Twitter Strategies

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What to do about Twitter? Do I want more followers? Do I need more followers? Everybody says you need loads of followers?

The truth is, I’m an old-timer in terms of social media. I’ve witnessed the rise and fall of MySpace, and countless other services being launched and failing to gain traction. I dread to think how many dormant accounts I have littering the web.

So, do I want to get into another social media site, playing the numbers game yet again, clamouring for friends and contacts because friends and contacts equal influence.

The thing is, Facebook and Twitter seem to be more genuine social media sites. They’re more about people than connections and gaming the system. That’s why I get quite defensive when I read sites like TwiTip, which seem to endlessly repeat the message that you need to accumulate as many followers as humanly possible.

After all those years of trying to gather attention on Digg, StumbleUpon, MyBlogLog (I didn’t, but maybe you did), Delicious and all those other networking sites, Twitter and especially Facebook are places that are better suited to your real friends and contacts. After all those years, I’m fatigued with trying to build follower numbers. They’re metrics that mean very little unless you’ve got major attention.

Follower Strategies

I also had a bizarre encounter the other day with one Ari Herzog (@ariherzog), who took exception to my use of an autoresponder on my personal account. Ari later pondered about follower strategies and whether one should follow every person who follows you.

There was a great debate about reciprocal following. Ari was practicing this, but my approach to our @unrealitytv account was to only follow people who I know or regard online. Other commenters noted that they would prefer to have quality over quantity. If you’re really into networking, following massive numbers of people can only be a bad thing. You only have a finite amount of time for Twittering.

The reciprocal follower notion is bullshit. Choose who you follow – make sure they’re – as the FBI say – a person of interest.

How I’m Using Twitter

Well, I’ve had some really interesting conversations with members of our various Unreality sites. Those have been great ways to develop relationships and share ideas. One of my Twitter friends recommended that I write a post about Primeval in the style of personal ads, which is going to be fun.

I follow a number of entertainment publications and journalists I’ve met out and about. I also follow all the good web design gurus that first got me into blogging, XHTML and clever stuff like that. And then there are some flesh and blood folks who I keep in touch with through Twitter (although the real close ones are on Facebook).

Here’s an outline of what I’m using Twitter for:

  • Twitter search: if I’m watching a show or writing about a band, I’ll keep a realtime search open to see what other people are saying.
  • Twitterfeed: On the @unrealitytv stream, we use Twitterfeed to publish some of our latest post titles. On the suggestion of a friendly reader, we cut the frequency down so as not to overwhelm people.
  • Real chat: I like Twitter, so I’m happy to chat to people who follow us or comment on stories we’ve covered. I’m still dithering between Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop and Twhirl (though Twhirl wins currently with Ping.fm support).
  • Establishing relationships: I’ve had some real fun chats with people on Twitter. It’s the personal touch that appeals, particularly if you’re a first/second generation blogger. You can fly off-topic, talk about personal stuff and ‘meet’ a wide range of people.
  • Not just broadcasting: A broadcast medium is RSS or something like that. You can use Twitter for that, although I don’t really know why you’d want to. If you want subscrubers, use RSS or email. @screenrant does a wonderful mix of chat plus sharing their latest headlines. That’s what I’m aiming for.
  • Site integration: I’ve integrated links to our Twitter page at the bottom of all our posts on Unreality TV so that readers who use Twitter can hook up with us on Twitter.

Now, if the miraculous does happen and we end up with lots of followers, that would be wonderful. But I like the notion of winning fans one person at a time. Either way, there’s no hurry. We’re just enjoying ourselves.

I have been agonizing over whether I should watch my followers list to see who’s following me and reciprocate the odd ‘person of interest’. I don’t want to follow everybody, since Twitter is loaded with spammers, marketers and ‘social media consultants’. My patronage will not be used to stroke the egos of social media spammers.

The Bottom Line

Number crunching sucks. I know for a fact Seth Godin blogged recently about building your customer base person by person, but I can’t be bothered to find the link.

The fact is, I couldn’t be arsed gaming Twitter to build 20,000 followers to listen to my message. I’ll take the fun path and use Twitter to chat to folk, thanks very much. You can keep your worthless lists of reciprocal followers, I’m just happy to chat to the people I know through my sites and people with similar interests.

I get so tired of hearing how you can leverage Twitter. How you choose to use the service is your own business, but the plethora of dead MySpace accounts today is testament to the fact that we’ve all wasted our time building pointless lists of ‘friends’. Maybe the thing to do is to stop trying to automate success (it hasn’t worked for me – has it worked for you?) and just have fun and maybe pick up a few loyal followers along the way.

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