How I Use Twitter

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Community, Ethics, Higher Education, Interview, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 11-13-2009


If you don’t use Twitter, this post will be largely irrelevant for you.  For those who do tweet, I hope it provides insight to my perspective and is a learning opportunity for others.

If you have been unfollowed by me, please take the time to read this so you can better understand.

(Tweetdeck for iPhone = I hate it. And yeah, that guy creeping over my shoulder threw me off at the end…)

I thought it’d be helpful to explain how I use Twitter, so that you better understand how my usage of Twitter might differ from yours.  I owe it to you and I want you to better understand me as a person and the motives behind my decision to cut back.

I Cut Back on Twitter

Late this summer, I was following around 750 people on Twitter, with about 2,500 people following me. (Overall, I’m a small fish in the Twitter pond.)  If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that I have never hoped or intended to follow back everyone who follows me.  For me, it’s not feasible or beneficial to use Twitter in this manner. (Everyone views Twitter differently, and you are welcome to disagree with my view, but that’s what it is for me.)

Twitter started to ruin my Facebook experience.  I would see updates from someone on Twitter,  then again on Facebook.  I view Facebook as a more intimate relationship, so it made sense to me at the time to cut the cord on the Twitter side. Also, I was receiving these updates through the @BlueFuego account, which I monitor and filter through each day.

At the same time, I have made a conscious decision to cut back on using Twitter, as it cuts into things that are more important to me, such as time with family and putting food on the table.

How I Cut Back

I started systematically removed people, using a mixture of,, and  Factors that weighed into my decisions were the volume of updates, the signal-to-noise ratio (your definition of this ratio will differ from mine), and the amount of conversations irrelevant to me or my interests.  Not a single person was removed from my following list without a combination of these tools to decide. I did my downsizing in two waves, from 750 to around 400, and then down to 200 a month later. Looking back, that number could likely have been at 250 or so, as cutting people got harder towards the end of this process. And many of those last few are the ones whose feelings I have hurt. I should have known when to stop, but, again, if you know me you know that when I set a goal I reach it.  200 was the finish line for me.

During the this time I closely monitored my follower #’s and the amount of interactions I was having with people. For every single person, I was having the same amount of @replies and interactions with them as before, but I was able to follow Twitter better by not receiving as much noise.

Methods to ‘Following Everyone’ and Information Overload

Yes, there are MANY tools to help someone follow 50,000+ people if they wish.  Tweetdeck, Seesmic, and other desktop-based tools allow a user to segment people into groups (not to be confused with Twitter Lists, which we’ll talk about in a bit.). I’m positive that every person reading this utilizes something like Tweetdeck.

For me, following hundreds of thousands of people is not valuable.  These people usually have alternate ways of *actually* following along. You just don’t see them.

Even one of the most prominent bloggers and tweeters in the Social Web space, who I respect and admire greatly, has a separate twitter account called @My100, a blank account that is used for following a small crowd of less than 30 people. This person has recently blogged about Twitter Lists, and said he refuses to use them because people will feel left out.  It’s the same for his personal account.  It’s no longer possible to NOT follow people without backlash, because the precedent has been set, so this is one way that he has been able to cut back. At face value, everyone gets followed back and all is well. *Most* people with 5-10,000+ just sit on @replies and DM’s to interact with people. They don’t read what you’re actually up to unless it relates to them.

What about Twitter Lists?

Twitter Lists have recently been added, and they provide a way to follow a group of people without “following” them.  After trying a few higher ed lists, I have found Anne Peterson’s Higher Ed Twitter List to be the best one out there, and the one that most closely resembles the way I used to use Twitter.  It’s the one I follow, and when I’m at a desk, track to see what’s going on in the community. For me, this is a great way to stay abreast of what’s happening, in addition to the @BlueFuego twitter account. I have enjoyed Twitter Lists so far, because they offer me the flexibility to “stick my head into the fire hose” at my leisure and consume tweets when I can, rather than being forced to see them. But as far as mobile goes, they are useless to me. So let’s talk about mobile usage for a second.

