The longer you’re on Twitter, the more interesting people you find to follow. Following hundreds (or thousands) of people can be either a positive or negative experience depending on how you handle it. Having many voices in your stream brings you valuable resources and good conversation. But how do you manage it so you’re not overwhelmed with tweets? How do you make sure you see the really good tweets?

Keep in mind that you will never read all the tweets of those you follow and that’s okay. I once heard someone say that Twitter is like a river you dip in and out of. If there’s a really good post, you might miss the first reference to it, but you’ll probably see a subsequent retweet. Just like in real life, you are not going to be part of every good conversation; take advantage of the ones you do come upon.

Lists

Applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to create columns of lists (or groups) of people. Arrange your columns so the priority ones (the people whose tweets you don’t want to miss) are the first ones you see on the left when you log on. I’ve created private lists categorized by my professional and personal interests, including lists of local tweeps categorized either by my relationship with them or by our common interest. If I have limited time on Twitter, this arrangement allows me to check my priority lists and temporarily ignore the rest.

I don’t completely ignore the rest; I usually make time to scan my All Friends column at least 15 minutes a day. I aim to interact with or retweet folks in that column so I can keep expanding my circle of Twitter friends.

You can also create columns for keywords or hashtag searches. Use these columns to follow conference or Twitter chat hashtags or to “listen” to any mention of a keyword that relates to your business, profession or industry.

 

Follow Management

I showed in my post on Settings how you can have emails sent to you when someone follows you. I created a filter in my email client so that all “new follow” emails go to a specific folder preventing clutter in my inbox. Every week I go through the new follows and make decisions on whether to follow back.

Although it’s time-consuming, I analyze my Twitter follows a few times a year. My favorite tool is Twitcleaner. Besides telling me who’s not following me back, it also tells me who hasn’t tweeted in a long time and who broadcasts instead of chatting. Another service, Friendorfollow, shows who’s not following you back and which of your followers you’re not following.

Time management

It’s easy to lose track of time while tweeting, and easy to rationalize that time since you’re learning and developing relationships. However, as I discussed in my post about engaging on Twitter, stick to a pre-determined schedule. When your time on Twitter is up, close down the application or website. Remove temptation.

How often you get on Twitter (or any other social media platform) will depend on your social media goals and how important it is for you to be interactive and present. I try to get on at least twice a day, although I don’t always do that on weekends. I aim to be responsive, even when I’m not on; therefore my mobile application is set so that I’m alerted if I get a mention or direct message. <Update: I no longer get notifications on my phone — too distracting.>

Mobile applications are a great help in managing Twitter time. If I’m standing in line at the supermarket, I can quickly check my Hootsuite app to see what’s happening. If I get an alert that I’ve received a direct message or mention, I will often pick up my phone and reply to those tweets right away. But I don’t linger on Twitter unless it’s my scheduled Twitter time.

Automation

If you have a new blog post or other valuable tweets to share and your schedule doesn’t allow you to get on Twitter as usual, you can use your Twitter applications to schedule tweets. Hootsuite is my preferred tool to do this. I only schedule tweets when absolutely necessary because I want to be present when I’m tweeting so I can be there for conversation.

Think carefully about automatically feeding your tweets to your Facebook page or LinkedIn profile.

  • Do your Facebook friends understand what RT, @ and # symbols mean? Do they care  about or understand the professional content of those tweets?
  • How often are you tweeting? Will your tweets overwhelm your connections on those platforms?
  • Are your tweets appropriate topics for your connections on those platforms? Are your tweets sometimes personal? Is that appropriate for your professional LinkedIn connections?

Be considerate of others, just like in real life. You can always send specific tweets to Facebook and LinkedIn by using applications for those platforms. Automation may be a time-saver, but you must find out if there is a cost to it.

If you use Foursquare or other location-based services, consider whether every check-in needs to go to Twitter and/or Facebook. I only send my check-ins to those platforms if I’m feeling social and willing to meet up with or say hello to other tweeps in the area, otherwise, to me, it seems like too much noise.

That’s how I use Twitter. Do you have any time management suggestions for a new user?

Update: How to Manage Social Media with Hootsuite and Buffer explains how to use your time on social media more effectively.

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Twitter Basics series: