Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Choosing whom to follow on Twitter

I can always tell when there has been a learning event somewhere in the world, because I suddenly get a whole raft of new Twitter followers coming through at once, instead of the trickle that is the daily norm.

I don't use any auto-refollow tools, so there is always a bit of a lag as I catch up, because I go through the list 'by hand' and decide whom to follow (or not).

I tweeted about this after the recent Learning Technologies conference and was asked:

This is a question I get quite often, so let me give a comprehensive answer in a space that affords me more than 140 characters for the purpose.

First, and almost without saying - no spambots, as David mentions. It isn't always easy to tell a spambot right off the bat - they're getting devilish smart. But a few indicators are:
  • Their names are often firstname+number. So Maxine1234 (or something like that) would have me doubting her humanity from the outset. However, I do have some Twitter friends whose names are something along those lines, so it's just a rule of thumb, not an absolute.
  • They tweet the same flipping thing (or a few very similar flipping things) over and over and over again.
  • They have no biography.
  • They follow thousands of people (and may be followed by a similarly large number), but have only ever tweeted a handful of times.
Second, I like to see a bio, and the more interesting or quirky it is, the better. For example, my Twitter friends' bios include such lines as:
  • Dad, entrepreneur, and Star Wars freak (@dbswe)
  • I'm all about learning, fashion, football, social media + cricket, not always in that order :) (@kategraham23)
  • Often laughing. Always learning. Collaborating nonstop. You ready? (@marciamarcia)
  • I'm passionate about training, L&D. I also bake fantastic chocolate cake. (@susiefinch)

You see? You know something about these people already. You know that Dave (@dbswe) takes being a Dad more seriously than he takes himself. You know that Kate defies stereotypes with girly girl interests and a love of sport. You know that Marcia is all systems go, and she'll take you with her if you give her half a chance. You know that Susie doubles as a homebody and would be good company over a cup of coffee. Real people. Just like you.

I also prefer a link to a blog/website, so I can get an idea of what floats your boat. If there is no bio or blog link, only a kick*ss series of tweets will get me following you.

If you're following me on my @learninganorak account, it must be because we share a passion for learning (I have a personal account for more eclectic musings). So I will visit your page, and see what you tweet about. If you only ever tweet quotable quotes, homilies and truisms forget it. I want to know what you think! If you only ever retweet (RT) what someone else has posted, hmm... probably forget it, too. I can read those things first time around. Don't get me wrong, I use the RT feature a lot myself, and I appreciate it when other people do, too. But if that's all you do, what value are you adding?

And if you only ever tweet about one narrow subject, such as LMSs or PSS or whatever, then after a couple of days, I'll probably have read everything you're likely to say.

Twitter is a conversation. A hectic, everyone-talking-at-once conversation, and it is my number 1 personal learning tool. So... contribute already.

I don't choose to follow only those people who agree with me. How boring would that be? I could sit at home and talk to myself (yes, you're right - I do that, too!), but if you're going to disagree (with me or anyone else), be grown-up about it. I can't be doing with name-calling, peeing contests (to put it politely) and slanging matches.

I think that's about it, really. I know it sounds like a lot, but I'm not really that precious. I do follow over 900 people, and keeping up with them is a tall order. How people manage with thousands, I have no idea! Maybe I'll find out one day.

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