Twitter Tango: He Says, She Says…Who’s Right?

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How many people are too many to follow on Twitter? Is it OK to automate your tweets or should you manually write each one? These are two of the most popular questions asked by both veterans and newbies. Maybe you want to know the answers too.

This is a unique blog post for SteamFeed — in that it’s written by two people.

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Everything in black is by me, Jennifer Hanford.

And everything in red is by me, Ari Herzog.

He’s male and I’m female.

She’s in Texas and I’m in Massachusetts.

Maybe it’s our gender or geographical differences, or maybe it’s something else…but we use Twitter in our own ways.

We want to share our tweeting selves with you. Maybe you’ll pick up a tip or two.

We differ significantly in our follow-back methods and how we share info on Twitter…

Jennifer: I decided from the beginning of my Twitter days to follow back almost everyone who chose to follow me. Why? Well, I have the belief that you never know where your next lead or associate is coming from, so it’s best to be cool to everyone – even though I am not going to sell anything to you through Twitter.

Ari: In contrast, I don’t follow back everyone. I did that once, back in 2009 or so, during my first year of tweeting. I thought that’s what people did. But before I knew it, I was following about 7,000 people and I was seeing too much too fast. The people I really wanted to see were drowning in updates by people I knew nothing about, just that they had followed me first.

These days, I follow less than 25% of everyone who follows me. This is my choice; and I always think I’m following too many.

I have been fortunate in making many “friends” on Twitter as a result of following so many other people. I realize I will never actually meet most of these people in real life, but I do learn a lot about the “real world” from them. I appreciate the tweets from folks who live in other parts of the U.S. and all over the world. It helps me to get out of my own world views, which are sometimes a little biased and narrow. I think of Twitter as the “cocktail party,” where you can jump into discussions anytime without missing a beat.

The cocktail party is a great metaphor for Twitter. So are the TV remote (credited to @pistachio) and ‘the river’ (credited to @levyj413). You can look at the river whenever you want and it always changes. It’s never static. Never for me, anyway. I can see tweets by colleagues in New England at one moment and role models in Canada or abroad the next. I see tweets about open government intermingled with tweets about American history, museums, and the Red Sox.

With that said, I have made a few mistakes along the way. I’ve followed bots and spammers, for example (but unfollowed them just as quickly!). With time and experience, I have learned to be more judicious when determining who I follow. As long as you have a profile pic, a realistic bio, real followers and real tweets in your stream, I am probably going to follow you.

Unless you tweet me you’re following me, I’ll likely never know about it. I rarely look at recent followers other than once or twice a month. Even then it’s a quick scan of your bio to see if I might be aligned with a keyword. If yes, I’ll click to see your recent tweets. I have a few more items on my mental checklist and, if all is good, I’ll follow back and tweet you an FYI.

I tweet to share content and converse. True, I write and share my own content (which is sort of like selling, I guess). However, I do share a lot of other people’s content, too. I like being a “broadcaster,” and spreading good information for other people, as well as myself.

She shares a lot. Peruse her stream and see tweet after tweet of text descriptions and links, text descriptions and links. It’s like watching @CNN on Twitter. I know many who tweet like her; and I don’t follow any of them, Jennifer included, on Twitter. I’d rather see her tweets in a list; and I manage several Twitter lists. I want the people I follow to be people who aren’t too noisy, who reply more than they broadcast, and/or who provide signals that are crucial to me today.

That last word, today, is an important word. If I follow you, it’s for a reason — whatever that reason is at that moment in time. I’m free to unfollow you, too. Maybe I’ll unfollow the next day, the next week, or the next year. Point is, if we’re better engaged on a different social media platform or if I’m suddenly not finding value in what you tweet, I’ll unfollow you. In recent days, I’ve unfollowed a lot of people as I’m finding more productivity in their Google+ posts or on their Facebook pages or on their blogs.

Unlike Ari, even if we don’t talk much, I won’t unfollow you on Twitter. However, I am also more likely to engage with you more on G+ and Facebook. 140-character conversations aren’t easy, no matter what your gender or the part of the country you live in.

To automate/schedule or not on Twitter? Well, that is a tricky question…

Jennifer: Curating and sharing content takes a lot of time, but this is something I delight in and have built my personal and business brands upon. Automation became essential for me so I can accomplish my sharing goals – otherwise, I would never have time to eat, sleep or spend time with my family, much less engage. Many think all social media automation is impersonal, but I disagree.

Ari: To be fair, I do automate one thing to Twitter. My blog runs on WordPress and I use a very useful plugin called Tweet Old Post which auto-tweets a blog post of mine from the past to give it fresher views. I have this set to run once every 72 hours. Every other tweet you see is manually sent.

That said, some people tweet (automation included) several times an hour. That’s 100+ tweets a day. There might be some replies and retweets mingled in, but they’re the exception.

To sum: If I’m following you and I see a tweet of yours every time I open up the news feed, you’re tweeting too much for me and that’s a simple unfollow.

Scheduling tweets allows me to share articles with the information my followers find relevant. In fact, my following is completely organic as a result of the content I post. As well, since I want to be a 24/7/365 resource, scheduling has become crucial since I cannot be online every moment of the day. I use social media management tools to let me know who responds to my tweets, along with the tweets that matter to my audience. This way, automation is simply a tool that allows me to be even more “human.” In other words, I have more time to engage and have conversations, which goes a long way.

We are humans. We eat, sleep, shower, take walks, have sex, and do things with our bodies and our lives all the time. Jennifer wants the world to know she always tweets — simultaneous to the above activities. I’m the opposite. I want the world to know my next tweet will be whenever I do it. It’s as simple as that.

But, hey. If it works for Jennifer, all the power to her. There is no rule how to tweet.

So, who’s right? Perhaps it’s both of us or maybe it’s neither of us. As for Ari and me? Well, we’ll just agree to disagree! As he said, Twitter doesn’t involve rules so find your style and what works best for you and your audience.

These are our thoughts. What are yours? Add a comment below. Or tweet us at @jennghanford and @ariherzog.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog is a digital PR strategist living in northeast Massachusetts. He is the founder of Social Media Breakfast North Shore. He's been featured in many publications including TechRepublic, Poynter, CBS Moneywatch, and Bank of America'a blog.
Ari Herzog

@ariherzog

Passionate about tech policy & social change. 3-term city councilor running for #firstessex state rep.
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