Back in the early days of mySpace there was a great Bill Maher interview with a uber-super-mySpacer about his 20k+ “friends.”
[I paraphrase] “Those are not ‘friends.’ I can hardly keep track of my immediate family. How can you tell me, are you interested and connected to over 20k people? I mean, even in your entire lifetime that would be pretty unlikely.”
“Sure I can,” said the friend-rich geekster. “See, watch this.” He clicked a few things on the screen of his laptop. “See, right there, I just connected with all of my friends.”
“That was just spam, or sending them email.”
“No, I was wishing them a happy Thursday night.”
“But you don’t know any of these people. You don’t know a thing about them.”
“Sure I do.” He proceeded to click on the laptop again. “See, here are all my friends who are into Nirvana. And here with my filtering, I can see who’s birthdays are coming up so I can send them a birthday card.”
Maher was apoplectic. The geeky one was unperturbed. It just did not matter what Maher leveled at him, he was happy with his network of acquaintances and nothing was going to discourage him from the validity of those connections how ever frail they might appear to Maher.
So here we are with Twitter building up some unreal statistics and some false expectations about networking and connectivity. And their valuation rivaling many small countries. And I am feeling a bit like Maher, even looking at my own Twitter Stats of this moment. Following 2,797 “friends” and being followed by 3,152 “followers.” Even the word followers is a bit creepy don’t you think?
So how do I track these folks? What strategy have I devised for “friending” or “following” others? [I’d actually like to hear your strategies for just this issue.] Guy Kawasaki if you are listening, how do you make ANY sense of the 45k+ people you “follow?” I know you follow me. And you’ve even responded to an @guykawasaki tweet from me. But what do you do with the other TENS OF THOUSANDS of people you are following? Imagining an average of 2 tweets per person (weighting the Scobles and the Kawasakis of the world) that would make around 90k tweets A DAY! Ridiculous!
But I am here to share my strategy with you. And hopefully learn some more tricks and tips via comments or people tweeting back at me.
I click on interesting names, interesting images and interesting pods of people. For example I just “friended” 5 programmers and RoR fanatics from Cardiff. And in telling my Susan about it, I heard myself say, “You know Cardiff, where they film Torchwood! Awesome!” Kinda trivial the connection behind my following them. But my interest and ability to reach out over the pond and peer in on a group of Ruby developers in the UK. Kinda cool.
And depending on what mood I’m in I will either click on the potential followee and see if their bio or tweets are of interest to me. If they are multi-level marketers, real estate mavens or foodies, I usually don’t follow. [Uh, I’m not following you. Can you repeat what you just said?”] And other times, like this morning, when I find an interesting person [@Danacea Bio: Marketeer and PR for @forbiddenplanet (dotcom!); Writer, Warrior, Fitness Nut, Geek, Gamer, Art Toy Freak, Mum and Lemur!] and I’ve had a sufficient amount of coffee, well, I just start following. She’s in London, I’m in Texas. She’s an artist and lots of her friends are artists in the UK. While I am not connected to them, I am interested in art, the UK, Cardiff (because of Torchwood) and why someone would put “Art Toy Freak” in their bio. I don’t even know what that is, BUT… I like it. And I like that I don’t know what it is. It’s the old Code is Poetry idea. Those three words facinate me, just for a second. And I like the background of her twitter page. And boom I’m off following about 30 of her friends for various and random reasons.
Filtering My “Friends”
I have two modes of Twittering. Tweetdeck and non-Tweetdeck. And I am surprised most often by the non-Tweetdeck moments, but let me come back to that.
So here is my “twitter control deck” using tweetdeck.
Column 1: “close”
Column 2: “social media pro”
Column 3: “all tweets”
Column 4: “@replies to me”
Column 5: “direct messages to me”
Column 6: “search for jmacofearth” (off screen)
So my priority when I open Tweetdeck to actually DO Twitter is left to right in order of priority. My close Tweeps, folks I’m on a first name basis and could call on the phone if I had a question are first in “close.” Next are the Tweeps I need to keep track of, the “pros” like @GuyKawasaki and @EvansDave, not Scoble. 😉 Then everybody with “all tweets.”
Then in order, “@ replies, DMs and anyone who has put jmacofearth in their tweet (in case I don’t follow someone who @s me.)
Prioritizing Twitter with Tweetdeck
So as people become more interesting to me, after all this is MY FILTER, I move them from RIGHT to LEFT towards “close.”
My Non-Tweetdeck Discovery Process
So I’ve added all these people, and I have nearly, and will soon have, over a 1000 “friends” that I am following. But mostly I pay attention to the “close” and “pro” groups. But when I open Twitter in FireFox it all merges back into one column without filtering or prioritization. And it looks something like this.
And it is here in this mode, the Twitter.com/browser mode, that people like @Danacea come up. Ping! And i read a few posts of kinda-random yet followed people and a shiny object grabs my .85 second attention span. And if I’m in a “following mood” I click on their profile to see who they are and where they live and how they describe themselves.
But when I’m in a git-r-dun mode, I move along with my business and close the browser after I’ve accomplished my task, not noticing the wild and brightly colored avatars or the seductive tweeter names. But that’s when I’m focused.