How to Use Twitter Like a Human Being

I love Twit­ter. It’s my favorite social net­work. I start­ed using it in 2008 when I went to SXSW Music. I imme­di­ate­ly saw its val­ue for cov­er­ing live events. That fall, I used it exten­sive­ly dur­ing the Phillies’ post­sea­son cam­paign. Twit­ter is a great plat­form for your pas­sions. Except when it isn’t.

Some­where along the way, Twit­ter changed. My friend Mark cap­tured one key dif­fer­ence in his tweet below.

For all the talk about being authen­tic and engag­ing on social, you’ll often find that the most fol­lowed accounts are noth­ing more than linkbots with a human face. It’s a head-scratch­er. At a time when peo­ple com­plain of infor­ma­tion over­load, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple will fol­low accounts that recy­cle memes and oth­er online flotsam.

If that does­n’t depress you, A Tale of Two Twit­ter Per­sonas will. MG Siegler writes:

For me, giv­en my back­ground and line of work, that’s obvi­ous­ly tech­nol­o­gy. But I too have oth­er inter­ests — shock­ing, I know. Film is def­i­nite­ly one. Beer is def­i­nite­ly anoth­er. And sports is way up there. Yes, some peo­ple in the tech indus­try are as obsessed with sports as any­one else in the world. Blasphemy!

What does per­son­al brand­ing mean when the most pop­u­lar social media accounts lack personality?

Unfollowing Is Hard

One of my dig­i­tal New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions was to “go pro” on Twit­ter. I’m near­ly there and I can tell you it’s not easy. For me it’s meant unfol­low­ing and plug­ging folks into lists or just dis­con­nect­ing alto­geth­er in order to pay atten­tion to things that are, you know, work-relat­ed. In some cas­es it means sev­er­ing ties with old co-work­ers, high school class­mates and vibrant locals in exchange for nation­al and region­al media, cur­rent co-work­ers and influ­encers. It’s a win­dow into their process, some­thing that would­n’t have been pos­si­ble a decade ago, and it’s more impor­tant to my work than ever. Thing is, has this trans­for­ma­tion sucked all the fun out of Twit­ter and Face­book? (more…)

Why I’m Rebooting Twitter

Read this post by Jere­mi­ah Owyang recent­ly and it got me think­ing about how I use Twit­ter. Since I’ve vowed to share more in 2012, I thought it might be a worth­while exer­cise to map exact­ly how that will play out using Jere­mi­ah’s help­ful template.

  1. Local news. Pret­ty sure Twit­ter became what we used to call “hyper­local.” Whether you’re in Egypt or Fish­town, Twit­ter is an easy place to find out what’s hap­pen­ing in your neigh­bor­hood. Word of cau­tion: local Twit­ter can be just as unre­li­able as any oth­er break­ing sto­ry on Twitter.
  2. Sec­ond screen expe­ri­ences. Instead of “event cap­ture,” I do quite a bit of tweet­ing about what I’m watch­ing on TV. Whether it’s the Phillies or Board­walk Empire, chances are I’m shar­ing reac­tions to what I’m see­ing on Twit­ter. I even main­tain a well-man­i­cured base­ball list on Twit­ter and from what I hear nobody uses lists. Don’t know what I’d do with­out it.
  3. I’ll sec­ond “lis­ten­ing tool.” I don’t use trend­ing top­ics often, but I’ve found search to be real­ly help­ful to peer into the infor­ma­tion kalei­do­scope we call Twitter.
  4. Social shar­ing. Whether it’s retweet­ing fun­ny jokes or inter­est­ing links, Twit­ter is a great way to grab some­one’s atten­tion. Don’t know if I’m in the minor­i­ty here, but Twit­ter is an invalu­able place to spend time while there’s noth­ing bet­ter to do. It’s my dear com­pan­ion when I’m in transit.
  5. Giv­ing cred­it where it’s due. Part of the fun of Twit­ter is bring­ing offline fun to the Web. If I have a good chat with Twit­ter friend at lunch, I’ll share a bit to fur­ther the con­ver­sa­tion online. Great way to gen­er­ate con­ver­sa­tion about top­ics of inter­est to the the greater community.

And you know what? It’s time to com­plete­ly rethink some of these uses.

