Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Twitter Time Management Experiment

Are you following me on Twitter?

If you are one of my followers, then you likely have observed a few things:

  • I make an effort to respond to every tweet,
  • I tweet a lot,
  • I haven't automated anything on Twitter (even followbacks I manually do now),
  • and if you've had exchanges with me, you'll see I rarely am able to tweet in real time
As my follower base has increased and along with it, the incoming tweet load, I've run into a few problems:

  • Although I'm typically "light" on Twitter, I do take business seriously. There are often full days where I am on overload with work which prevents me from spending any time on Twitter. Since I work on the Internet, I also like taking downtime entirely away from the computer. Both of these things mean it is easy for me to get behind in responding to tweets. I've been as much as 2 weeks behind in responses at some points!
  • When I get far behind, I often have to resort to using search rather than Tweetdeck for responses. This means missing tweets from those tweeps who don't appear in search entirely.
  • For productivity purposes, it makes more sense for me - on those days I am able to tweet - to spend 1 or 2 solid chunks of time responding to tweets. The issue here is that I don't want to flood the stream of followers with responses. Also, Twitter has implemented a time-out period where if you tweet too much in a given time, you are unable to tweet for an hour (and sometimes more).
  • I've not been able to look as much at the streams of my friends because of time limitations.
  • I love live interactions/exchanges with people but with getting behind all the time in responses, it's rare that I'm able to engage in "real-time" like I used to.
For those of you that know me from Twitter or have been one of my coaching clients, you'll know that my philosophy has been to avoid automation. It defeats what is at the heart of social networking and social media. At the same time, the way I have been handling things simply isn't working for me. Twitter has turned more into a chore for me and something I have to do rather than something I want to do.

I don't want to change some parts of how I handle things. Primarily I want to make sure that I do respond to tweets. I know most other high volume users look at this differently but for me it is important. I don't want people to feel ignored. I really do care.

I'm going to be running an experiment for the next 7-10 days. I am going to schedule blocks of time to handle responses and use CoTweet to schedule sending them out on a staggered basis. I am hoping the benefit will be that I am able to interact overall with people more fluidly, that I will be able to engage in live exchanges and be more proactive in communications. I hope that this will work better for followers as well since they will no longer get hit with 50-100 tweets in a short period of time. The offside of this is that I will not always actually "be there" when people see me tweeting. I am hoping this doesn't cause too much confusion for people.

I believe transparency and being authentic are important in social media. By openly sharing what I am doing I hope that this adds to - rather than detracts - from the way I am seen in the community. The impact of this on my followers should be a positive one since I don't often have chances to converse in real time on Twitter to begin with.

I may post an update at some point on how this experiment works. Please DO post comments sharing what you think about this approach.


Neo said...

Hi Dear Sharon, What you've explained here that you will be going to do .. i am doing similar things already .. except that i don't have a CoTweet Account..

I was waiting who is gonna write something like that you did.. Wonderfully explained

Claire Boyles said...

I totally understand where you're coming from, I have a very similar view point on how I use twitter & I also do respond to every tweet, even with delays!
This is a good move- you'll be responding but won't be alienating anyone- I know seeing only @replies in a stream can be offputting to some, & I also have to juggle with this.

twitter for me is about building relationships & talking to people, which has been very effective for me. It is getting ever more challenging for me as the number of my followers increases daily.

I wonder what tools I'll have to start using to manage my twitter usage better..

Caitlin said...

If old @ messages are no longer showing up in TweetDeck, you don't have to resort to search. They will still be there in

Anonymous said...

This is very useful information. I often feel "guilty" when I take time away from Twitter, because I lose track of the conversation. I'm looking forward to hearing how this experiment works for you.

Pedro Lopes said...

I still don´t know how you get time to answer to all of your tweets, it must be an endless job, i think you are going the right way here, twitter is not fun anymore when you are forced to do it, and please share with us your experience with Cotweet.

See you in Twitter :-)

SharonTucci said...

Caitlin, Yes, they are still there on Twitter, but I still need to access them somehow. Search is the only option at a certain point. Many days I get over 1,000 mentions. It is impossible to use the mentions page when I need to go back several days - even the same day can be difficult to load/follow.

Gwen McCauley said...

I love honest people. And as my list of followers grows, I've been wondering how I'm going to manage the whole thing. I've been lucky for the past few weeks because this is my slack season.

I know, however, as September gets closer, I'm going to have to devote much more time to my core coaching/workshop business. And then where does that leave me with the higher numbers of fun and useful Twitter interactions.

You've given me much food for thought. Thanks for that. Don't know what my answer will be, but I feel better that I will create a pathway for myself. Thanks.

Gwen McCauley

Fruitful Vine2 said...

I don't have near the number of followers you do but I was thinking the same thing.

Like you, I do try to respond to all mentions. Currently I respond to them whenever I get on twitter which means that a person may not get a reply for a couple days if I've been unable to tweet.

Thanks for tweeting about this. It helps to know and learn from how persons with large twitter followers handle their interactions.

Vernon Harleston said...

This is a great alternative to the #FF Follow Friday routine. I can never remember everyone I want to recommend and it allows for more personal interaction. That's what the whole SM thing is supposed to be about. Right?

Its ok about the delay in responding to my tweets. I may pass out waiting for you but you do get back to me eventually. :-) Peace

Thomas said...

Hi Sharon,

Wonderful blog post (which I have retweeted to my friends on twitter), and I really do agree with your thoughts and sentiments behind how you operate on twitter.

I have no where near the number of followers, but I too, do everything manually, but I have signed up for co-tweet, as I can see the advantages as you explained.

My difference is I do the majority of my twitter work from my BlackBerry, via SocialScope and Viigo, which in itself has its challenges, but also certain advantages, especially from a time management point of view.

Sharon, it is always a pleasure to receive a tweet from yourself, and the info you provide I always pay it forward to my friends.

Thanks for your efforts and friendship,

Thomas (@TferThomas)

Geoff said...

Hi Sharon,
Call me naive but what is it that you get from responding to every single mention?

It seems like a tremendous effort but for what gain? I could understand if you were somehow making money from doing it... are you? What do you get from it?

SharonTucci said...

Geoff, have a look at one of my older blog posts - 10 things I love about Twitter. In spite of me not openly promoting anything I do in my tweets, Twitter has represented a solid 7 figures of new business for me. It's all about building relationships. That is what social media is. It's a different story if you don't use Twitter for business. However I do. Even people that use Twitter for personal reasons that I am in contact with often DO result in business for me through referrals etc. Aside from that if you follow my stream at all, I just care about people period. Fortunately 99.9% of the people I do communicate with on Twitter really are great people and worth caring about.

Nate St. Pierre said...

I think that however you (or anyone else) decides to handle Twitter is perfectly fine, especially when you take the time to be explain what you're doing and why. I appreciate the transparency.

And I enjoy hearing from you, no matter when it is. :)

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


robert said...

Hi, Sharon!

Just discovered your blog, and it made understandable.

I think your idea here is wonderful! You rightly point out it's good for business -- but it's also a good thing to do. It humanizes what's often The Wild West. Makes it feel like an actual person tweeting rather than a robot with a keyboard!

Will be interested in seeing how it goes.


P.S. I blog here on classical piano (Jsbfan, and tweet as chopin_slut (obviously, I follow you now!)