A guide to Twitter for busy people
Some disclaimers; (a) I’m not an expert in Twitter so this is deliberately ‘a’ guide rather than ‘the’ guide (b) My context is that I find Twitter hugely valuable but I’ve had to adapt my approach; I signed up for Twitter when I’d just started my business (and wasn’t very busy with client work) and was initially connected to just a a few hundred people. Nowadays most of my days are packed (running leadership development/strengths/resilience workshops or coaching) and I’m connected with almost 7,000 people so I’ve had to find some new behaviours in order to make the most of Twitter.
In the interests of working out loud, I thought I would share what works for me:
- Don’t try to keep up with everything: In the early days, I would see every tweet from everybody I followed. I still tried to do that even when it became untenable. Only when I started to treat Twitter as a stream that I could dip into when I had a moment, did it start to feel enjoyable again.
- Use lists on mobile devices: When I was doing a very quick glance at my phone (e.g. when waiting in a queue), I’d find myself scrolling to see what people I knew well had tweeted. So, I now have a list called Key Tweeps. On my laptop, I see the full Twitter stream of everybody I follow but on my iPhone and iPad, I’ve set my Twitter client (Tweetbot) to use my Key Tweeps list as my default timeline. It is a private list so you can’t tell if you’re on it or not but if we know each other in real life or we ever engage on Twitter then you’re probably on the list!
- Use mute filters: There’s loads of stuff on Twitter I have zero interest in including the ‘my week on Twitter’ tweets, anything about X-Factor, some football teams, where you’ve checked into, your old blog posts automatically tweeted etc. Tweetbot lets me mute hashtags and automated Twitter clients so I make full use of these to filter out stuff I have no interest in (and I’m pretty sure that the native Twitter clients lets you mute hashtags). I know I’m creating a bit of a filter bubble here, but it is one that I’m happy with.
- Use Nuzzel: I know I’m going to miss some good stuff being tweeted so I use an app/service called Nuzzel which notifies me when something has been retweeted a few times by my contacts and gives me a daily digest of the most popular stuff I missed.
- Use Instapaper or Pocket to read stuff later: Both are brilliant apps/services and they are the equivalent of a ‘reading heap’ of articles. When I encounter a link in a Tweet and don’t have time to read it at that point, I’ll just right right-click or long press and send it to Instapaper. When I want to read some stuff, I open Instapaper and read then archive the articles.
I also think there’s a whole host of ways that we can each Tweet ‘responsibly’ to help us all make the most of Twitter:
- Be thoughtful about where you put twitter names in a reply: If you start a reply with a @username then I will only see the tweet if I follow you both. If you put it in the middle/at the end (e.g. you say ‘Thanks @username I think that’s a good point…’ then everybody who follows you sees the tweet. This is a brilliant feature that helps to reduce noise if we use it consciously.
- Don’t Auto-DM to tell me how I need your services or ask me to like your Facebook page.
- Don’t try to automate engagement by cross-posting across every social platform or using services that make it look like you’re engaging.
- Don’t tweet just for the sake of tweeting: I went through a phase on Twitter where I tried to tweet once an hour as I’d read that that’s what you do so that people see your stuff. I shudder to think about it now.
Having struggled with Twitter for a while, I love it again and I get so much value from Twitter. Having said that I’m no expert, I’m conscious that I know some people who are: Gemma Dale and Tim Scott wrote the book ‘Putting social media to work: a practical guide‘ so I turned to Gem and Tim for their thoughts on this.
Tim reminded me that not having enough time is one of the common social media myths:
Gemma had this to say: “I still talk to people who say that they ‘don’t have time’ to do Twitter – or indeed any other social media. This isn’t just on a personal level, but people who run businesses. Of course often what people mean when they say that they don’t have time is that they aren’t prepared to prioritise it. As the saying goes if you want to do something you find a way, otherwise you find an excuse. Of course you don’t have to be on Twitter or any other sort of social media … although if you run a business today it is hard to see how you can ignore it totally. And by doing so, you miss valuable opportunities to build your business, learn, network and engage with customers. As your blog shows, if you are busy social media is entirely ‘doable’. If you want to of course.”
I don’t know if my approach works for all, but that’s how I’m using Twitter nowadays and getting huge value from it.