Why YOUR Twitter is not MY Twitter

Here’s the deal:  Your view and my view probably differ.  Why? Because the way we use Twitter is different.  More than likely, you have a desk job (right?). You are able to use tools l have mentioned above to track, target, segment and follow many more people than I can.

This month, I will be ‘in the office’, meaning physically sitting at a desk for extended periods of a day, for a total of 4 work days. Four.  If you work a desk job,  you’ll be at your desk for 19 days this month.   You already have a strong advantage over me, because you can use tools like Tweetdeck and Seesmic to stay up to date with everyone, and let them run in the background of your computer all day.

While this month is hectic for me, it’s not that out of line of most months. I’m in and out of 3 conferences in one day each (i.e. not staying to sit and listen to other presentations, which would be more like a ‘desk day’ to me). I’ll spend 6 full days on site visits for clients, and I’ll have 19 flights.

So please imagine being in my shoes for a moment. (They’re size 13) Not only am I consuming tweets in chunks, catching up between meetings and flights,  but I’m doing it while mobile (and usually, while driving….).

I’d estimate that this is how I use Twitter for over 80% of the time.  This leaves a lot… A LOT… of scrolling and filtering through my iPhone Twitter app to get through everything. And that’s not how I want to use Twitter.

The Final Straw

If you’re still with me, I hope you understand this one thing:  I don’t tell you all of this so that you will empathize and feel sorry for me.  I tell you this so that you will understand me.

Rule #1: Family comes first. It absolutely kills me to miss tweets from my wife, my mom, my brother and cousins, and other friends that I interact and see IRL weekly.  One week during September, while traveling, I heard the same question from my wife or another family member three nights in a row on the phone. “Hey, did you see what I tweeted today about work/what the dog did/your dad/etc.?”
It kills me to say that.  I value the communication and relationship with my family above all else, and the moment at which I was frequently missing their updates because they were squished in hundreds and hundreds of other updates was the moment i knew I needed to downsize.

I have never intended to hurt someone’s feelings by not following them, but my personal decision to downgrade was first and foremost about family, secondly because I was usually receiving the same message across multiple platforms, and thirdly because my personal work lifestyle (mobile) does not match with my previous work lifestyle (desk job). Yes, there are mobile people who can handle it (at least at face value), but that is not my style.

What could I do better?

A LOT.  I could manage my time better.  I could travel less.  I could do a lot of things.   But this is where I am right now. I signed up for it, and I love it, but it’s not where I was 12 months ago. I’m a different type of Twitter user than I was before. My time is limited, my attention is stretched, my family is now involved. It’s a new ballgame.

Applications like Boxcar, which provide me push messages from Twitter for @replies allow me to be aware of anyone who messages me during the day, even more quickly than a direct message, email or Facebook message.  (Like yesterday, when I was criticized for not following to someone or responding to them, yet I got back to her within 60 seconds. :) )

If you’ve been offended by my unfollowings, here’s what you could do better: Understand.  Understand there is more than one way to follow a conversation, there are multiple ways to track what’s happening, and understand that you and me are very different people at the end of the day. That’s the beauty of the social web.  You use it how you want to, and let me use it how I want to.

And you know what I could do better? Understand. Understand the value you put on a connection and relationship with me. I horribly underestimated it, and for that I apologize. My intent has never been to hurt someone’s feelings. My intent has been to align my usage of Twitter with my personal needs.

You’ll Get There One Day

The day is going to come for you as well.  You’ll hit the point where there’s just too much.  You’ll undoubtedly cut down your list one day after you define and realize how you want to use this tool.  And when you do, when that time comes, I certainly hope you’ll better understand both sides of the issue.

If you want to be proactive, look around the higher ed community. There are people who have work/personal accounts, so that they don’t have to filter through the community noise. There are other people in the community who have never followed more than double digits. One person DM’d me to say she/he used Twitter lists to create a private “NOISE” list and a private “People worth following” list, and only track one of the lists. I’ll let you guess which one is used most. :)

Give Me Your Thoughts!

I continuously review my actions. If you think there is a better way for me to manage my Twitter presence, I’m all ears.  Please leave a comment to let me know where I’m missing a tool or opportunity to do better with staying connected. If you somehow fell through the cracks and I’m truly not seeing your updates somewhere, please let me know so I can fix that as well.

