If The Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer were to invest his own money these days, he says he’d invest in either the local web or real-time distribution. That’s exactly why he’s on the board of NY-based Betaworks, the company that brought the world Bit.ly, Outside.in and TweetDeck. Betaworks describes itself as “a new kind of media company.” And CEO John Borthwick joined Lerer yesterday to talk to students at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism about media startups and the future of the web.
Twitter is continuing to grow and sometimes it is difficult to keep the noise down. It can be an effective approach to follow everyone back that is following you. For example, it allows your followers to direct message you if they need to contact you and generally keeps accessibility and communication open. And I have been frustrated at times trying to contact someone on Twitter through a direct message but unable to because they weren’t following me (also an ever so subtle blow to whatever ego I have).
However, I myself don’t follow everyone back simply to keep the noise level on Twitter down. Technology blogger Robert Scoble recently unfollowed more than 100,000 people to start from scratch. It stopped his spam and he was able to start building a quality community.
I try to follow people that share similar interests and that add value to my network and the information I am receiving from them. While some use Twitter as a way to connect with their friends, I use Twitter as a way to soak in information from users that have similar interests in social media, journalism, technology and more. Yes, this does mean that I don’t always follow even my friends back. I keep up with my friends on Facebook. Twitter is a social broadcasting tool that I can use to see what exactly is the buzz during any given moment. It is a social RSS, a place where I can have a discussion about issues in technology and how it’s changing our social interactions and especially the journalism industry I am a part of.
There are some great tools out there that I have used to keep track of my Twitter followers and those I am following. There are also some common practices that each user should get used to, at least for now. I came across this great post on Mashable today about tools to analyze your Tweets, and there are definitely some useful ones on the list, which I will mention. Here are just a few tips I have gathered along the way (this of course is not exhaustive by any means, but perhaps still helpful):
1. Use Untweeps.com – This site allows you to connect to your Twitter account and filter the users you are following who are stale in activity. For example, you can select the option for Untweeps to filter only the people you are following who have not tweeted for the last 15 days or 20 days or 26. Whatever amount of days for you is far too long for a user to go without activity, you can have Untweeps reveal those users. You then have the option to unfollow these people. Some of these may be people that you value in your network, and you can opt out to uncheck them from the list of people you are unfollowing. I, however, like to follow users who are active and are constantly going to provide me with useful information and are always in the know. I use this tool regularly and you will find that it can trim down the number you are following by quite a bit. You can also use the tool to track who you have blocked, and more. Twitoria is another similar tool, but only shows those that are inactive.
2. Try Twitterless – This is a tool that gives you an update regularly of how many people have started following you and has stopped following you. You get a list of users that stopped following you. Unfortunately, the site is in beta and so it is difficult to know why they are unfollowing you, but still a helpful resource to track your network. It also graphs your history over time. Qwitter is another similar app that is supposed to notify you when someone stops following you as well as the tweet that may have caused it, but I have found it unreliable in notifying me.
3. Tweet Blocker – This is a great tool in blocking the spammers that are on Twitter, and now boasts having blocked more than 70,000 spam accounts. Twitter has been known to purge a lot of spam accounts all at once. So if you notice that you have lost a huge amount of followers, it is likely because they were all spam accounts. Tweet Blocker allows you to login and grades your followers – a lot of the times the accounts that are given an F, are in fact spammers. Other times they are just new users that haven’t tweeted much yet. If you don’t want to mass purge, you should at least try to keep up with your followers and if they appear to be spam – then block them. They aren’t helping your network. And remember, it’s not all about the numbers. It’s about the quantity of followers, but the quality.
4. Use Columns in TweetDeck, Hootsuite, etc.: This might seem like a simple thing, but is often an underutilized feature in these third-party apps that allow you to organize your network into columns. For example, you can have a general column, a column for what your colleagues are saying, a column for friends, etc.
5. Search for Twits by location and check on their grades: There are several ways of doing this. Of course, I don’t expect you to spend all your time checking all your twits’ grades in Twitter Grader, but the tool is useful. If anything, it is helpful in allowing you to determine who the big players are in your location as well. There are other location-based Twitter directories and searches like LocalTweeps, which allows you to search by zip. Or if you are simply curious about what’s being talked about in your location and would like to connect with some twits, check out NearbyTweets, which is more automated and visually appealing. These are especially useful for twits in a new location.
Update: ReFollow – Here is a great site that has a lot of functionality that Jim Santori, publisher of the Mankato Free Press (Minnesota), pointed me to. I like the visual layout and the site gives you a lot of options to keep those you are following and those following you organized.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that in a lot of ways Twitter works well because it is simple. In fact, I think that it likely stole a lot of users from Facebook, who were getting too overwhelmed with all the new features but wanted something simple. That was me. I liked the simplicity, but at the same time immediacy, of the microblogging service.
However, it’s always about the progress and the new. And keeping users of social media, which is used like a toy by many people (I know I have fun with it), entertained and interested. But more importantly, serving their needs, which for now has been largely done by outside third-party Twitter apps and desktop management platforms like TweetDeck, which by the way is still labeled as Beta – a bit surprising, but that’s a whole other topic.