More about my Twitter experiment…

In my semi-recent post discussing my Twitter experiment, a couple of questions came up on my process, so I thought I would elaborate a little bit on ‘why’ and the ‘how’ as this ‘following’ thing can leave some folks feeling slighted, and I want to eliminate any hard feelings that might be brewing.

First the ‘why’. In my original post, I noted the following:

For a while the list of people I followed was intentionally kept small (under 150), as I am a big believer of the Dunbar Number and the power of small(er) tightly connected networks. Over time, I allowed it to squeak up to 225 which made the conversations more interesting and diverse, but also required a bigger investment of time as I try to stay attached to my ‘community’ (yes, I am one of the nut jobs who likes to try and read every tweet from the people I follow).

Fast forward eight months and I have extended my network so I now follow 400+ people, but truth be told, I am finding it extremely hard to ‘keep up’ with what everyone is doing now. There is also a sense I have lost some of the intimacy I once had when only following 150 people, but I have to admit, back then there was also a feeling I was living in the ‘echo chamber’ as my network was not very diverse – so this experiment has exposed me to a multitude of industries, beliefs, customs and ideas. While some of my new relationships may not be as deep as those in the past, I am extremely happy where this is going right now.

UPDATE: In my original post, I forgot to mention that I also manage the Social Media Club Twitter account (14k followers) and the my6sense Twitter account (not as many followers [yet]), which adds to the lack of attention mix. I swear, sometimes I wonder how I manage to keep up.

What about the ‘how’: I am still trying to do this systematically to keep it as fair as possible. As for who I am following – I started out rotating 50 people every 30 days, but found trying to rotate contacts that often is tough and does not give me enough time to learn about anyone, so I have pushed the rotation back to every 60 days. The process for the 50 people I add has been tweaked over time, as I used to add every 4th person but realized I needed to dig deeper into the follower list so now I add every 25th person from my following list to get the first 35 people. For the next 10 people, I continue along the every 25th person in my follower list, but instead of following them directly, I go into their account and pick the 5th avatar showing up in their followers list and add them. For the last 5 slots, I add a name of someone I recently met or have heard of and add them (some of them have been people that got cut from previous rotations, liked what they had to say so wanted to bring them back into rotation). It sounds complicated, but honestly, it is a simple process that simply takes a bit of time to put into effect, but has given me a well rounded information source.

For the cutting list – this is the part I absolutely hate, but realize I needed to strip emotions out of it completely to ensure a fair process. It is a bit easier than the add piece as I dig into the list of people I am following and cut every 25th one on the list. As for preserving anyone, no. Not even my husband. If he came up 25th in line, I would remove his tweets to allow for someone new to come into my view, and I have unfollowed several people I feel are close[r] friends to me – [for example] @pistachio, @chrisbrogan, @missrogue and @jowyang…so no one receives special treatment.

I have removed two people mid rotation as they were posting items I felt offensive to my belief system. I also removed @jasoncalacanis and @scobleizer mid rotation as they both posted so often, that it made it hard to keep up with everyone else. Other than that, I follow my group until the next turn.

I am trying to be as fair as I possibly can, and I thought my system allowed me to do so.

I know I have hurt people’s feelings as I am not following them. It sucks, and all I can say [right now] is ‘I am sorry’ as I simply cannot follow 1000 people and get *what I want* out of this ‘tool’. For me, I am looking to expand the network of people I know, and following a smaller group allows me the time to get to know a little about them. I am not here to build a large following list. I am here to build meaningful relationships and expand my knowledge base.

The other interesting piece in evaluating my little Twitter experiment is I started looking into how I am using the other networks I belong to and I thought I would share that with folks as well:

* Facebook – This is by far, my largest ‘network’ as I am adding anyone who friends me there. I don’t join every group and I hate throwing snowballs at people or being poked, but I am using Facebook to experiment with how big can I grow a network and still feel like I can say a name and know where they come from and how I know them from.

* LinkedIn – This is my business network. If I have worked with you, met you in real life or had a conversation with you and I want to make sure we stay connected in a professional level, I make sure to add you into LinkedIn. If you and I have never spoken before, I will not accept an invite.

* Ning – Same as Facebook, I connect with anyone who reaches out.

* Dopplr – If I know you or have some kind of personal contact with you, I am happy to share where I am spending my time with you.

* Flickr – I follow the Facebook rules here, for the most part. I have blocked a few people as their tastes drastically differ from mine and I just do not want to become a photo on their wall, but my life is pretty much an open book and searchable via Google – so friend away. 🙂

So there you go. I will continue my experiment for as long as I feel I am getting value out of it, and look forward to connecting with folks in various ways along this journey.

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    6 comments
    Brian Who Likes Airplanes
    Brian Who Likes Airplanes

    Kristie I use Tweetdeck and love it. I only started Twitter like a week ago, so reading these insights are great. I try to only follow people who have more than three vowels in their name.

    Kristie Wells
    Kristie Wells

    Dave and The Dude Dean - I need to check out Tweetdeck as I have several friends using it. I still rely on Twhirl and it is far from perfect, but still better than using Twitter's home page. Jason - I agree the key is how 'distributed' we wish to be and how much time we choose to spend on each network - and I do think it will get worse before technology helps us corral it in. It is an individual choice of course, but for me, the personal relationship side of things is a critical element. I simply cannot know 1000 people well enough to think we have a 'bond'. It makes for great opportunities to meet a diverse group of folks, and provide some element of 'knowing' (especially when I travel), but I hate that I can't remember someone's partners name or where they live as I try to follow too many folks at once. Nile - Yeah, getting texts on your phone can be a real eye opener of 'following too many people'. :) I have enjoyed the diversity of my following list, so I recommend it. I am really structured in how I do it, so might loosen up the process over time, but for now it is working.

    Nile
    Nile

    I would not be offended if I were put off the list. I am sure it can be daunting after some time to keep up with some. I remember early this year I allowed myself to accept twitters via text. Well, that ended up being the most insane thing. As I would reply, I would keep getting messages.... or if I would delete, I would get beeps signalling that I got more. My inbox was always full. I turned it off. On my website, I only allow my own twitters to be featured, but I come to the site off and on to directly tweet (new blogs from my site are automatically tweeted.) I will keep your system in mind for myself.

    The Dude Dean
    The Dude Dean

    I think you have space in your list for one more guy with kick ass facial hair. TweetDeck got me back on twitter after the failwhale killed it for me and I went to Plurk. Tweetdeck FTW!

    Jason Heller
    Jason Heller

    Interesting you mention the Dunbar effect. I have the same problem and I think social media in general will have this problem at some point. The indirectly proportionate relationship between the number of people in our growing list of networks and our ability to make it meaningful.

    Dave Johnston
    Dave Johnston

    Hi Kristie... Stumbled here by accident, enjoyed reading about your Twitter experiment. Very interesting little plan. I've been on Twitter for nearly a year now, but only recently decided to expand the number of people I'm following and begin to use the service with more depth. I've always loved the service but kept the number of people I'm following to around 60, simply to stay small and keep tight attention. One innovation has changed that entirely, TweetDeck. I think TweetDeck is potentially a revolutionary piece of software, simply because it allows you to build custom groups to follow. You can also set up realtime search queries, allowing you to follow topics or terms as they happen throughout twitter - all on your desktop and at the same time. Much more here: http://skepteye.com/2008/12/12/tweetdeck-review-we-have-a-winner/ Best, DJ