Thanks for understanding! And if you got this far, I thank you for your time and attention!
Bradjward on Facebook

**Update** When you’re done reading the comments, go check out this fantastic post by @robin2go:

Comments posted (30)

Good post, Brad.

BTW, you look tired. Get some sleep, man.

At the end of the day, you use Twitter as you want/can… as long as you reply to people who address you directly, you’re fine by my book.

I’ve always refused to follow back everybody because I know I can’t handle a constant firehose… My confort level is far below yours at under 100, but I try to reply to people – although it’s possible I miss a couple here and there.

I’m human – although I can also be a borg from time to time ;-)

Brad -

Great post. I have also taken some heat on the way I use Twitter. But as I tell every client, you start with any social media tool by knowing the problem you are trying to solve. Everyone has different needs and there is no right or wrong way to use Twitter.

At some point, everyone will realize that time is the scarcest resource. I need to see real value from the time I spend on Twitter. This is something I am constantly paying attention to.

I’ve started to use Twitter lists to more efficiently manage my time. I have stopped following some people and added them to lists instead. If people were offended by this move, so be it.

Thanks for taking the time to explain your thinking.

You’re right – this will come for others, and the overload will be in direct proportion to their ambition and success.

You have both.

And there’s some important addition to the formula, where the attention problem is massively multiplied if you insist on family prioritization as well.

At some level, success becomes asynchronous. You’re there, and now your follow count is an honest expression of that.

I solve my, more mild, overload and travel juggling by being wildly inconsistent. Your solution probably sets you up better.

Take care of yourself and keep expressing your caring for others by offering your thoughts. It’s just twitter.

While it still “feels” and we are all real people, we do have plenty of other methods for expressing caring.

We, as your former twitter crew, have to understand that we are not your family, and that they should come first.

If you feel this is the way for you to better care for them, then that’s that.

btw. you should really install disqus for your comments if you are going to kick up blogging again.

I didn’t want to jump into this battle publicly, but thought I’d just offer some ways it’s working for me, since we have similar followers/following numbers, and I’ve been traveling more in the last 2 months than ever before.

TweetDeck is my crutch. Their iPhone app was crap until yesterday. I’m very impressed by their new update, and I highly recommend giving it another shot. I haven’t war tested it enough to know if it’s going to stop blowing up on me now, but early reports are that it’s far more stable and has way better options – similar to what I hear Tweetie lovers adore.

I can’t use an app like Echofon or Tweetie. I can’t follow my ‘all friends’ stream. I have groups set up and rely on the TweetDeck iPhone app with constant sync to the server to have my same columns with me when I’m mobile, when I’m sitting at my desk at work, and when I’m on my laptop wherever. I have a column for family and close friends, another column for people I work with, and another column for a tighter group of higher ed folks I want to keep up with as much as I can — in addition to a variety of personal and work-related searches.

I also make sure I hit[username] a couple times a day to make sure I don’t miss tweets from my significant other so I don’t run into those awkward moments you mentioned with your wife. :)

It’s a delicate balance and is absolutely different for everyone. We all have different styles and goals — but I’m certain we can all agree, whether followed by you or not, that we’re all here for the same things -> resources & relationships, and the tools help us manage them in the ways that work best for each of us.

And, what Karine said. Get some sleep this weekend. :)

Well said. The fact that you’re reaching out to your audience through this post shows that you do care about keeping the connections – not just professionally but personally. I agree with Kevin, it’s just Twitter. We’re all the deciders on how to use these communication tools and occasionally someone will take a step in a new direction. That’s what you did, and make a logical choice, and I’m sure some others (when they reach that tipping point) will follow suit.

Like I said on Twitter, I don’t think you have any obligation to explain to anyone. Just own it.

You’re selling yourself as a social media expert. (Brad’s note — I am not a SM Expert. I work in marketing, and I use the tools available. :) ) You had to know that you were going to piss a lot of higher ed people off when you unfollowed them. These are people who considered you a friend…an ally…and now all of a sudden they feel like you think you’re above them.

