I have been hesitating to write a Twitter primer, partly because there are plenty of good ones out there already (Zappos CEO, Twitter in Plain English), and partly because I’m worried it’s already too late; the people I follow are complaining that the service has become too popular (and therefore is getting too slow) and are moving to Plurk.
As early as April 2007, when we posted about Twitter as an example of lifestreaming, the earliest adopters were already grousing that is was over. And yet as I was reminded at a roundtable of senior telco executives last week, it’s a rare client that has seen the service in action before. After I declared myself over Twitter in March, I followed your collective advice and re-engaged with the service. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last couple of months:
1. Don’t think of Twitter as just a mobile application
The first time round, I had all my updates sent to my mobile phone, and it was too much. Remember that you can also read Tweets off the website or in-browser (see #2 below). These days I limit the updates to my mobile device to people I really know. By my standards, that means friends or colleagues that I would actually go out of my way to see in person. I send most updates to Twitter.com.
2. Use add-ons to extend Twitter’s basic functionality
Twitter doesn’t do a very good job of explaining the service or walking you through its functionality. Am I the only one who took a couple of weeks to figure out that you can message someone directly? Thankfully there are plenty of third party apps that make the service sing. I use Hahlo on my iPhone and TwitterFox in-browser. Twhirl and Twitterific are two other desktop widgets.
You can get a sense of what other people are using by looking at the from tag at the end of their Tweets.
3. If you don’t have friends who Tweet, use it follow your professional crushes
When I wrote about being over Twitter, one major cluster of responses was that I was following the wrong people. So I have been using the service to stalk people I admire but don’t know directly. Two personal examples – Brian Morrissey, the influential Digital Editor of AdWeek, sends out wickedly funny vignettes from the varied life of an ad industry journalist. And Scott Beale, founder of Laughing Squid, is totally plugged into Bay Area art, technology, and (counter) culture. Whereas before I might have commented on someone’s blog and hoped to migrate our “friendship” to, say, LinkedIn status, now I just Follow them for a few weeks to see what they’re about.
4. Prune your contacts periodically
The prevailing etiquette seems to be that if someone Follows you, it’s
polite to Follow them back. You can rapidly find
yourself with a hundreds of Friends that will need to be purged from time to
time. This is one area (not unlike an over-abundance of Facebook apps) where I haven’t found any shortcuts.