Something unusual happened to me yesterday. I had a conversation on Twitter.

You might be surprised to hear that, after all, I’ve been a Twitter resident for a long time. But somehow the magic between me and Twitter has faded over the years.

When I first started using Twitter regularly back in 2008 I spent much more time there, especially after I was laid off in early 2009. Back then Twitter seeded many relationships for me – both in the association and Triangle communities. Many of those relationships were deepened during meet-ups and conferences and soon turned into friendships.

It’s easy to rationalize time spent on socializing and professional development, and easy to get sucked into long Twitter sessions. As I got busier with freelance work, I had to change my Twitter habits. I began scheduling my time there and even setting a timer so I wouldn’t spend more than my allotted 20 minutes.

I now use Buffer to schedule tweets and share good reads. I’ve always loved sharing information and resources, even in past careers – the frustrated librarian in me, I guess. Originally I intended those automated tweets to merely be a supplement to whatever I tweeted in real time. But some days, those seven posts were the only sign of my Twitter presence.

Sometimes I would get on Twitter for my 20 minutes, find a lot to read, but not see any opportunity for conversation. Sure, scores of tweets passed through my stream from the nearly 2000 accounts I follow, but either I couldn’t think of anything to say or the tweets were automated. Sometimes I would reply to someone and then never hear back. I don’t take it personally, that’s how Twitter is now.

Luis Suarez has also seen changes in Twitter and got riled up enough to write, Twitter is Where Conversations Go to Die. My tweet and Laura Talley’s retweet of his post inspired the Twitter conversation we had yesterday. The three of us had just a short conversation, but I’m hoping it marks a turning point for me.

If we put our minds to it, can we reclaim Twitter for conversation? Can we reclaim it in a sustainable way? I’m not going to spend hours a day on Twitter and neither should you. How do we make it work?

My first tactic is to create new lists for conversation with those I know, those I don’t know but whose brains I admire, and fellow writers. I already have lists for many of my professional and personal interests but these lists will be a bit more filtered. Perhaps by focusing on these new lists, I can find the conversations I desire amidst all the broadcasting.

I’ll continue to keep my All Friends stream in its usual place in Hootsuite because I love the serendipitous finds it brings me. Plus, maybe I’ll find conversation there too. I’m a dreamer.

One solution to my problem is to participate in more Twitter chats, but they’re a heavy investment of time. I used to always participate in #assnchat, the association community’s weekly chat at 2pm Eastern on Tuesdays, but if I’m in a good writing flow, and I usually am at that time of the day, I don’t want to break away for an hour-long chat. Perhaps another scheduling challenge I need to overcome.

What’s that you say? Yes, we know the #assnchat hashtag is odd, but we’ve come to love it.

I’m curious. Has your approach and use of Twitter changed over the years? Do you find yourself hanging out on other platforms because Twitter has become disappointing? How do you use Twitter to have good conversations?

twitter conversation change

Photo by Alan Levine (Flickr/cogdogblog)