Frankly, I don’t really care…I was just being a smartass with the t-shirt and I think you know me well enough to know that. But I’ll also tell you that its not JUST the Twitter thing that has people up in arms. I’ve been around when many of those conversations have happened and I’m happy to talk to you more about why people are upset offline if you want, but am not going to post it here publicly.

Thanks for the post, Brad. I can openly admit that I was surprised, and saddened, to see that I was unfollowed. :)

I think that the only issue may be that downsizing occurred prior to this post. With all of these technologies, communication is everything.

No one should be expected to explain how they use these tools personally to others, but when a large number of a cohort gets unfollowed by a peer, it could seem odd without clarification.

Thanks for explaining. I think you’ve touched on something that maybe we don’t ever want to verbalize, but seems to be running in the background of our collective minds now: being “friended” or “followed” validates me. :-)

I have a similar issue with my Facebook account right now. At first I used it to keep up with college friends. Then old high school friends found me. I now have people I’ve randomly met as “friends” on there. I think if I un-friend some of them, they may feel slighted. But, I blame myself: when they requested friendship via Facebook, I caved. Gave in. They asked why I wouldn’t add them. Because that, too, was a slight. To not friend someone is seen as a slight; to un-friend someone is a slight. Can’t win. :-)

I appreciate your courage ;-) in taking back your twitter account, so to speak. Maybe I’ll get the nerve to take back my Facebook.

Regardless of the methodology by which someone uses Twitter (or any other platform for that matter), I think it is pretty silly that it needs to be explained (or as some interpret it, defended).

If you don’t even read/follow/check your stream of all that you are following, what is the point of even following them? As a guise? I contend that it is better to interact with them when you want, on your own terms, rather than following along for the sake of following along.

You’ve heard Twitter described as ‘like a party’ before, right? Think of it that way. I’m not friends with everyone at the party even though we may share similar interests. I’m not going to jump into the middle a circle of people having a conversation just to listen and stand there, but if I happen to hear something from afar that interests me, I might join in—or I might not. Meanwhile, I’ll stay closer to the people that matter to me the most. I’d say that Twitter and real life have a lot of similarities.

I think that Brad’s getting the short end of the stick here because he does have relatively high visibility within many circles, particularly in higher ed+web. If he can keep up with the conversation and contribute as he sees fit, why should any of us be the ones to decide what people matter the most to him?

I’ll choose my friends, you choose yours. Fair? I think so.

Thanks for your comments so far.

@Karine – Video was shot after 4 hours of sleep, getting up at 4am, traveling all day. I think I probably look less zombie-like IRL, but I am looking forward to some sleep this weekend. :)

@Mark – “At some point, everyone will realize that time is the scarcest resource. I need to see real value from the time I spend on Twitter.” Bingo. I know you have global clients as well, and can appreciate the fine balance of time allocation. :)

@Kevin – Started to Install Disqus but it wiped all current comments. I’ll play with it in a few days when things slow down. Thanks for reminder. :) Love your comment on being inconsistent!! Figure out what works for you and make it happen. And thanks for comment on success and seeing that from your entrepreneur eyes :)

@Rachel – Thanks for stepping out and commenting on this. I will have to give Tweetdeck a second look. I actually don’t even have Tweetdeck on my computer anymore, so I’d have to do some re-creation on categories, etc. Maybe let me know how it’s going after a few weeks? For me, the laptop is more presentation that productivity. Meaning, it’s hooked up to projector all day and then it goes back in my bag. I pull it out on the plane to get work done, but there’s usually no wi-fi there.

This post actually got me thinking about how much I use my iPhone, and helped me realize why my thumb joints are always so sore…… so I guess that’s a positive.

@Mike – Thanks for chiming in, glad that came through in this post! “It’s just Twitter.” — Amen.

@Karlyn – I’m not a SM Expert, and have not sold that to any client. I’m in the marketing business, and happen to use some tools that people refer to as social media. ;)
Anyways, thanks for your comment. I’m not above anybody. If I were better than others, I’d be able to handle the flow of tweets like the “social media experts” you speak of.

