How I Use Twitter

January 3, 2008

in Uncategorized

I admit I am somewhat addicted to Twitter. Maybe it’s better to say I am a “heavy user.” Either way, my habits are fairly contrived, so I thought I’d give a rundown here, if only to document my habits and revisit them again in a few months.

Technique
I twitter using the web interface, Twitterriffic on my laptop, and Snitter on my desktop at work. I set up my iPhone to send messages to twitter, and I receive SMS tweets from @5oh7, @panamajackson, @wiredscience and any direct messages to me. I also track some keywords, which I’ll talk about later.

Slow Beginnings
I think I joined Twitter in March or April 2007, at the suggestion of my girl J. Boom. I let my account sit and collect dust for a few months. In May or June of this year, I went head first and never looked back.

Following You
I started following people I knew, like Jen and BK, but I still didn’t get the picture as to why twitter was the proverbial hotness. Since I already know these people, and these people are heavy internet users like myself–I already have about 27 different modes of communication with these heads. Why did I need to twitter with Jen when I have all 6 of her AIM screen names on all 9 of my AIM buddy lists? I don’t personally know BK, but I got him covered on Facebook, Flickr, Vimeo and MySpace, how was twitter going to benefit the mix?


At some point, I reverted back to what I am good at–lurking. I started
to follow people whose blogs I had been reading for years. People like Jason Toney, lynne d johnson, George Kelly and Fave.
Eventually I found value in this one-way communication method with
people whom I didn’t know personally, but who I didn’t mind getting
updates from because they’re interesting people to me.

In addition to following people I don’t know, I follow entities like Lifehacker
blog, TechCrunch. I enjoy these users as twitter becomes instant RSS,
rather than having to wait for my Google Reader to update a new post on
my list of items to read.

Following Me
Initially I
followed everyone who followed me. These days, you can’t ride like that
on twitter.com because you may end up getting spammed. Some users  keep
a close eye on how many followers they have. Me? I never look at my
number of followers, because I don’t want to live or die by the number
as it fluctuates. Once I start caring about the numbers of my audience,
I know I will begin to change my habits. I’d prefer to just do me as
authentically as possible, without influence of audience. When I begin
to care about pleasing my audience too much,  the fun starts to
dwindle. That’s what happened to me with blogging.

Unfollowing
Every
few weeks I go on a purging of people I follow, just to keep pruning
things. I actually didn’t have a problem doing this until recently. I
started to follow some really interesting people who just….twittered
too much for my tastes. And when I say this, I mostly mean they
twittered so much that I couldn’t easily look through my archives. When
I step away from twitter for a period of time, like to sleep
overnight,  or a long day at work, I like to page back through the
archives to see what I missed. If I am following people’s tweets I
don’t want to miss anything. The people who were tweeting too much were
making this too difficult for me, so they had to go. I still check up
on them, and if they @reply me then they show up in my replies section.
If and when Twitter changes up it’s UI for archives or offers different
options for following, then maybe I can add them back.

twitterstatsjan3.jpgStats
I have attached my Twitter stats report here for your viewing pleasure. Interesting items to me:

  • I
    tweet most in the morning hours and then decrease for the rest of the
    day. Maybe that’s because all my east coast friends  have been up
    twittering for hours and I feel the need to catch up.
  • My overall twittering is increasing at an alarming rate on a month-to-month basis. I really want to slow down!
  • I @reply most to @ericajoy and other people who I don’t have other stronger/frequent modes of communication with.

Tracking
I track a couple of things using my iPhone:

  • My username,
    so that anytime someone refers to me, I’ll get a text message. This is
    handy when I am out sending tweets but not checking the website for
    conversations going on about my tweets or things said to me. It also
    helps for those @replies that don’t get caught by the replies tab.
  • @5oh7 and @panamajackson
    because they’re my two of my bestest friends. Both of them twitter half
    as much as I do (P, not much at all–I started his account for him and
    hooked up twitterfeed to his blog) so they are low maintenance.
  • PBS,
    which has been really interesting. Even though I work for a PBS
    station, and this is the second PBS station I have worked for–I don’t
    find myself watching the network much (oops!). Tracking PBS on twitter
    keeps me updated on what’s going on with the network. I learn what
    people think is interesting about our programming, as well as breaking
    news and opinions about what’s going on with the network.
  • WIRED Science and Tavis Smiley,
    I track these terms for the same reason I track PBS. These are the two
    big national shows my job produces, and they both have twitter
    accounts, which I had a hand in setting up and running. I’ll discuss
    their twittering in another entry (maybe).

Pet Peeves
I
think I twitter too much, and I am doing my best to cut back. I find
that when I follow people who twitter a lot, I follow suit and increase
my twittering as well. The more people I follow, the more I want to
twitter. I’ve been trying to use direct messages more, and @reply more
effectively. The only reason I care is because I prefer to use twitter
as a place for new and fresh information/perspectives, and less like a
chatroom of idle chatter. My other pet peeve is that I can’t put a user
on mute. I like the people I follow, but let’s say they are live
twittering an event I am not interested in–I may not want to see those
100 tweets fill up my stream–but I also wouldn’t want to unfollow
them.

Who I Follow
I have a lot of Brown people I
follow. This is on purpose. I am always interested in people of color
on the web, and my list reflects that. I don’t follow every Brown
person on twitter but whenever I go looking for new twitter friends, I
look for brown faces that I am unfamiliar with. I may also follow
people who my friends @reply to frequently.

Privacy and Anti-Socialness
I
spent July – December 2007 behind protected tweets. At first I did this
in order to avoid a few people, but the better benefit was that I
didn’t have to deal with all my tweets being all over Google on the
plethora of sites using the API. When I hit 3,000 tweets, I went public
so I could experiment with finding new twitter friends; I also grew
tired of having to answer friend requests. I may go private again, but
for now I am a public kinda girl.

