When I first joined Twitter seven years ago, I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I did nothing. After a few years, I decided to jump in. I did what I was told to do—I started following people and they returned the favor.
After following almost 300 people, I got bored looking for Twitter users. As it was, my feed was filled with tweets I rarely read and most were tweets trying to sell me things I didn’t want, and the tweets I wanted to read were lost in the noise.
When I decided to use Twitter to market my books, an author friend suggested I use a Twitter service to send out regular prescheduled tweets. I gave it a shot, and for several months I sent out dozens of daily tweets, featuring snippets from my books and what I hoped were witty comments, along with links. Not only was it a waste of time, I suspect my followers paid as much attention to my tweets as I did to theirs.
I abandoned the prescheduled tweeting over a year ago and paid little attention to my Twitter account. I would occasionally send out a tweet and rarely read what was in my feed.
Then something happened a couple months ago. A news story caught my attention. Since there wasn’t much about it on my local news, I started checking online for articles—and I eventually went to Twitter, where I found other people discussing the story.
From that point on, my use of Twitter radically changed. No longer was Twitter about marketing my books. It was about engaging in conversations with other people who were interested in topics I wanted to discuss. When watching the presidential debates I could search by hashtags to see what others were saying. Hashtags, I discovered, are essential for initiating and searching Twitter dialogue. They enable users to reach out beyond their followers, and frankly, that’s where you find the interesting stuff.
My epiphany regarding Twitter followers came when one surly Twitter user berated another for having less than a hundred followers—implying whatever this person had to say had little merit—whereas he had over five thousand followers, which of course meant people cared about what he said.
Or did they?
I looked at the number of people he follows. It was no surprise to discover that number exceeds how many people follow him. I doubt if he ever reads his feed—and I suspect the same can be said of those he believes are his “fans.”
That’s when I decided Twitter isn’t about accumulating followers or marketing my books. It’s about engaging in discussions and seeing what others are thinking. It also inspires my writing: story fodder.
So, the other day I went through my account and deleted Twitter users who follow thousands of people—keeping only those who I know, or those whose tweets interest me. I figured, those I deleted probably didn’t read my tweets anyway. I unfollowed people who hadn’t sent out a tweet in a year, and I unfollowed people who did nothing but spam.
Of course, after I unfollowed—people started unfollowing me.
I went from following 380 people to 115. My followers dropped from 481 to 445, in spite of the fact I picked up a few new followers during my recent Twitter activity. I imagine I will continue to drop followers after some check their reports.
Now I’m doing something I haven’t done since starting Twitter—I am regularly reading my feed. I’m also engaging with other users who share information I find interesting.
Twitter, it seems, is nothing as I originally imagined when I joined seven years ago.