I knew that people would be upset. I had to make the decision for ME, though. I knew it would eventually come to what happened yesterday. I talked through implications of downsizing from both a personal and business standpoint with Joe quite a bit before going all the way. In an email on October 4th, I said: “How long until someone notices and begins #unfollowbrad or says I don’t “get” social media?”. I was close…. they went with #unfollowgate instead. :)

The fact that 3,100+ people follow me is baffling. I felt ridiculous writing this post, something typically reserved for people like Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan. It’s unfortunate that I am perceived in that light, but we all put our pants on the same in the morning.

I owe you a phone call anyways. We’ll chat soon. :)

@Jess – In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to write this post sooner. And FWIW, it was ‘volume’ for you. :) ( 1300 updates a month = 1 tweet every 22 minutes for the month, assuming you sleep 8 hours a day. Since we’re friends on Facebook and I was already seeing your tweets from @BlueFuego, I thought I would cut off one line of communication from the trifecta.

@Susan – Thanks for understanding! It’s a Catch 22 for sure. :) May the force be with you and may you learn something from my experiences.

@Adam – Totes magotes. Enough said.

It’s interesting to see how different people use twitter.

I can’t say I totally understand reasoning behind how you “downsized” (your word!) :) , but that’s alright! I don’t understand why a lot of people tweet the way they do, and people often express surprise when they find out I have a “professional” and “personal” twitter account. I know it’s odd, but it’s what works for me.

But I don’t think that’s the real issue at hand. The issue is how people respond, which is another interesting subject in and of itself. The unique quality of twitter is that it doesn’t require mutual consent. You can choose to follow or unfollow with no consequence to how the other person “sees” you, with the exception of DMs.

I find it also interesting that Brad unfollowed people quietly- never announced a purge as some people do, but was then very publicly called out for it. I don’t know that either is right or wrong (although I’m not a fan of personal grievances made public), but it’s interesting to see how it effects our little highered online ecosystem.

So… to conclude… like many people have said already… it’s your thing… do what you wanna do. ;)

Brad, I really enjoyed this post. It’s just sad that we have to justify things like this. The reason we have to start justifying stuff like this is because for a lot of people, social media is about popularity. “Oh yay I have 5,000 friends on Facebook.” “Oooo I have @britneyspears following me.” When that friend number or follow count is interrupted, it’s a small blow to the ego. As much anyone will try to deny this, it’s true, people just don’t want to accept that.

I respect that you’ve done this most importantly for your family. It’s something that I’ve had to deal with as well. I did a Facebook cleanse not to long ago, because I found myself looking at the updates of people I barely know! That was taking valuable time away from my husband! Same goes for Twitter! Family is number one to me as well and that is why I rarely use Twitter after 5pm or on the weekends.

Thanks for laying out your thoughts so clearly though for others to see.

Hey Brad,

I agree with your philosophy on the FB/Twitter differences. Also, the clutter can get to be a bit much. There are so many people who I’d love to follow but I know my twitter would be inundated with information.

Family first. Good man! Have safe travels.


Kudos to you for standing up and addressing yesterday’s comments head on. I think you might have just gotten another example for why brands need to be on Twitter – to help address and quell controversy before it builds up steam. I don’t think its necessary for you to explain your method – but feel like I’m privileged enough to get more insight into how you operate because of it.

It is never easy to publicly express one’s personal priorities, in your case putting family first, especially in a forum where tone can be so easily misunderstood. I think anyone that has followed you is fairly easily able to see that you care – about your clients, about Higher Ed, and about your family/friends – so that is certainly not up for debate.

As you said, everyone uses Twitter differently, and that can be hard to understand at times for people with significantly fewer followers than you, Mark, Karine etc. I think those of us that don’t have followers in the thousands truly value the close connection on twitter to those in our networks – whether it’s chatting about what Lane is having for breakfast, or talking e-recruiting with Gil. Does some of it land the dreaded NOISE tag? Absolutely. I’m just not in a camp that believes that every interaction needs to be about work/HigherEd to create a meaningful connection. It’s the little things :)

I certainly understand you’re in a place in life now where you don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to communicating with hundreds of people on the go. I just didn’t buy that you are able to have the same level of interaction and connection with them through the BlueFuego account when there’s roughly 2 tweets a day from it. Sure, if someone @mentions you, you’re able to pick right up on it with Boxcar, but where’s the connection if you’re only responding?

