flame, fire, match

I’ve Rekindled With An Old Flame

I've been on Twitter since early 2008. I used to be quite active but stopped for three main reasons: It's noisy, it's cluttered, and it's limited.

At one point, I followed over 60k. My feed was overwhelming.

I was used to writing 1,000-3,000 word articles. Forcing myself to write in short spurts of only 120 characters, without any media to give it context, was a great exercise. It polished my editing skills because it pushed me to be pithy.

But the process still felt awkward, disjointed, and stilted.

There weren't many “conversations” going on. 

Most of the people on Twitter (at least the ones I followed) were either quiet lurkers or self-promoters who merely pushed their links. So the vast majority of the content felt empty and trite.

Since every tweet was independent, including replies, you can fire off a tweetstorm on a topic or idea, or engage followers in a conversation, but each tweet would be devoid of context and feel random.

Your timeline would become infested with seemingly disjointed tweets. It forced you to skim, scroll, and scour endlessly among thousands of tweets on your feed to find the rest, or lose track by going to each person's profile.

The Twitter of 2008 was similar to what Facebook has become today: just a cacophony of disjointed posts (mostly sponsored posts) drowning out your friends and family.

Plus, with my ADHD (which I didn't know I had at the time), I was either struggling to follow, or just scrolled endlessly and getting distracted.

Even before it was acquired by Twitter, I used a tool called Tweetdeck. At the time, it was Twitter's saving grace. It allowed me to lump people I follow into columns either based on industry or topic. But then, “column creep” started, and I was back at square one.

So why am I back and what changed my mind?

First, many of the newest features — adding media content, filtering using lists, making replies direct, expanding to 280 characters, and now connecting tweets in threads — has caused me to do a double-take.

And I fell back in love with it.

Here's what I did.

First, I unfollowed everyone. Every. Single. One.

Years ago, massive follower counts were boasted as some kind of badge of honor. And to a degree, the social proof did work. But they were mostly autofollow bots baiting for reciprocal follows. Just one big mess.

Granted, Twitter did a great job to kill a lot of those off. Still, the noise from thousands of follows was overwhelming.

I couldn't remember who I followed, and if it was either because I was sincerely interested or just because I wanted to be nice. I didn't have time to filter each of those 60k followers one by one. So I mass-unfollowed everyone.

Second, I created lists.

Since you don't have to follow someone to add them to a list, I added people I like and follow (not in the Twitter sense but in the real world) into lists based on industries, topics, relationships, whatever.

So now I follow lists, not people or accounts.

Plus, I use Tweekdeck to show columns based on these lists. It even allows me to add columns based on searches, mentions, hashtags, and trending topics.

Heaven.

Third, Twitter has grown up. Tweets have matured somewhat. People are sharing more content — not just links or promotional vomit. Actual tips and ideas. Some are solid gold.

Yes, there's still a lot of noise, but you can now filter those out. You also have the ability to engage others in real, thoughtful conversations. Some of these are fascinating and enlightening.

And finally, it's also a great testing ground.

  • Want to test a new headline or piece of copy?
  • Want to research your market or industry?
  • Want to see if a new name for your service hits the mark?
  • Want to acid-test a new product idea or marketing approach?
  • Want to see if people are willing to pay the price you set?

I'll stop here.

There are many more reasons why I fell back in love with Twitter.

How do you use Twitter? Who do you follow and why? Tweet at me @michelfortin and let me know.

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Strategic marketing consultant Michel Fortin