How to: Managing My Twitter Usage

(This is the first version…might be enhanced with new ideas, questions)

First of all, let me say here that twitter is hardly a productivity tool. It is great fun, nice to communicate short, to the point messages, but honestly rarely add something new, important or indispensable to the lives of people who use it. Someone mentioned the other day he “could not understand what I want read from twitter” (?)

It is a perfect valid point and the short answer is: I do not take twitter seriously. I mainly use to read random news…and sometimes help contribute with some content which I produce in my blog. I don't aim content at anyone. I have no expectations of content from anyone…but I try to align my current interest around subjects.

If you want to know the whole point then the long answer is below.

Is All About My Quality Time

First of all, a bit of a background for you. My Wife, kids and I live in a foreign country. No relatives are around us. We have 2 small kids and we don't have a nanny. I do a lot of consulting travel and when I am at home it is paramount for me to spend quality time with my family. I want to have time to BBQ, to go out with kids to the beach, to relax with my wife…. I am telling you: it is hard!! Not always this time is available. We always have to sacrifice something..TV series, movies, something…and twitter does not help! as a matter of fact, if you leave it twitter will suck the life out of you (and Facebook as well probably)

Is this a reason for you to stop using twitter? I say 'no' you still can use it as long as you don't fall in the common challenges. I identified some of them and I explain my solutions for them: (again, this is just my format…they are not necessarily also good for you)


Mind What You Say

Twitter has a 140-characters limitation. The capacity to express an idea or opinion in the right manner is extremely reduced. Words can very easily hurt people and fewer words add a ‘cold’ tone to your message and how the other people will perceive it. Remember that behind a twitter avatar, there is a real person. If you meet someone at a supermarket, or at a party would you go immediately throwing inflammatory comments at them? so why you do it to people online?

Everything can be said differently to avoid confrontation. The other day I shared some article about tech. Immediately I received a reply saying “BULLSHIT! bla bla bla…”. This is officially a troll. Trolling is replying/engaging to someone in a conversation that starts already from a negative point of view, with inflammatory opinions which has no purpose other than drag you to a long, time-wasting bashing and potentially hurting scenario. Sorry mate, I don't have time for that.

I try to reply to every tweet I receive. Except from trolls. If you receive a tweet from someone, if the communication is with good intentions and a genuine conversation I suggest you to engage in the conversation. You never know, the next person might be just the networking link you were looking for…and besides, a new good friend is always a good thing.

It amazes me how people on twitter ignore genuine, rich conversations but are ready to reply immediately to abuse and provocation.

Think this way: If you are in a party where you know nobody. You see someone alone, you approach and talk right? Likewise, if you are in a party alone and someone comes to have a chat, you would not look at his/her face and go away, right? so why do this online? Use the capacity that twitter has to bring new people to your life and engage with them.

My View: I don't take twitter seriously. To me, nothing important happens on twitter. But I do take what I say/write seriously. Every time I write a tweet I think:”How would my son (or daughter, or wife, or mother) would read this?”

We all have an online reputation to care about, weather we like it or not. Be nice when communicating with people, try to make new friends, ignore those who engage with inflammatory conversations. Finding the right things to ignore is as important as finding the right things to associate.


I am Just Re-twitting you; Not Agreeing With You

Another great mistake is that people confuse re-tweet (RT) with their own words. Person X says “I don't like this…” then someone does a RT and all of sudden people immediately assume you are agreeing with that person. You can have many rules regarding this, my rules is if I do a RT, it does not mean I am agreeing with that idea; instead it means “hey, I saw this opinion and I would like to share it with you…what do you think?” This is similar of my behaviour outside the virtual world. When I go to barbecues, parties, social functions, I do not only talk about things I agree. If I see a stupid comment on TV, next time I meet my mates I’ll bring that up for discussion….why? well, because that’s how we bind ideas, by discussing it.

My Solution: I do RTs from everything I find it interesting or worth sharing for discussion. Do not necessarily agree with them.


Our Friendship Is Stronger Than “Me Following You”

I understand We are humans. We do marvellous things and achieve great feats. But we are also creatures of vain and desires. We love attention as much as we love saying sour things to each other.

Now, I do not necessarily follow all my friends. It does not mean I don't like them, it only means that if I have to follow all of them my twitter timeline would be so flooded that I would do nothing except read and reply tweets all day. That’s not their fault, that’s Twitter’s fault. It was designed like that. One does not have to follow their friends on twitter to see what they are up to, you still can check what they are saying without having to follow them.

We have an endorphin shot when someone follow us, try not to get addicted to that. think about it, what’s the point? Try to think this way, I follow the Gartner Group report, but I don’t follow my brother. t does not mean I think Gartner is more important than him.

I do not use any other advanced twitter features, I have a mortgage, kids, bills to pay, work etc…already way too many things to manage daily; twitter lists? IMHO, I don’t think I need yet another thing to manage without giving me any benefit at all except “list things”.