When you’re trying to balance so many things in life, sometimes you catch the elevator on the way up, and sometimes you get the shaft. Just keep doing what you’re doing, because I know how much value you’ve added to my twitter experience.

Brad, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I thought I’d give my $.02 on how I use these things… of course I’m not popular like you and probably don’t say too much… but anyways.
Facebook and Twitter are totally different for me. Facebook is basically family only and IRL ppl. Where Twitter is a business tool.
I don’t follow my twitter feed daily (probably 3 days a week, and on the remaining days I’ll glance at it) — but I do always check out and respond to @replies.
I don’t expect to miss something important on twitter by not constantly keeping up… Although for a long time in my mind I’ve said “300 is probably the top for me, and don’t understand how people could have much more” (I currently have ~200 people I follow)

in summary, it all makes sense. and yeah, its great to have a tool you can use one way and I can use another.

I read this before there were any comments, so now I need to go back and read them. But it really got me fired up. My thoughts are posted here: This has been a great opportunity to look at this topic; thanks for starting it off, Brad!

I just added Robin’s blog post as an update at the bottom of my original, because it’s THAT excellent. Actually, I read it twice. Once while in the car, and once more when I got back to my desk. Go read it.

Ann – Thanks for the comment! I hope that this has opened doors to how people think about Twitter as it has for you. I do think that a public “I’m unfollowing a lot of people right now” just brings unnecessary attention to it, and it ABSOLUTELY is not something that can be communicated in 140 characters, as noted by this blog post. :) (Like we say, 3+ tweets = blog post it.)

Sasha – To Ann’s point above, I recall when you (smartly) announced on FB your recent ‘downsize’. I was glad to still be in the cut. But I think one way that Facebook differs from Twitter is the community aspect. If you unfollow a lot of people on Facebook, they won’t necessarily interact with each other, then start a “Sasha Unfollowed Me!!!” group to talk about it. Twitter is very open, very public. One is not better than the other, it’s just the way the tools work.

Jordan – Thanks for commenting! Smart move on slow growth. You DeMan. :)

Kyle – Love your comment, thanks for pouring so much effort and thought into it. I think the insight to my method is valuable to offer. What I didn’t want it to look like (and hopefully by now, we can all see that this the case) was that I just went through with a machete and slashed my list apart in 2 hours. This was literally a 4-6 week process. I can’t imagine the hours I put into this, going across my list again and again, filtering and processing it all.

That reminds, me there was one tool I used at first called Twitoria, that shows you inactive followers. Of my unfollows, a good 200+ came from this. People who had not updated in 30 days got cut right away. While they do not create any noise or content, I think it was still important to remove them first because of my end goal (200).

You are correct that I cannot maintain the same amount of interaction from @BlueFuego, but I think it might not have come across clearly as to HOW I use @BlueFuego. With Tweetie 2, you can click the top middle while typing a tweet and choose from any account in your list to tweet from. So it goes something like this:

Check @BlueFuego account. See interesting tweet from @KyleJudah. Hit reply. CHANGE account to @bradjward, reply, send.

The interaction still comes from me when I do it. But you’re right, I need to be better about actually responding to those that I see rather than browsing. But more often than not, the joke has already passed because I’m seeing it 3-4 hours later. And when that happens, conversation does become based around my schedule.

I’ll get better at this.

Asudduth – Thanks for sharing! I think your view of FB/Twitter is similar to many. True story: One time, somewhere on the web, I commented that “I don’t think I’ll ever follow more than 100 people on Twitter.” I shoal find that.

