Since being listed as an “interesting Aussie Twitter user” at NEWS.com.au the other night, I’ve gained 300-ish new followers. Here’s how I’ve been deciding who to follow back.
First, though, I don’t think Twitter starts to make sense unless you have a reasonable number of people in your network. For me, the penny dropped when I had about 50 followers and followees, and you actually interact with them. At that point I started to see the live communication rippling through the hyperconnected mob. It helped that I already knew some well-connected geeks to get the ball rolling.
Once you hit hundreds of followers, though, there’s a phase shift. You simply can’t see everything that happens. It scrolls by too fast. At first that’s stressful — until you realise there’s always more in the world than you can ever experience. So another penny drops, and you detach. Zen. The Twitter-river flows on 24/7, but you don’t stop to watch every fish.
I use Tweetdeck most of the time, not Twitter’s standard web interface, because I can create groups of people. The unfiltered Twitterstream rolls by on the left of my screen, with separate groups for close friends, for media contacts I need to keep an eye on, direct messages and so on. Another panel shows everyone who replies to me or mentions me. So while I can’t see everything on the main stream, just mentioning me will grab my attention.
(I daresay it changes again when you’re like Stephen Fry with more than 88,000 followers. [Update 5 February 2009: It’s now more than 122,000.] May the gods forbid I reach that level of fame! He wouldn’t even be able to monitor all his @replies and DMs!)
So, how do I choose who to follow? Here’s what I’ve noticed today.
You’ve got three seconds to start with. Maybe five.
I’ll probably skip over you immediately if…
- You haven’t got a bio (description), or given your location (heck, just give the country if you’re paranoid!), or given a link to your website or an external profile.
- You’ve locked your tweets for “privacy”. Look, you’re either conversing or not. If you don’t want to talk with me, then don’t. But the true value of Twitter is the interaction.
- Your tweets are banal. If you’re going to tweet “Eating breakfast”, at least tell us what you’re having, or what you can see while eating, or whether the cafÃ© is any good. If you tweet “On the couch”, tell is what you’re doing. If you’re watching TV, express an opinion on the program. If you’re resting, tell us why your day made you tired. If you’re masturbating, then tell us… well, maybe don’t. But do provide some life, some colour, some specific detail that’ll help us form a picture of your world.
- Your profile only lists “SEO” or “network marketer” or “success coach” or is meaningless. (OK, I break that last rule. So sue me.) There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but if that’s all you’re bringing to the table then I’ll move to another table.
Conversely, I will probably follow you back if there’s any spark of interest.
- You’re interested in at least one or two things I am, and you’re talking about them. Doubleplus if you’re in the same industries I am, and you’re publishing interesting thoughts somewhere like a blog or other website.
- Your tweets provide an insight into you, one of the 6+ billion uniquely interesting people on Planet Earth.
- You’re in Sydney and don’t appear to be a complete arsehole.
- You’re cute.
There’s a bazillion other resources about being more human and moar interestinger on Twitter. Maybe I’ll link to them when I have a smaller backlog of new followers to interroga… to, erm, peer at.
[Credit: Cartoon Twitter-bird courtesy of Hugh MacLeod. Like all of Hugh’s cartoons published online, it’s free to use.]