Three Twitter Tips

Now, I’ve been known to rail against people saying “This is the right way to use Twitter” - but there’s a couple things that I’ve started doing over the last few months that I think are worth sharing. I’m sure the expert Twitterers amongst you won’t find this new, and it really is only a couple of tips - so please suggest others in the comments - but perhaps some will find it helpful.

So, first up: If you’re following a lot of people (say, more than a couple of dozen), I recommend you don’t try to read every tweet everyone says. You’ll go crazy from the information overload. Don’t trawl back through the pages of tweets you missed while sleeping - just live in the moment.

Secondly, keep your eye on the Replies tab. This tracks every tweet addressed to you by others - whether or not they’re following you or you’re following them. That in itself is useful, but what makes this extra-special is the RSS feed for that page. This makes it super-easy for keeping track of messages, with one caveat: you need a feed reader that supports authentication (such as NetNewsWire).

The last tip I have also ties into RSS - the feeds for results from Twitter’s search. I use this to track messages about me (so I do get some duplicates with the Replies feed, but I also see all tweets that mention me but aren’t addressed to me), as well as a few other keyword searches - in particular, Rails Camp and Thinking Sphinx. The latter not only shows me the occasional tweet of people liking my plugin, but also gives me the opportunity to contact those with issues or complaints, see if I can help in some way.

See, told you I didn’t have too much to say.

So, how do you use Twitter? And what tips can you share?

Lachlan Hardy left a comment on 17 Sep, 2008:

All good points, Pat! The big one I learned hard is evaluate whether you follow someone (or keep following them) based on the value of their tweets to you.

They can be your best friend, but if all they tweet about highly technical photographic technique and you have no interest in photography… That can be okay if you’re following too many folks, but once you gather a few more, all that extra cognitive load starts to tell.

The trick is, of course, that maybe your best friend gets upset when they realise you’re not following them any more. That sucks. It’s difficult to deal with, but they should have enough self-awareness to understand. And so should you, because it’ll happen to you too :)

Mark Nutter left a comment on 18 Sep, 2008:

Excellent advice. I have been a Twitter member for a year and a half but only recently started to use it, mainly because I didn’t know many other people who used it.

I recently created an app called that lets people keep track of their followers and get notifications when people stop following them, and so far it has gained some decent traction. I will definitely be using the search techniques you talked about to keep track of what people are saying about it as it becomes more popular.

Great post!

Ross Hill left a comment on 5 Dec, 2008:

I don’t think there are ‘rules’ on how to use twitter, but there are certainly some common standards around like have an avatar, bio, url..

I reckon you need to be really careful with who you follow, and make sure you unfollow people who ruin the experience for you before they ruin it.

Don’t use Qwitter, it’s just depressing.

And wow, you use RSS pretty heavily! I steer clear of RSS with the same concept you mentioned - don’t worry if you miss stuff that happens in the stream. Replies are nice to reply to but again if it gets too full on the world won’t end if you don’t respond to everything.

ikkyg left a comment on 7 Jan, 2009:

I think the best way to benefit from twitter is using a program like twitterfox or twhirl. i use twitterfox, and it downloads my tweets as they come, and notifies when i have replies and DM’s, the beauty of this is that i can ignore what happened when i was asleep, but see whats happening and participate in twitter conversations as they happen

pat left a comment on 7 Jan, 2009:

Ikky, that’s a good point - I use Twitterific on my mac, and Twitterfon on my iPhone, but I forget that newcomers often don’t know about anything besides the website as an interface into Twitter.