Robin — Again, great post. We’re Facebook friends and I get your content there. Since our ‘circles’ don’t overlap too terribly much, I enjoy your Facebook content more and went with that connection. (Actually, Facebook always trumps Twitter for connections to me.) I enjoy that your Posterous photos show automatically and I don’t have to click on them like I would with Twitter, so that works better for me too and weighed into my decision. Like yesterday AM when we sent Facebook private messages back and forth, or two days ago when I ‘liked’ one of your posts on Facebook that came via Twitter, and commented on it… that’s where we engage, and it works well. :)

I think it’s a good academic discussion for people to understand the different ways people can use a tool like Twitter when it goes from being “something you do” to “a huge thing that can consume more of your time than you’re comfortable with.” And how to filter the noise to make it manageable and useful.

So good stuff.

Great stuff as always, Brad. I imagine it’s just as therapeutic for you to write all of this stuff out as it is a benefit to those of us that are reading it!

For me, the noise issue is a pretty big deal, and I would say I’m “guilty” of pruning my following list pretty frequently. We all need to get used to the fact that our thoughts shared on Twitter may be incredibly important to some and less so to others. It’s just not reasonable to think otherwise.

It’s a good reminder to “think before you tweet.” I always have to ask myself: will this matter to many people, could it be directed at just a few people?, etc. Most importantly, am I adding value for my followers?

Seems like a conversation that will continue to evolve as reweets roll out, lists grow, and so forth. Thanks for kicking it off!

Just skimmed your post…

I follow enough people on Twitter to gain some insights but not have information overload.

If I don’t check Twitter and I miss insights as a result, I don’t feel guilty.

I’ve unfollowed a few people when there is too much noise or they tweet too often, even when signal is mixed in.

I rarely add someone to follow if they tweet a lot. (No offense, I don’t follow you for that very reason.) This prevents a future unfollow.

I follow @tsand because he adds humor to my day.

As you said, people should use Twitter as is best fit for them.

Ron – always appreciate your insight. I think the discussion will continue for quite some time!

Andrew – It’s always healthy for me to do the same. At the beginning of November, I took 5 or 6 days off of Twitter. Every time I wanted to tweet, I would stop and ask myself similar questions: What value does this add?, Is this worth tweeting?, etc. While I don’t ask myself this every single time I tweet (obviously) I think it’s a healthy practice to review what you’re doing and saying occasionally. I do this a few days very two months.

Rob – Thanks for the skim!

Yeah, moment Brad announces he’s cutting his follow list I ran straight to to see if I was off the list. Because yeah, I have a lot of followers, but I also have a fragile ego. :)

My way of addressing the issue has been to limit the number of people I follow — and to only add when I feel like the person I’m adding is significant. Last time, I also purged a number of people who previously followed me but no longer did; it’s easier to cut the ones who don’t want to hear you than the ones who do. But right now, I’m trying to hover right around 400 on my follow list.

The problem, of course, is Klout argues that I’m a “persona,” and the best way for personas to grow their audience is to follow everyone back. The fact I don’t has probably dinged my “personal brand” on Twitter — I’d probably have 30-50% more followers. Having more followers would help position me to get a better job, or expand on my speaking engagements. (And I’ve watched a number of people who started much later blow well past me in followers.) But I do want to keep it manageable and in a single stream. My life, which is spread between work in higher ed, hobbies in blogging and local news, my town of Seattle, and whatever the hell pops into my head, is already extremely fragmented. Fragmenting my Twitter stream, ironically, wouldn’t help compartmentalize things but instead make it even harder to get everything running together. I’ve had thoughts over this year of trying to break the interests up into accounts, but then I lose my cohesive voice.

I totally understand Brad’s issues, and I don’t blame him for shifting some of the traffic from his personal account to @BlueFuego. It’s funny how a lot of us are into “personal brand management” now, something that would have seemed ridiculous just three years ago (and honestly, seems ridiculous now). And the noise problem, even if there’s a lot of signal in the transmission, will remain a problem as we move more and more online. Eventually we’ll figure out how to work in this new world, but it’s going to take us disconnecting our ego from our online presences, and that will be a long, hard process of filter-making and learning to shrug at what other people think.

I’m just happy I’m dealing with all this at 37. If I were 17, this all would have crushed my pea-sized self-esteem.

