Image via CrunchBase
A few weeks ago, fellow Freelance Jam host Brian Casel and I discussed some of the ways that we each use Twitter during a quick “jam session” on Ustream. One of the topics that came up was how many people we actually follow.
Brian follows only a select few so his stream doesn’t get too noisy (makes sense!). I tend to follow a lot which in turn makes for a lot of chatter in the public timeline. I like to be accessible by DM to people who take the time to read my tweets and vice-versa, and I sometimes think people might be offended if you’ve interacted yet don’t follow back.
To combat the noise of the public timeline, I’ve made use of Twitter’s list functionality to pay close attention to specific friends and people who tend to share and talk about things relevant to my profession.
In addition to using lists, I do most of my tweeting and listening through Seesmic’s web-based app. It’s as smooth and smooth can be and it even has sound alerts when you get a new mention. It also allows you to create columns for mentions, lists, the public timeline, and saved searches. Having columns makes it easy for me to focus on a specific niche of people I follow depending on my needs at any particular moment.
With my 13” MacBook Pro, I can fit four columns on my screen at once. Here are the contents of the first four columns and some reasoning as to why I choose to show each specific one.
Column #1: Mentions
I obviously want to know when someone replies to something I’ve tweeted or mentions me in their own tweet. Having this column placed first makes it easy to skim.
Column #2: Friends
The people that I add to this column are considered genuine friends. I want to make sure I stay current with what is happening in their life and things they are working on. Watching this filtered list of 100 or so people is so much easier than watching a steady stream of 2000.
Column #3: Web Folks
In order to keep a pulse on the web industry, I’ve created a list specifically for people who work in web. This helps me keep track of the latest trends and news. It also acts as a list of people I can go to for advice and specific questions about web development and design.
Column #4: “Keep An Eye On”
I use this list for exciting entrepreneurs, bloggers, potential clients, people whose opinions I value, and other VIPs that don’t fit into my other lists. I’ve got people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Matt Mullenweg, and Chris Brogan in this list.
Other Columns Not Visible By Default
If I scroll to the right of my four main columns, I also have the general Twitter stream of ALL the people I follow. I also have a few saved searches including one for #genesiswp which is the official hashtag of the Genesis Theme Framework (affiliate link), my preferred WordPress framework. Another is a search of the general #wordpress hashtag.
Who Do I Follow?
As you can see, having various saved lists and searches allows me to focus my attention on micro-groups all while following a decent-sized group of people. I feel that following back is important when it comes to people who are courteous, fun, helpful, and authentic. I wish to be accessible to them, but I also need to make sure I’m not drowning out tweets from the people I’m most interested in. Twitter lists plus Seesmic help me do that.
And as always, Twitter is not about the number of followers that you have. For me, it’s about the collection of authentic, engaging, and informative people that I choose to follow and engage. I tweeted about this yesterday: If you declare yourself as a social media marketer, expert, guru, ninja, or chef, yet I don’t see a single @ reply in your first 100 tweets, you won’t get my follow. But if you follow me, say “hi”, and don’t auto-DM me, I’ll typically follow you back.