It’s a question that I have pondered over recent weeks. There is a growing trend for people to ‘cull’ the amount of people they follow on twitter. Why do they do it?
Context is required here. During my early twitter use, I was the first person to become frustrated by a timeline filled too quickly. The need to see every tweet, in case it was the most important thing in the world, led to me unfollowing anyone who tweeted more than once every couple of hours! Admittedly, I didn’t really understand the social media at the time, but I didn’t want to see so many offerings from one person. How wrong was I?
After realising I didn’t need to see every tweet, I wrote a piece about how a learning network could be developed with the use of an iPad and twitter:
‘We are all learning together. If you have a problem, your PLN (Personal Learning Network) may be able to solve it. If you are struggling for ideas, there are people to ask. The iPad and twitter make the process easier.
Learning has always been based on exposure to new stimuli, research and communication. Ideas are formulated through external opinion, reflection and conclusion. The availability of these components lead to increased productivity and informed decisions. The iPad and twitter make the process easier.
I, like many others, signed up to twitter as it seemed the pertinent thing to do. I followed a few people, read some tweets and decided it didn’t hold much for me.
Problem number one, I was following the wrong people.
I posted a couple of tweets and had no response.
Problem number two, I had no followers. So I left it.
If I’m honest, I didn’t understand and didn’t make the effort to try. Twitter was for celebrity and of no use. Then, last Christmas with iPad in hand, I decided to tweet to a fellow PE teacher (@MrWickensPE) to ask if there was something I was missing. He suggested I followed the hashtag #ukedchat and see what people were tweeting about. Epiphany time!
For twitter to work you need to follow the right people. As an educator I needed to follow those who contributed to #ukedchat and there I found items of interest (@ICTEvangelist). Not only was it interesting to read the 140 character snippets but also the links that were posted. I was introduced to a range of teaching discussion that stimulated thought. There were blogposts that led to conversations in the staff room and links that could be passed on to colleagues.
As I became more comfortable with the etiquette of twitter I became more involved. Replying to the occasional tweet and posting a link prompted communication and the decision to blog. This is where the iPad came into its own. A mobile interface that allowed access to my resources, with an excellent view of posted links and interactions, meant twitter became part of the daily routine. It happened to coincide with the start of an iPad trial in school and increased confidence that the device should be introduced into the classroom. Sure the research could have been conducted on my desktop, the iPad and twitter simply made it easier and more productive.
Only yesterday a twitter conversation between myself and David Didau, about his superb blog, led to Andy Knill suggesting some tips to help me coupled with a link to his blog. This led to a conversation this morning with a colleague that led to us both feeling much more comfortable with an iPad idea we have been mulling over.
There is no doubt that twitter has changed my approach to learning and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for new ideas and conversation. The iPad has simply made the use of twitter and subsequent workflow manageable.’
On reflection I was just beginning to understand how twitter could help my professional development and that access to educators tweets and links could really help decision making. What I didn’t realise was just how powerful it could become over such a short space of time. Interactions can occur as often as desired on twitter and the ability to ask a question of followers shouldn’t be underestimated. Similarly, following many people allows you to interact with many more individuals who might tweet something you didn’t even know you needed to know!
The success of apps like Stumbleupon, Showyou and indeed YouTube, is predicated on the user finding items of interest they didn’t necessarily know about. Our inquisitive nature leads us to discover new things so why restrict twitter by limiting the amount of people to follow?
I know twitter limits the amount of people an individual can follow, dependent on the followers they have, and there are ratio limitations to consider (thanks to @mikemcsharry for help here). However, these limitations don’t occur until 2000 ‘follows’. If you aren’t making use of those ‘follows’ surely you are restricting the information you could see? Much like twitter has expanded my professional development, beyond the staffroom and external courses, surely I have learnt more by following larger numbers of tweeters?
Of course I don’t read my timeline in it’s entirety so I do follow a few rules to help manage the people I follow:
- I follow educators and other individuals who have a biography of interest.
- Twitter lists are a must. They group people into areas of interest and allow me to selectively view their tweets. I refresh these lists to stay up to date with regular interactions. (You can link twitter lists with Flipboard to manage your interactions further)
- I don’t follow too many companies/businesses unless I use their product. This helps reduce the spamming element of a timeline.
- I don’t tend to follow people with an egg for an avatar or no biography in case they are spam.
- I unfollow anyone who hasn’t tweeted in over a month to make sure I stay within the ratio limit.
As I see it, these simple steps offer me the best of two worlds. Twitter lists filter the people I interact with on a regular basis so I can see anything they have tweeted at my leisure. My timeline can then be perused at any time as a wealth of information and interactions I might want to look into. If I only followed a hundred or so tweeters then I believe I would restrict a learning network for no real reason.
I realise that this post is more relevant for those people who have used twitter for a period of time and are comfortable with the etiquette and ‘unwritten rules’. In fact, I advocate starting small when anyone asks about twitter use, as it can be overwhelming. The use of twitter clients, such as Tweetbot, has made the twitter experience more manageable and I can recommend finding a client that suits your use.
I would be very interested to read any views on ‘twitter culling’ and if restricting ‘follows’ has helped your social media experience.