Brad, just as I publicly commented on Twitter a month ago (had to go public since I couldn’t DM someone who wasn’t following me) I’d like to publicly apologize here. I totally get why you needed to do what you did, but admit I was thinking along the lines of what Karlyn said. Stupid, I know– just human nature I guess.

Truth is, Twitter has become so unwieldy for me that I pop in and out of conversations as I have time. I check my @ replies and DM, see what’s on a few saved searches and now rely on lists for some of the local events and stuff I don’t want to miss. But by and large, it’s a low priority in the big scheme of things. Facebook is where my friends and family are (and a bunch of former friends I don’t really remember).

Anyhow, I’m sorry. While you don’t need to explain yourself, I see you realize that actions in social sites can have unintended consequences. At least you didn’t follow me to get me to follow you, then unfollow me the next day! No hard feelings on my end.

It seems there are some social norms evolving on Twitter and Facebook, and some that are transferred to these platforms from some slightly more mature platforms, such as blogging. Back before Twitter and Facebook exploded, many bloggers had this custom of linking to other blogs via a blogroll. This turned into a reciprocal sort of arrangement for many of us: I like your blog so I’ll link to it and maybe if you like my blog you’ll link back. (I realize not all bloggers followed this custom but it was a common practice before RSS and then Twitter, etc., made it easier to keep tabs on other bloggers without benefit of the blogroll.)

I think the etiquette of how to connect with one another and share connections is still evolving. I connect with you, Brad, and many of the commenters here on many platforms — Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc. (Just kidding about Plaxo). There’s probably no reason to have all of these connections, from an efficiency standpoint. But it’s kind of like running into someone at the grocery store, then seeing them again at a restaurant, coffee shop or church. You say hi, “like” their Facebook status, comment on their blog, retweet their tweet.

The analogy I use in terms of connecting with others via these networks is that they are all tributaries that flow into the great social media stream. I stop by the stream from time to time — or one of the tributaries — and see what’s going on. Then I move on to real life, to meatspace.

I follow a lot of people on Twitter, but I don’t worry about trying to keep up with every moment of their online lives, nor do I expect them to do the same with me.

You might be worrying too much about what other people think, Brad. People have different ways of reacting to situations. I’ve been unfollowed by some people and was bothered by it. But I’ve gotten over it and moved on.

By the way, I have no idea what the Twitter drama was that prompted you to post about this, and I don’t care to know. But judging from the volume of comments here, it seems like a discussion a lot of people are interested in.

See you on the innernets.

As one who kinda/possibly helped instigate the conversation yesterday and this post, I want to say thank you for this post.

I appreciate and respect everything you said here. Family needs to come first. And you do have to do what is best for you.

Twitter takes me back to High School in some respects. There are several circles and cliques. Yeah and in my mind you are in the “cool” kid circle. Being new to the HigherEd community this year it was awesome to be followed by the cool kids. Being Unfollowed told me my part of the conversation with you wasn’t important unless specifically mentioned @bradjward.

Just so you know, while I might not have ever tweeted this, I have told some people in the HigherEd Circle that I have really wanted to meet the @bradjward that was on Twitter. I was hoping that at one of the two conferences I was able to convince my boss to let me to come to this year I would be able to, but alas I could not.

Again thanks for letting us know that you are listening.

I hope you continue to rock @bluefuego and that one day we will be able to meet IRL.

My *video* reply to Brad:

I totally get both sides of this, being one of those folks that has divided things up into separate twitter accounts: personal/professional, etc. The shuffling of people from one to another did cause some stir, as I recall, though I did this years ago.

Thanks for the name-check on my higher ed twitter list: that’s definitely a fire hose, aggregating every higher ed person on twitter I know (though of course it’s a work in progress–folks who want to be added can always ping me). Glad to hear that it helps others too.

I did also make a higher-ed-select list for a little more streamlined an experience. Though I’m afraid it might make some folks feel excluded, it was too valuable for me not to create, and I think it might also help others, so I’ve chosen to keep it public. We’ll see how that experiment turns out.

[...] there have been many discussions regarding how people use social media. (See @bradjward ’s post) He’s not the only one. Many of us have been rethinking how we use the different tools in our [...]

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