I know, I know: I project a veneer of goofy accessibility, I park my avatar on a fluffy, red heart and then? I don't follow people back. What kind of squirrely, two-faced, celebuwhore bullpokey is that?
Well, there is actually a great deal of much-grappled-with bullpokey. And because I'm a huge nerd and seize every opportunity to share my grapplings (whether or not anyone is listening), I created this little page both to 'splain the method behind my seeming madness so you will still love me or at least, not reject me out of hand. And maybe/possibly reflect on your own use of Twitter, a tool I dearly love and wish to see remain lovable into the foreseeable future. So. Here we go.
My Twitter usage reflects my overall philosophy regarding social media:
- Be informative
- Be supportive
- Be entertaining
On my blog, I try to do all three. Well, everywhere, I try to do all three, and simultaneously, but it's really hard, especially with a 140-character limit. So my Twitter "strategy," such as it is, focuses on one of these, for the most part.
I use Twitter for five reasons, in this order:
- To exercise. One of the chief reasons I started using Twitter in earnest was because in my real life, I am a loquacious motherf*cker. Twitter forces me to be brief, which is a very good exercise for loquacious motherf*ckers. So I'll use Twitter to do the same things I do on my blog, illuminate things and ideas crossing my radar, but brief-like.
- To entertain. I love making people laugh. If I can make them think at the same time, I'm in heaven. If I had the stones and stomach to be a standup comic, I would. Twitter is the next best thing. It's FUN. And it doesn't smell like stale beer and vomit. So far.
- To be entertained. There are a lot of funny people on Twitter. I don't follow all of them, because I can't (see below). But since Twitter created the "lists" function, I keep secret, private lists full of smart, funny, interesting and/or hot people I'll check in on now & again.1
- To stay informed. I follow a carefully selected handful of people who somehow keep me up to date on what's going on in politics, government, Los Angeles, entertainment, marketing and nerdery. It's a wildly divergent group, but they are, to a (wo)man, all smart, generous and tweet just enough (and not to many of the other people I follow, which reduces "@" reply noise).
- To stay connected. I realize there's an irony that this is my last reason for using a social networking site. But it's true. There are a few people whom I never email or call (although we do occasionally meet up in person) but whom I'd really miss if they disappeared from Twitter. Or if Twitter disappeared.
The way I use Twitter may be totally different from the way you use Twitter. And the great thing is that NOBODY IS WRONG: there's no one "right" way to use Twitter. It's a glorious and grand experiment in everyone learning to co-exist peacefully alonside people who think completely differently in every way, or in several ways, or in just one, really annoying way, than they do.
Now that you know how I use it, hopefully some of my on-the-ground Twitter habits will make more sense.
I don't follow very many people.
As of this writing, under 100, and a lot of them rarely, if ever, tweet.2 I tried upping my limit and it didn't work for me. I get that there are tools for following lots of people by letting you carve them up into lists, but not only was it more than I could manage, it felt a little bullshitty. To me. I have good, smart friends who use these tools to actively follow and meaningfully engage with thousands or even tens of thousands of people. I'm in awe of them; it would make my head explode.
So please, please, don't feel bad if I don't follow you back. That doesn't mean we can't be friends. In fact, I don't follow many of my real-life friends on Twitter because we use Twitter differently. Some people are more fun to email. Some people are more fun to interact with in blog comments. Some people are actually fun to talk to ON THE PHONE, which I generally hate. Dawud, for example, or Adam, or Liz, none of whom I follow on Twitter.
I do monitor my "@" replies.
So if you "@" reply me, I'll most likely see it. However, I only reply to those "@" replies on an as-needed basis, where "need" equals some combination of useful/supportive/entertaining to the Twitterverse at large.
If you have a question for me, email me. I LOVE EMAIL. I know that's very unfashionable these days, but really, have you seen me? Not fashionable!
I use all forms of promotion very sparingly on Twitter.
This is really a noise issue for me. Since I like a nice, spare Twitter stream, heavy on the humor and information, promotion of any kind starts to feel like chattery noise really fast.
I have given up the #FollowFriday meme, a laudable project begun by @micah back when it really was hard to find people, where people share Twitterers they feel are worthy of a follow; I'll RT something I think is groovy, and once and again I'll get behind a cause I believe in on Twitter. (I do it a lot more in real life, by the way, where I find it's more meaningful.) Very rarely, I'll self-link, and only if I think it is really, really important. Or hilarious. And even then, I feel funny about it. Live by the sword, die by the sword, I guess.
Hell, yes, I have a Twitter "colophon":
- From my computer, I use the web interface (i.e., plain old http://twitter.com) in Chrome. I've tested some fine desktop apps like Tweetie (clean interface), TweetDeck and Seesmic. I just prefer the simplicity of the web. It's not especially efficient, but it works for me.
- From my iPhone, I use the Twitter app for iPhone, nÃ©e "Tweetie." I also like Birdhouse, a Tweet-drafting app developed for the iPhone by my pal, Adam Lisagor and his pal, Cameron Kenley Hunt, for craftier tweet action.
- To create links, I use bit.ly, although after reading this piece by Jeffrey Zeldman, I'm considering adding a WordPress plugin to my site and "rolling my own." (Sorry, nerd/stoner reference.)
- To find new Twitter tools, I'd suggest trying out my friend Laura Fitton's OneForty.com site. She and her team worked hard to make something light and usable and helpful, and I think it wins on all counts. (Plus, you know, I really like Laura Fitton.)
Finally, there's a song behind that obscene Twitter bio of mine:
And yes, it's just as obscene. But cheerful!
If, after all this, you'd like to follow me on Twitter, I'd be deeply honored. Also, befuddled, but hey, whatever floats yer boat.
If you're all EFF THIS EFFING ASYNCHRONOUS B.S., BEE-YOTCH!, I hear you, and welcome you to connect via Facebook. The cool kids make fun of Facebook, but I rather like it, despite its, uh, homey interface and blatant corporate-up-sucking. I have yet to write up my official Facebook policy, but for now, as long as you LEAVE ME A MESSAGE saying who you are (or "hi," if we know each other) and are not too skeevy with the selling, we're good.
Thanks for reading, and for being as cool as you are. If you're interested in learning more about ways to use Twitter, or what it's about, or tools and practices for getting the most out of Twitter, you might try my delicious bookmarks on the subject. I tend to bookmark what I find most noteworthy about it and other social media issues at delicious.
1I was a big fan of Dean Allen's brilliant project, FAVRD, for finding new sources of funny. Sadly, it devolved into something Dean could no longer support, and there really has been no replacement for it. I confess to occasionally checking with FavStar and Favotter, to see if I'm staying on my game. Because when there's no audience, it's really hard to gauge reaction.
2Except Roger Ebert. He's a Twitter maniac, but with a stupendously high signal-to-noise ratio. Or is it a low signal-to-noise ratio? I always mix them up. He's good. That's what he is.
This page was inspired by the best Twitter Policy Page I've seen yet, by Ike Piggot of Occam's RazR. He's @ikepigott on Twitter, and no, we don't follow each other. And I'll bet that's okay with both of us!
Wil Wheaton also has a nifty one, but he's regular-famous AND Internet-famous, so it's a whole other ball of wax management for him.
Patrick LaForge, an editor at The New York Times, also has an excellent page that goes beyond policy to share helpful links and information. Which, you know, NY Times, DUH. Of COURSE he would.
Updated January 19, 2011.