Experiment, tactics and learnings from Twitter


Is the experiment over? Have you changed tactics? What have you learned? They’re great questions and much appreciated. Thank you. Seeing as they’ve been asked, they deserve an answer. I’ve been thinking about these over the past few weeks before starting to re-follow on Twitter.

Is the experiment over?

The thing is unfollowing everyone on Twitter was never an experiment. It was a new and much needed way of working, one that’s worked out really well. I’ve pondered for a few weeks about changing it and it’s a change I’m already finding challenging. But there’s a reason for me doing so though so I’ll persevere. If it doesn’t work out I can always revert back. I’ll come on to why the re-following in a while, but me doing so is an experiment.

I often think of Twitter like watching the TV. There are times when we browse the endless lists of TV channels available, flicking from one thing to the next, browsing and perusing a variety of topics to see what’s available. It’s a great way of finding things that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. There are also times when we sit down, head straight onto a particular channel and tune straight into something specific with purpose.

It’s similar on Twitter. When you have one timeline with everyone you follow in one space you browse and peruse. Another approach is to have Twitter lists, separate channels if you like, organised into topics, categories or groups. Just like you know where to find the films, travel, sport and documentaries contained in their channels on TV, Twitter lists allow you to organise people and organisations of interest into easily digestible ‘channels’; channels that you can tune straight into as and when you want at the moment of need.

Prior to understanding lists I had the one timeline approach. Just one list of people I followed. At the time I think I had just over 1,000 people in there. Now, it is lovely to browse through all these like browsing the channels on a TV seeing what’s on. However scrolling through pages and pages and pages of tweets, with my head being ragged about from one topic to the next, back to the first and oooo look kitten, to the next, then onto something completely different was getting a bit time consuming and unproductive. Sometimes, you just need to get down to business and focus on one particular area at the moment you need it.  This overwhelming list made me start to feel disconnected with Twitter rather than feeling connected in the way that I had intended when I first signed up.

I’d heard about lists a few times. There was some discussion on them at the LnD Connect Unconference in Feb 2016. It was this that inspired me to ask the question and through this, I was introduced to a guy online, Luis Suarez who shared some interesting stuff with me on a 0following experiment he was doing. I’m grateful for that and the conversations we’ve since had.

Whilst Luis was working zero following with just three lists, my approach was different. I’ve ended up with around 30. Some of them are public which you can see on my profile. Most are private, not because they’re secret, more because they are organised and personalised in a way that makes sense to me. I’ve channels for specific events, particular groups of people, people who are local to me and people that specialise in particular topics. There’s a list with news channels I’m interested in, TV and radio programmes I like and another with websites and apps that I’m interested in. There’s a list with people I’m working with in my organisation, a list of people that I’ve recently interacted with and a fair few more. 30 channels sounds like a lot but, just like the TV, I don’t have to tune into all of them all of the time. I can tune into them as often or as little as I like in the moment of need.

This way of working has served me really well and there’s one thing for sure. Even though I’ve started re-following, I definitely ain’t getting rid of my lists. I expect that I’ll spend more time in those focussed areas than scrolling through my timeline.

Have you changed tactics?

So yes, I guess you could say I have changed ‘tactics’ by re-following people. The main reason for me re-following is to explore some curation tools I want to look at. Some of these require that I follow people for them to be of any benefit to me. So over time, I’ll start re-following those in my various lists. I’ll end up with one big list of people that I follow however, I’ve no doubt that the timeline will become cumbersome, dis-organised and full again. I’ll definitely be keeping hold of my lists. As I say, the likelihood is, I’ll be spending more time inside those than I will in my timeline. Having both give me the flick through and browse option as well as the focused channels approach.

What have I learned?

I was reading through Luis’ blog on what he learned from 0following and much of this resonates with me. I totally agree with the fact that conversations have been ever so much more relevant and meaningful. Having people organised in sensible, structured lists means that I can better connect with them and the content they are sharing. I’ve also found opening up my DM’s to be a great thing to do. This means anyone can contact me regardless of whether I follow them or not.

The big learning for me is that for me to be truly connected to people on Twitter, having hundreds of people crammed into one list of ‘following’ just doesn’t work for me. I wouldn’t put all the people that I’m interested in and care about in one big room in real life and expect to be able to listen to them all. Lists are here to stay in the way I work. There is a lack of knowledge about lists and how to use them. If you need a hand with this, let me know.

Following on from this, I’ve learned that you don’t need to unfollow everyone to use lists. Even if you have hundreds of people to put into lists it is possible and entirely achievable.

I’ve learned that there are several ways to use different tools and you don’t have to go with the norm and follow the typical way especially if something isn’t working for you.  It’s worth exploring other ways of using tools. There might be some challenges from people when you do and maybe even some dis-agreements along the way. But it’s worth exploring, discovering and pushing the boundaries and finding new ground.

There’s been a discovery of other apps to use Twitter along the way. Tweetbot has been my favourite and whilst there have been times where Twitter’s own app has served me well, most of the time Tweetbot has been the ‘go to’ app. It’s only available on IOS though; one of the few reasons I’ve kept hold of my IPhone for longer than planned. With a switch to a new phone on the cards, any recommended Twitter apps for Android that work well with lists will be gratefully received (please do comment below).

I’ve confirmed that Twitter is not about the numbers some would have you believe. It’s about engagement. The way I’ve been working means I’ve taken time to learn about every single person that has followed me over the past few months.  I’ve really looked at their profile, their links and what they talk about and begun to understand a little about who they are and what they’re about. I’ve had to in order to make sure a place them in the right list(s) if listing them has been the right thing to do. Each follower is not another number to fluff feathers or ego.

This has led to those more deep and meaningful conversations I’ve already mentioned as well as being able to truly listen to what’s out there. I’ve kept my eye on my engagement (Klout) score over the past twelve months and noted that it’s gone up significantly simply because I’m having better quality conversations and interactions with people. It really is not about the number of followers and following like some would have you believe.

For me, Twitter is about connecting, listening, learning, conversing and sharing. That’s what matters most.


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