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Three Tips for Getting More Value from Twitter
By: Mike Bush
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Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, theorized that the typical person can only maintain around 150 stable relationships with other people. On social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, we tend to carry far more relationships than Dunbar thought possible.

Personally, I tend to follow around 500 people on Twitter (sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less), and generally speaking, I try to perform list-hygiene every couple months, looking at people who've perhaps become less active or changed beats. Twitter, for me, breaks into around four categories of accounts I follow:
  1. Reporters/Bloggers: Please note that I tend not to follow media accounts, since I’ll generally see the media I’m looking for in my Feedly RSS setup. This group is probably around 70% of the accounts I follow.
  2. Cool Companies: This is a small group of companies that I’m either working with, want to work with, or are doing something really fantastic. This is around 10% of the accounts I follow.
  3. Baseball Writers: My passion outside work. 15% of the accounts I follow.
  4. Entertainment: There are a few parody accounts in this bucket, along with a couple of celebrities I think do a really great job portraying “regular” life on social media. I also follow some info from my alma mater here. It’s a small percentage of the accounts I follow.
500 people isn’t, generally speaking, a huge number to follow. But for me, it’s provided a nice mix of interesting content and the ability to log in any time and not feel like I somehow missed something.

However, that’s not to say I’m getting the most out of Twitter. As such, I set out to identify how people that follow more than 5,000 people are managing to gain value out of the service. Is there a fear of missing out? How do you identify signal from noise? They’re following ten times more people than I am…are they getting ten times more out of Twitter?

In general, there were three takeaways from folks who responded to my query:
  1. Take advantage of lists. Juli Klie from Rochester, NY offered the following advice: “I do my 'wheat and chaff' sifting with lists. I have 24 lists of my own and subscribe to several lists curated by others. I can see in a click what the national media is talking about, what VCs/investors are talking about, what alumni of my college are talking about. The key is to add people to lists at the time you follow them — you'll never go back and do it later.”
  2. Be sure to use a third-party app. Shel Horowitz, a green business consultant from Hadley, MA, added, “I manage the flood with HootSuite (and before that, a similar program, TweetDeck). This gives me several columns to monitor: Tweets and DMs to me, a column called "must follow" of the top 100 or 150 people I want to pay attention to, mentions of my latest book, etc.” Meg Nordmann, Director of Marketing for RiskSense in Albuquerque, NM, agreed. “I have 29 lists and have subscribed to even more that others have already compiled. I actually look at my "Lists" on TweetDeck, which displays them in organized columns. So, I can see my "Tech News" in one news feed, and right next to it, I can see my local "Albuquerque News" in another, and so forth. I separate it for my different interests and for the different verticals in my industry.”
  3. Don’t worry about being on the service all the time. Horowitz said, “I typically check in once or twice a day for a few minutes.” Ryan Tracey, an eLearning professional from Sydney, Australia, added, “Don't think of Twitter as a must-read-everything technology. Pop in and out of it as you find the time. The important stuff will be repeated ad nauseam.”
In general, I don’t think that folks are getting ten times more out of Twitter than I am. Instead, it seems as though they’re breaking things into smaller streams, which makes sense.

What are your best tips for getting more out of Twitter?

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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