Add-Ons
I have
MT-Twitter installed on this blog so that I can opt to tweet a new post
when I hit publish. I also have my Tumblr blog (aka my iPhoneBooth) twitterfed to my twitter account.

Bugs
Bugs I have noted include the following:

  • tracking
    doesn’t always send accurate tweets. A search on Terraminds of my
    tracked keywords proved to have 30% more tweets than what was sent to
    me via SMS. I made that number up, but yeah there are a lot of misses.
  • @replies
    only work when the @string is at the beginning of a tweet. If it is
    embedded within the tweet, then it won’t show up on a user’s @replies
    tab and they may miss your message altogether.
  • I get duplicate SMS tracked tweets about half the time. I have no idea why. 

Overall Experience
In
the end, I love twitter because of its endless possibilities. I like
that it’s part bulletin board, chatroom and instant RSS feed. I didn’t
quite understand the value of twitter until I actively participated,
and I will say is it has a difficult pitch angle: getting people to
really take the plunge and understand the best things to do to get
started.  I understand that following more people may provide me with a
better experience in terms of more sources of information, but I do
believe there is such a thing as information overload. I’d rather have
strong ties to fewer people, than weak ties to many people, which is
ironically how I manage my personal life and relationships. Go figure.

How do you twitter? Anything confuse you about the site? 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

anewlis January 3, 2008 at 9:29 AM

To say that you are quite thorough with yours, would be an understatement! LOL I’m right there with you on the ‘who I follow’ and in general with all my netivities! Twitter is quite versatile. I think more entertainers should use it (as Tavis is) to update those interested on the spot. I envision it growing by leaps and bounds through out ’08. My only peeve is the long convo’s some take too. No problem with the responses, but if it gets to be a convo ~ grrrrrrrr.

Reply

TechMusicGospel January 3, 2008 at 10:34 AM

Very nice post. I wrote a post a while back ( http://tinyurl.com/2738nr ). I agree on cutting back, I had to do this myself because I found myself neglecting my main blogs.
Thank you for this post. ^_^

Reply

Liz January 3, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Lis- I agree, long conversations bug me, or people who use 8 tweets to get one idea across. There’s a 140 character limit for a reason!
TechMusicGospel, I’ll be sure to check your post out, thanks!

Reply

Lynne d Johnson January 3, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Liz this is an awesome post. I think you’ve inspired me to write a post that references yours as well as Tiffany B. Brown’s post “On Twitter-ing”

Reply

Clarence January 3, 2008 at 11:35 PM

Liz, ‘preciate the personal breakdown of your own Twitter usage. You’ve covered a lot of content here quickly and likely will inspire better usage of the tool by others! Hopefully you can continue to positively channel the addiction 🙂

Reply

JennTaFur January 4, 2008 at 10:06 PM

I love how you said that you tend to follow a lot of brown people! I do too! =)
Further, I have found Twitter to be an invaluable resource of finding out information about different websites that I am not familiar with at all.
So far, I enjoy the privacy feature only because I enjoy keeping up with the people who I am following. I try to read the blogs of those that I do. If not, I cannot follow!
Thanks for an informative post!

Reply

damon January 5, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Liz, you rock with total hardness and you make my heart Twitter! Hustle on, Hustler.

Reply

Marion January 6, 2008 at 11:31 PM

Wonderful layout. There are two maybe three people on Twitter in New Orleans (NO) according to my 2 NO friends. Mind if I use your description to help us inform our community on Facebook, MySpace, Blogger…about this useful tool?

Reply

Liz January 6, 2008 at 11:41 PM

lynne: thanks, you’re awesome!
clarence: the addiction ebs and flows. I imagine when school starts up again I will slow down. hopefully.
jenntafur: I was thinking of going private when I hit 4,000 tweets. Not sure though, it depends on how sick of public I am by then.
Damon: my Friend! thanks for dropping by 🙂
Marion: can’t claim the layout for myself. it’s one of the defaults offered from Movable Type somewhere. Fell free to share the link to this entry if you want. Hopefully n00bs will be able to understand what I mean.

Reply

monika January 7, 2008 at 11:23 AM

i’m getting hooked on twitter! it’s pretty fun. i’ve reconnected with people i haven’t chatted with in years as well as meet new twitteroos. (i’m following you by the way) i like brown faces too (lol)

Reply

Liz January 7, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Thanks @upenzi. It’s a site where I am actually expanding my i-friend base. Unlike other social networks, where I just connect to my real life friends. I guess it’s a lot like how blogging used to be for me.

Reply

Carl January 7, 2008 at 11:38 AM

Very well stated Liz. You are quite the twitter touting techy (pardon the alliteration). I’m not as sophisticated as you in using my twitter account. Additionally, I thnk I might be committing cardinal sins of twitterdom by posting several tweets in a row. If im socking up anyones stream I apologize, lol.
You should come out with a twittering visual quick start for the newbs of the world. Esp. the brown faced newbs.
I also agree w/ anewlis in that their should be more “celebs” on twitter. It would be great way to connect w/ fans. I’m surprised Lupe isn’t on Twitter yet.

Reply

Jo January 7, 2008 at 11:44 AM

Great post!
I’ve tried to put one or two people onto Twitter but they refuse. sucks to be them! LOL

Reply

Tony January 11, 2008 at 2:39 PM

Your disertation on Twitter cracked me up.

Reply

Ajana January 29, 2008 at 2:52 PM

This is amazing! I love Twitter but I’m not sure I would have taken the time to explain it like this 🙂

Reply

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