My Solution: I do not follow people, I follow subjects. Ideas that can potentially help my day to be better or bring and different perspective on things. We are still friends, weather twitter says we are following each other or not. If someone gets mad because a friend stop following them…well, man up! I am following something now, but I might not be tomorrow.


Your Time Is Your Time, Is Your Time

Some people literally spend hours on twitter. They feel the need to reply to everything and to comment on every bit of information. Whilst the occasional vent is ok sometimes is borders the twitter addiction. And worst, they do this during their working hours. IMHO, your time is your time and one can do what ever they feel like; I wouldn’t.

Having said that, every July for 1 week I tend to go crazy on twitter during the tour de France. I just love interacting with my cycling community. I am also lucky that this happens during the night when I am at home and kids are already sleeping. So I still feel guilty free here. Another moment when I tend to go bananas on twitter is on Monday nights during my favourite political TV show “Q And A”, extremely popular with the twittersphere in Australia. but again, this just happens once a week and from 8 to 9 PM.

My Solution: I try to limit my tweet times to some very specified moments:

  • When I am commuting to/from work
  • When I am at home trying to kill some time watching some TV (which I do not do much), after lunch etc
  • When I am participating in some event where people are socializing

I never/rarely do twitter during working hours or when I am with my family. Twitter NEVER comes first in my daily routine. Twitter is NOT important to me. As a matter of fact, the importance I give twitter to my personal life is the lowest possible…which takes me to what I said before…


Nothing Important Happens on Twitter

If something is really important, if something will affect your life or those around you…You WILL know, regardless of twitter. I have a colleague who does not watch the news on TV and he says:”I don't watch the News, I let other people see the news and if something is really important, this something will find me”.

And also this has an interesting effect of re-tweeting. Follow people who aggregate what you are looking for. There are some people who JUST retweet. I must say that I used to think less of them because they do not express any opinion, but then with the time I realised they are just what we need to help us free time and be more productive.

In the beginning, I used to have more than 200 tweets to browse in my timeline. I’ve been slowly decreasing this number by following some and (mostly) following others. Now, I have about 30-40 tweets in my time line when I check it every morning. Unfortunately I discovered I don't have lots of free time to read a timeline of more than 60 tweets and since I found that I noticed my productivity increased a lot. I suggest you to do the same, unless social media participation is really your thing.

My Solution: Try not to check twitter more than 2-3 times per day. Nothing important happens on twitter that if you miss it will affect me/you. Stop following every one and every thing. There are people out there who do that task and filter the news for you. Find and follow them. Reduce the noise in your timeline.


Throwing Letters from a Building vs. Writing on a Book

From time to time, I want to express an opinion on twitter…and sometimes I have to do it more than once. I found that I was wasting my precious time doing that. So instead of having to reply to every one my opinion I discovered that if I wrote a blog post and reply to them with the URL I would hit several goals at one go:

  • Set the right perception: without the limitation of the 140-characters people would understand where I come from and my reasoning better
  • Help to build a more intelligent internet: Twitter is great for sending quick and short-lived updates, but is almost doing a disservice on content creation by offering a below par search capabilities. A few times I wanted to share again something I saw in twitter and I had incredible hard time to find that information again. With a blog, it is a no brainer; create your content, share the link on twitter and let Google, Bing etc do their job.
  • Saves me a lot of talking. I write once and can be reused as many times as I can; if I change my opinion in the future, I just revisit my blog and refresh it.


I Can Only Show You The Door

To me Twitter, like Facebook, is just a tool. Being or not fun, productive or destructive is all up to the user; and Twitter is awesome to share the instant , something that just happened and you just can't hold it only for yourself. That capacity to share information snacks is what makes twitter attractive.

When I first joined, I was not sure what to make of the tool. Like everybody else, I guess. Then together we experienced several phases: from using twitter to say 'good morning, is there anyone here?' to 'hey, look at this awesome link I found'.

In many ways, I've grown to enjoy twitter, and this acknowledgment is important. It represents a shift in the way things are delivered to the crowds. The power of simplicity and focus. I must say I even learned how to deliver a message using fewer words, a constant exercise in productivity.

Twitter is in many scenarios the minimum common denominator of the communication. It allow sharing of content to hit millions. It has evolved to become a political issue. It covered the USA elections from the people's point of view, it was blocked by governments during times of crisis.

My take on this: If you are not on twitter already, jump in; if you are, try to make it sustainable, from my part I try not to use it as content creation but as a tool to make content reach people. I would say, share things that are meaningful to you and surrounding without any expectations. Sometimes like a turning a TV at 3AM on a Sunday: I don't expect to watch anything, I just expect to see what’s going on. Nothing more, nothing less. If there is content that’s going to better me, great! If not, I just turn it off.

One caveat here: I am opposed using twitter and Facebook integrated with professional tools like LinkedIn. Think about how your professional network will see when you post religious content, pictures of your meal or screams about your sporting team winning in their timeline. But of course, you do what you feel like doing :-)

If you have ideas on managing your twitter timeline and other point of views of its usage, feel free to reach me out.


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