Thinking Through Twitter

What’s the matter here?

I’ve written a handful of posts about Twitter over the past year, published a syndicated research report, and have been interviewed by traditional and social media on the service.

Despite service outages that grew quite awful at some points, Twitter’s site traffic grew 422% from August 2007 – August 2008, according to Mashable/Nielsen Online.  People aren’t requesting that Twitter turn into a public alert system anymore, not when it can’t even supply content to a web widget.  But with many more people participating, conversations can become much more diverse and interesting.

That’s why I changed the way I use Twitter recently.  This year, I’ve fluctuated from following about 100 people to 400 to 1,000, then down to 200, eventually 90…and last month, I added everyone back…over 1,500 people.

Here’s why.

I think paying 100% attention to Twitter for any length of time results in waste.  You may be interested in social media chatter, but what about travel gripes?  Baseball commentary?  Political opinions?  Watching a "raw" twitter stream – even from people who mainly focus on your primary interest – will end up as irrelevant as a typical TV ad break.

But tools help drive relevance by filtering noise.  Here are the ones that I find most helpful:

  1. Twitter Search.  I’m reading as many tweets today via RSS to Google Reader as I am at  How?  By searching for relevant topics and subscribing to the feeds.
  2. Tweetdeck.  Useful for segmenting people – and companies – into groups, e.g. Bostonians, Austinites, Personal Friends, etc.
  3. Mobile alerts.  Direct messages act like text messages and you can get alerts pushed to you whenever important people update.
  4. Twinkle.  Provides proximity search for mobile and crashes less than Twitterific.
  5. Twitter Karma.  Only tool I know that lets you manage relationships in bulk.

Other tools like TwitterCounter and Twitter Grader provide statistics, but aren’t incredibly helpful…unlike utilities, I see these going the way of Tweeterboard.

By following more people, I’m hearing more chatter, geting answers to the most random questions, and feedback on social media topics.

I’m on Twitter as @peterkim.