**WARNING** this blog post assumes SOME knowledge of Twitter. If you’ve never done Twitter, I am not writing this as a tutorial for you. Please feel free to read it but know that I am aware of the huge gap between what you don’t know and what you need to know to even understand this blog post.
As I grow my second Twitter account (the first being @thefirstdance) I’ve been more intentional about what I “do” with people who 1) follow me first, 2) I follow because I knew them pre-Twitter, 3) follow because they appear in my recommended list or I saw them from a retweet. It is very useful to know the differences and benefits of following vs listing (or both!) It is making my Twitter experience on @MarriageKids way more fun, time-efficient, strategic, and sanity-saving.
If you FOLLOW someone on Twitter:
Everything they say, including most of their banter with their friends, shows up in your “Twitter stream.” These are your overall people you want to read and build a connection with. Your entire Twitter steam fills with their stuff and for most people they maybe send a few tweets a day and it’s not a big deal. Some people however, don’t know how to Tweet (may be as high as 80-90% of the people you follow) so they ONLY get on Twitter once, for 30 minutes, and blast the fool out of your Twitter stream by replying to everyone, posting every single bit of news they find fascinating that day, or chose to give you as many random quotes as humanly possible. You thought you were reading a bit from a lot of people and all the sudden you are inundated with the Clueless One. This is where the Rubber Meets the Twitter Road, so to speak. You have to decide whether your annoyance or desire to connect with that person is higher. Or perhaps you can gently tell them the point of Twitter is not to Tweet 15 random quotes in a row. Or you can chose to build up your tolerance and patient Zen-like stance towards the world and give them a few days/weeks/months to Get A Clue. Otherwise, unfollow! (And the beauty of Twitter is there are plenty of people to connect with, so if I, or anyone else, annoys the crap out of you, by all means, unfollow. Diversity of personality and Twitter-interest is naturally going to mean people share the same profession but collide.)
The other thing that happens is people connect (gasp, what a concept!) on Twitter through a hash tag. What this does is allows everyone interested in that topic to read and join in by simply Tweeting and putting in the hash tag. One of my favorites is the #mhsm which is the mental health social media hash tag, a weekly conversation among a wide variety of people on Twitter. This is great for you but if you’re following your neighbor in a different industry, you may get annoyed at her banter about industrial parts for farm machinery, should that be a “live Tweet chat” she is participating in. It is easier, however, to forgive her constant Tweets because you recognize she’s actually using Twitter the right way…which is, building connections and being social. And those chats usually only run an hour.
The huge benefit to following someone is they can Direct Message you. Often you can be quippier, more controversial, or more personal in direct messages than you might be to your entire Twitter list. Note: STOP auto-direct messaging new followers. PLEASE. For the love of God, it’s annoying and ridiculous considering most of your followers don’t live nearby, aren’t clients or ever going to be customers. They are your PEERS wanting to see what you to, connect, and share in PEER-related ideas. If I wanted an automatic communication from you I’d sign up for your newsletter!
So why would you not follow someone?
There are quite a few groups that I have chosen not to follow but are listing. These include: marketing people who talk a lot and I don’t want to listen to their banter. Another big one are mental health organizations who are really bad about just being a stream of blog links (sorry, Twitter is NOT another blog…it’s about engagement.) I don’t want those mental health orgs to show up with 10 links to news in my Twitter stream. (Annoyance and lack of Zen-patience win!) And there are also therapists and other folks of interest who do NOT get how to use Twitter so I chose to unfollow them but list them so should I want to see what they’re saying I can go to the list they’re in. This is perhaps limbo – I want to connect but they don’t know how to connect so instead of losing them forever, I’ll put them in a list in case I eventually see they start engaging…then I’ll follow them. And there are others, like local Twitter accounts that, when I want to see the “local stuff”, I can just GO to that list rather than have the latest soup menu from Panera show up on my Twitter stream. (There is no wrong/right way to do lists.)
The other nice thing about a list is you can categorize your interests. Mine include the people who I generally say are about “the business of therapy” as well as the marketing people, money people (I’m fascinated by the psychology of money), Minnesota people (I’m newly connecting with great local folks), funny people (where I would put celebrities and others who crack me up), mental health orgs, therapists, survivors (mental health survivors who Tweet), parenting (topic of parenting, from lay journalists who deal with kid stuff to therapists who ONLY focus on parenting and parent educator types). I may split the therapy folks out some day. I could easily have a therapists-sexuality, therapists-kids, therapists-MFT’s (since I’m applying to grad school for MFT this winter.) Right now my list of people I follow is about 400 so already it would be time consuming to go through everyone and relist them. (See how it’s useful to do it at the start?) Keep in mind you can only have 20 lists so be careful. Also be aware others can see your lists. I am an extrovert but get embarrassing going into who lists me, so I rarely do. When I have, it’s either normal stuff, or sometimes fun ones like “Go-Getters.” That’s a fun list to be part of!! Just don’t have a list “People I want to Schmooze” because, well, they can see that.
With a list I can immediate hone in on an area and catch up with people. Lists will NOT display Tweets, usually, that start with @’s to people which is fabulous since to do Twitter the right way you’re @’ing people a lot more than talking to everyone who follows you. This hones down these people to simply what they’re sharing to everyone.
I will generally follow AND list people as a matter of seeing my latest followers or adding new followers.
A lot more topics to come for those interested… Twitter is a huge topic and I have a big, fun post on the amazing, real connections I’ve made and real world benefits to those connections.