  1. Let’s start with local. Part of the prob­lem peo­ple have with the Inter­net is that they feel dis­con­nect­ed. That alien­ation stems from the belief that the Inter­net is what’s stand­ing between real per­son­al inter­ac­tion. I think it’s a false dichoto­my myself, but one way to assure that you don’t out­source those kinds of inter­ac­tions to the web is to dis­con­nect local from your Twit­ter feed. Sure, some of you may think that’s tan­ta­mount to tak­ing the bat­ter­ies out of your smoke detec­tors, but I have a hunch that if a local news sto­ry is impor­tant enough to affect your every­day life, you’ll prob­a­bly hear about it out­side of Twit­ter. Go ahead and talk to your neigh­bors more in 2012. You’ll be glad you did!
  2. I’m pret­ty com­fort­able with the sec­ond screen graf, although I get that those tweets can be alien­at­ing to folks who aren’t watch­ing with you. If I could tweet about the Phillies exclu­sive­ly to my base­ball list, that would be pret­ty great. Same goes for any­thing with a hash­tag. Would be a pret­ty cool way to seg­ment con­ver­sa­tions with­out hav­ing to main­tain sep­a­rate accounts. Would love to see that hap­pen in 2012.
  3. Lis­ten­ing is bug­bear, espe­cial­ly for per­son­al use. Part of what was fun for me as an aspir­ing music crit­ic last decade was jump­ing into con­ver­sa­tions in com­ments sec­tions all over the web. It was a great way to let folks know you were there and that you had things to say. I liken it to all the folks who liked the Vel­vet Under­ground or Sex Pis­tols or James Brown and then went on to form their own bands. It’s how I got start­ed. With­out being “RT from a celebri­ty” des­per­ate, I think it’s valu­able to do the same with Twit­ter. Don’t just eaves­drop on the folks you want to hear you, talk to them, how­ev­er dis­ori­ent­ing it may be. You may nev­er get a response, but when you do, that’s a step in the right direc­tion. Act like you belong and you will.
  4. Feel the same way about social shar­ing. If you have an opin­ion, don’t sit on your hands. Part of the mag­ic of the web was that it democ­ra­tized pub­lish­ing in very impor­tant ways. Take advan­tage of it! (I already know what you’re think­ing about blog­ging. I’ll have a post about the state of the blo­gos­phere tomorrow.)

That’s all to say that I’m com­plete­ly reboot­ing Twit­ter start­ing imme­di­ate­ly. If blog­ging has atro­phied and those con­ver­sa­tions are mov­ing to Twit­ter and oth­er microblog­ging tools, then it’s impor­tant to fol­low the con­ver­sa­tion to those plat­forms. Sure, you can do what I’ve been doing and stay glued to RSS, but you’re get­ting the exec­u­tive sum­ma­ry. If you want to watch writ­ers work through thorny issues, whether it’s about tech­nol­o­gy or base­ball, fol­low on Twit­ter. There you can see the germ of an idea start to bloom. It’s actu­al­ly pret­ty cool and it’s a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to have input on a once very per­son­al process. I plan to fol­low it more close­ly in 2012 myself, which means a year-end Twit­ter cull is in order.

Who will I be fol­low­ing in 2012? More tech writ­ers and thinkers, more builders and doers, more Com­cast­ers and more folks who make — and keep — the Inter­net fun.

Who Do You Follow?

Tell me who you fol­low! I feel pret­ty com­fort­able with Google Read­er and Twit­ter; I’ve amassed quite a col­lec­tion of per­son­al­i­ties there and enjoy them immense­ly. But I find myself awash in end­less reblogs on Tum­blr and I would­n’t know the first thing about who’s worth watch­ing on YouTube.

Do peo­ple still get into pod­casts? I’ve down­loaded DJ Rup­ture’s Mudd Up, Doug Hen­wood’s Behind the News, and Two Guys on Beer, but I have to admit that I’m not a reg­u­lar con­sumer of pod­casts. Are there any you check out? Do you think video pod­cast­ing may final­ly break through now that we have the devices that not only sup­port it, but make it sexy?

Last­ly, what are your favorite blogs? In this age of microblog­ging in all forms, is there any­one else out there who still likes to read thought­ful pieces? My Google Read­er is stuffed, but I’m always look­ing for new sources to check out. I’m always look­ing for local folks, as well as great peo­ple cov­er­ing music, tech, Phillies, food, and media. Share your favorites!

So, who do you fol­low and where do you fol­low them?

Pardon My Dust

Sor­ry I’ve been away so long, but I’ve been kept very busy late­ly with my new son, Charles. I’m pleased to report that he’s a healthy, hap­py lit­tle boy.

I’m going to be tidy­ing up around here to reflect some of my new ideas about how this blog ought to look and what I’d like to share here. Hope­ful­ly I’ll be able to tweak the site a bit this week­end, adding my Twit­ter, Flickr, and Deli­cious pro­files to the right rail. 

This place could stand to be a lit­tle more social, could­n’t it? Well, look for me to add some fea­tures that let you decide how you want to stay abreast of updates on Kens­ing­ton Blues.

(I’m scrib­bling this post on my iPhone. It’s been my go-to device ever since Char­lie was born. I can’t think of some­thing that’s eas­i­er to pick up and use dur­ing those ear­ly morn­ing feedings!)