What is Twitter’s Maximum Density?
Hey… it’s time for another – you guessed it! – post about Twitter!
‘Now, GeekMommy,’ you might say to yourself, ‘what is it with all these Twitter-centric posts? Seriously… you might as well rename this blog All About Twitter and have done with!’
Well perhaps… but while I love other peoples’ perspectives, I tend to write about whatever has me most passionate at the moment, and for the past few months, that’s Twitter. Mostly because I spend more time Twittering than I do blogging now. But that’s something you probably already know.
Even so, this post has been floating around in my head for more than a week now. Three things prompted me to take a self-imposed Twitter-time-out and write it though:
1) I keep having blog post ideas that I sit on for a day or two only to find out that everyone and his sister is posting about it now and there’s little point in my taking paragraphs of bandwidth to say ‘yeah! me too!’ So maybe I can get this one up before the blogosphere collectively thinks to post about it again.
My own Twitter activity has increased radically over the past couple of months… and while I’ve been pretty faithful to the self-imposed guidelines I listed here – I wrote those when I had maybe 2/3 the number of follows/following that I do now.
It’s amazing how fast Twitter is suddenly growing. After SXSW, there seemed to be yet another new surge of users. I know that it’s not just me, because of evidence like that above and tweets from many of my Twitterpals that they are seeing a huge surge in percentage of new followers – whether they are in the thousands of followers or merely dozens – the influx is definitely there.
So the other night I was having a discussion on Live!Yahoo with a couple of friends including @anjrued & @mrxinu about the maximum number of people one can follow on Twitter and still actually have meaningful engagement with them.
The inimitable Robert Scoble [@scobleizer] follows nearly 17,ooo users on Twitter as I write this. Depending on whose statistics you use, the average Twitterer follows somewhere between 8 and 25 other users.
At present, I’m following and being followed by some 800+ users on Twitter myself. I generalize it, because I know that a number of those accounts are, in effect, stagnant. Their owners have neither updated nor viewed Twitter in months. I wish there were an easy way to account for ‘active’ users, but I don’t really have a tally.
When I was down around the low 100+ mark, I remember thinking to myself “surely I can never keep up with more than 150! Even now, I log on and have pages and pages of twitters to ‘catch up’ on and am barely managing that!” What happened though, was that I actually changed my style of using Twitter. I stopped trying to ‘catch up’ and started trying to ‘step in and out’ of the Timestream. Sure, I might go back a couple of pages to see what the current buzz was, but I mostly used things like the ‘Replies’ tab and Tweetscanned my own userID to see if there were tweets concerning me that I ought to pay attention to, and then jumped into the fray. This change in usage seemed to coincide with an increase in connections on Twitter. Granted, I owe a large part of that to the amazing Guy Kawasaki‘s [@guykawasaki] Alltop.com – which connected me with as many new people to follow as it did bring me to the attention of new followers. But I never would’ve survived the influx if I were still using my old method of Twittering.
But now I come to the point where I think I’m reaching maximum density on the number of people I can follow and honestly interact with.
To me, Twitter is all about the conversation. Like Shel mentioned in the post I linked above, I don’t want to spend time on ‘non-real’ people. That means I’d like to at least have some clue who someone I’m Twittering with is. Even if it’s something as simple as “male, lives in Toronto, likes Linux” or “female, lives in California, 2 kids” I’d rather have some image in my mind about the person I’m talking with.
And it’s all about that last phrase, not “talking to” but “talking with.”
There are those who still believe that anyone not using Twitter solely as a status update platform are somehow “corrupting” it or trying to “turn it into a chat room.” To them I’d say, don’t bother to follow me then, I’ll drive you nuts. I’m not sure how one can utter the phase “Social Media” and somehow ignore that first word and expect people not to interact socially.
I’ve said before elsewhere that blogging reminds me more of public speaking with the Comments thread being the post-lecture Q&A session – and Twitter reminds me more of a public dialog. Anyone can jump in with an opinion at any time – and it is the weight of the words that matters, not necessarily the status of the person saying them.
That may be a bit optimistic – and I’ve been known to wear rose-colored glasses more than once in my life – but it is how I choose to perceive Twitter and how I choose to behave there.
So at what point do I have to adjust my “guidelines” for following back, as Jeremiah has done? At what point do I have to say – I’m sorry, but I’m not going to follow anyone else without trimming my own following list a bit first?
I’m thinking it’s fast approaching. Because my choices are to either change my expectations of Twitter and the way I interact there – or to start limiting the number of people I’m promising to interact with.
I just really hate doing that – even though I kind of know it’s inevitable.
~ by Lucretia on March 31, 2008.