How to Take Charge of Your Twitter Feed
I joined Twitter last April. The next logical step seemed to be to start following organizations and people who I knew, either personally or by reputation. But every time I hit that Follow button, my home feed just sped by even faster.
And as my feed rushed by, I kept wondering what I was supposed to do.
And random people started following me. I had not even tweeted anything yet.
So last June and July, I tweeted a bit, but retweeted more. By the end of the summer, I had decided upon a few rules for myself to manage my Twitter feed.
1. If someone follows me on Twitter, I will check out their feed to decide if I'll follow them back.
I look at their tweets to see if they're writing about subjects that interest me.
I also look for my deal breakers:
- Those spammy accounts that offer up thousands of Twitter followers. They're just gross.
- People who have no picture and no biography. Who are you? Jeez, put in a little effort.
- People who tweet their own content only. Usually again and again.
- People who aren't really using Twitter. Like their last tweet was weeks ago.
2. I use Unfollow for Twitter every few months to manage my account.
The free service quickly loads my followers and then I can sort them for free in two ways.
- Didn't tweet since: If someone isn't using their Twitter account, then there's really no point in following them. I make a few exceptions for personal friends, a famous person or two, and accounts for annual events. But if you haven't tweeted in 266 days, I'm dropping you.
- Don't follow back: I don't expect famous people or established organizations to follow me, but if a regular person follows me and then unfollows as soon as I reciprocate, I do like to identify them. Unfollow has this feature, but you have to pay for it. Rather than paying, I just pull up my Twitter account on my desktop and use Unfollow on my iPad. I scroll through the accounts who don't follow back on my iPad, and if I get to one that I don't immediately recognize, I just search for that name on my desktop. Twitter auto-populates the accounts I follow, so it's easy to find these accounts and give them a look over. If it's an account from someone who obviously followed me, waited for me to follow them back, and then unfollowed, I just unfollow them as well. And while this sound like a lot of work, I don't actually have that many followers on Twitter and I only use Unfollow every few months. If I had thousands of followers, then I'd pay for the service to see who unfollowed me.
3. But my favorite Twitter tamer? I make private lists to curate my feeds.
After poking around Twitter for some time, I stumbled upon the Lists feature and it changed how I use Twitter.
I create private lists to curate my feed based on my interests. And now Twitter is actually useful to me.
The screenshot here shows my Twitter account as it appears in Safari. By clicking on my profile picture, the dropdown menu gives me the option for Lists.
If you prefer to use the app, just go to your profile page, and scroll down. After your three most recent tweets, you'll see the option for Lists under Following, Followers, and Favorites. Just click away.
I've created seven custom lists, which I've chosen to keep private. #Introvert.
Once you click on Create new list, you need to give it a name. The description box is optional. Twitter lists default to Public, so if you do want to keep your lists Private, you need to change the radio button. Click Save list and you're ready to start building your list.
Let's say you wanted to add The Weather Channel to an Emergency list. Go to the profile page for The Weather Channel and click on the gear icon. Then you should see dropdown options, including Add or remove from lists...Click away.
Next you'll be presented with a list of your lists. You can place The Weather Channel on more than one list. Oh, and you don't have to follow the account to add it to a list.
Now, if you go back to your lists, specifically the lists you're subscribed to, you can click on a list name and receive the feed of tweets just from the accounts on that list. For my Emergency list, here's a screenshot of what's happening.
One more tidbit: Lists are read only. No one can send out Tweets to that curated list of members.
Once I discovered the Lists feature, I created my areas of interest. And I started using Twitter more.
The hardest part with using lists effectively is remembering to place people on them. Sometimes I forget, but Twitter helps me out there. Twitter keeps all the accounts anyone is following in order with the most recently followed accounts showing first.
Phew! Whenever I use Unfollow, I also check through my Following list and add people to the appropriate curated list.
Now if I'm wondering what's going on in the world, I can click on my Quality Feed list. News organizations, non-profits, people of note, and sources I trust make up this list. By running through this feed, I get a snapshot of news that is important to me.
I like having my curated lists to scroll through. And if I develop new interests, I just add a new list.
As someone who reads tweets more than I actually tweet, the Lists feature has helped me make much better use of Twitter. But if I were a small business owner, I could see how lists could help me quickly find content to share with my customers. Content tailored to their interests. And even if I didn't want to publicly follow an account, I could add that account to a private list. Then retweet their content when I deemed appropriate.
Are you a regular person like me using Twitter? What are your Twitter strategies for reading your home feed? Or not feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information? Please share in the comments below.