Another seven days have gone by, giving me no shortage of Twitter-tips to share. I'm attracted to this space like I was attracted to streaming media in '97 and rich media ads in '01. I'm piling on the reading, research and use of the platform to fully comprehend the potential of microblogging.
1. Build and maintain an organic following based on the quality of your tweets. Don't play Twitter like a video game or you will ruin it for everyone — like Geocities or MySpace. People that use scammy programs to build a following are just playing around or building a spam platform. (Read social media master Chris Brogan offering a better way, viral RTs.) Twitter Train, etc. are all silly ways to play the "follow-me-back" protocol to build an artificial following.
If your followings isn't organic, it isn't available to you for attention, advice or assistance (the three AAAs of social media). Sure, you might get a few people's attention over time, just like an email spammer actually gets clicks. But you won't build a network of value. Resist any easy solutions for building a following and put your time into useful updates, RTs and conversations that make a difference and create a social stream worth fishing out of.
2. Following back: As with many internet protocols, I was initially resistant to follow everyone back if they followed me. My key concern was the quality of my social stream. Following everyone back pollutes it with twerps that might fill the conversation with negative or irrelevant content. However, if you use Twitter to build a fungible/useful network of friends, every follower can be an audience or assistant. Even if they aren't relevant in their updates. You never want to lose a good follower.
Many Twitter coaches tell their clients to use various products to see who is and who isn't following back (I dislike these products so much, I won't list them here). They tell their students, "If someone isn't following back, unfollow them because they don't want to have a conversation with you." Uggh. How high school! How silly, how twitter-as-facebooky. However, many of the top twitterati have also made this statement, so if you don't follow back, you'll lose followers — maybe very good ones that can help you over time via RT's, clicks and word-of-mouse promotion.
So, I follow everyone back except the spammers (Sex sites, MLM, fake IDs to drive traffic,etc.). It is very easy to figure which ones are which. The tell tale sign is that they follow thousands and are followed by dozens. I don't follow them because I don't want them to possess false credibility.
Now, I'm following almost as many people as are following me. The result? Much lower return on attention for my twitter stream. It's really full of junk now, and that's not slagging anyone I'm following — this is a medium that people will evolve into and the rules aren't clear what one should tweet about. But, still, my tweet stream is not as useful as it was when I only followed back people I knew, wanted to read, etc.
Unfortunately, Twitter hasn't engineered for this with a favorite twerps category. Currently, favorites bookmarks specific tweets and not people. So, that's not a solution. Here's mine: I created a new account to follow my friends, families, colleagues and top tweeters I'm interested in. It is a much smaller list, and much much more useful as an information resource. Nothing gets buried here.
There's a little work involved in building it. First, you go through the list of who you follow (start at the end, where you began). Ten or so pages at a time, identify people for your faves list and add them to your new account. I use Hootsuite for this, as it allows me to easily manage multiple accounts. I'm only 20% done in building my list, so apologies to anyone I haven't yet included. If I start following you @sandersfaves, no need to follow me back as I won't tweet or retweet from that account. It is read only.
It's still easy to RT my faves. I RT them from @sandersfaves, which shows up in my Tweetdeck logged into @sanderssays. I snip @sanderfaves and RT and I'm done!
Finally, I still look through my @sandersays stream at least a few times a day, to see if there are some useful twerps to add to my @sanderfaves stream. I graze on the general stream and feast on the faves stream. NOTE: You can use Tweetlater to filter your friends privately, and I'll report later on how well it works.
4. Automated DMs. Two words: hate them. I do not have any automated DMs to welcome followers, spam them or show them a video thanking them for their follow. Too much noise! I just cleaned out over 300 useless DMs yesterday, to get to real ones that I needed to answer. Much like email, the less the better with DMs. Earn clicks to your websites by adding value with good tweets! Don't market to people before you've served them.
5. Tools I've started using in the last week.
– Tweetlater (when I'm traveling for speaking gigs)
– Twitter Grader (check out the Twitter elite list, follow many of them)
6. Tweeting into Facebook. Via Tweetdeck, I only copy Facebook about 20% of the time. Mostly with personal or advisory content. As a result, my friends need to also follow me on Facebook. If every one of my tweets went to Facebook, why should/would they follow? Also, RT's, replies, etc. are often not Facebook-centric and are offputting to friends who don't use Twitter. Remember, relevance is about talking the local lingo, not jargon. (Ironically, I posted this blog link on Facebook.)