take a vacation from Twitter." I don't think this is a viable option for me so I've decided to try to tame and organize the beast rather than slay it in three steps:

Step 1
Decide what is the "mission" of your Twitter account — and stick to it. Perhaps one of the reasons Twitter has gotten a (semi-deserved) rep as a forum for the inane minutia of people's lives is that not enough Twitterers have figured out exactly what they want to do with it before they start tweeting away. I decided I wanted to try and keep my tweets on track by making my mission to seek out and share conversation on b2b marketing, social media and demand creation. This also necessitated creating a second Twitter account for keeping up conversations with friends and as a conduit for easy posting to my personal Facebook account. I've seen some create a separate Twitter account just for posting links and bookmarks (Great idea, RoboChris!)

Step 2
Filter tweets. If you spend any time with Twitter you realize that viewing the tweets of those you follow with the web interface is a chore at best. You need to be able to easily filter your friend's postings into categories to prioritize reading. My organizational tool of choice is TweetDeck. While it's still billed as a beta, it is just about the sweetest tool I've seen on any platform, thanks in part to it's development as an Adobe Air application. Organize friends into different groups, filter within groups, tweeting directly from the application and short link integration make it a joy to use.

Step 3
Actively manage follows and follow-backs. This is where it can get sticky. There seems to be an unspoken rule of "twittiquette" that says if someone follows you, you should follow them back. But what if their postings and use of the service don't mesh with your mission for using Twitter? Do you really want their postings junking up your timeline, or worse their replies that every one of your followers can see? Some people seem to use Twitter to try and get as many followers as they can and follow everyone. Others seem only interested in pushing their latest product. Then there are those who I can't understand why they want to read my tweets, like the guy who writes in his profile "I like to sit on my couch and drink beer."

Don't get me wrong, I'm genuinely thrilled to see that someone is interested in what I post, but if I'm going to keep on mission and stay efficient I'm afraid I sometimes have to get out the scalpel and occasionally do some culling — quality over quantity. First, when I see a new follower I file the notification in an "Evaluating" folder. When I have a chance I take a look at their profile to view things like their Follow to Follower ratio, their profile and whether there is a picture and a web address to go to for more info. Finally I look over their tweets a bit to see if they mesh with the mission I've set for my own tweets.

In the best of cases (and most often), I move them to a "Follower and Following" folder and initiate a follow-back as well as a thank you for following me. For the ones I'm a bit on the fence about, I move to a "No Follow" folder for ongoing evaluation. In extreme cases where I think there is a glaring incongruity between a follower's postings and my mission I do go as far blocking them from following. These are honestly few and far between and usually Twitter has flagged and removed these accounts as "suspicious" (violating their terms of service) before I ever get to.

So just in case I ever Twitter-block you, please keep in mind that I just don't think we have the same goals and it would be best to part ways. It's not you, it's me. It's nothing personal — it's just business!

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Joseph Mann Monday, January 19, 2009


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