22 June 2012

How I Tweet: The Method to The Madness

I am asked often how I find enough time to tweet during the day. Others say they can't keep up with even a few hundred followers, meanwhile I am tweeting 20+ times a day with 4,000 followers. My attempts to answer the question are usually long winded and make it seem farm more complex that it really is. So, for the sake of having a point of reference and to share with the few of you who care, I present a rundown of how I tweet.

I am awake every morning at roughly 7, sometimes a bit earlier and sometimes a bit later. I do a skim through my Google Reader where I pull together the aid and development blogs that I read. The posts that look interesting I open up into tabs on my browser for reading. Once done, I revisit the tabbed posts and give each one a quick read. The ones I find interesting are queued up using Timely. The program spreads out up to 9 tweets throughout the day that form the backbone of my tweeting.

In total, this process takes 30 to 45 minutes. It largely depends on reading time. Timely has a neat bookmark button that allows me to set up tweets with a click of a button and a small pop up. It is pretty much the equivalent of "set it and forget it."

Then I browse through the morning updates made by Mark Goldberg for the morning edition of the DAWNS Digest. There I can see if anything new happened over night. I will do a quick pass on Twitter before making breakfast and possibly thumb through my main feed while eating breakfast.

I rely heavily on Tweetdeck to keep track of my various accounts (I maintain 3 Twitter feeds). I have two main lists. One is my Devevelopment Peeps list that is publicly available. I have 283 feeds that I believe provide some of the most interesting information and conversation about aid and development - it is a list that I really need to update, so if you feel that you are unjustly missing feel free to call me out. A second list of about 500 people is kept privately as additional feeds that I want to keep an eye on.

The two lists have slowly built over the past 2 years. There is not actual method to the two, but I have added feeds slowly as I find them. My hope is to create a few more lists to help organize the feed to a greater extent, but that is a tad ambitious at this moment. The main list of all my followers moves at a rapid pace that is impossible to keep track of. I will glance over at it from time to time and do often stumble upon interesting content.

My tweetdeck dashboard.

While working, I keep Tweetdeck running in the background. I will reply to mentions that are conversation related within the pop-up box so as not to waste time scrolling around the feed. I give my reader and twitter a check around lunch time to see if there is any breaking news or interesting stories that I missed.

My phone has both Tweetdeck and Hootsuite apps. The Tweetdeck app is much easier for reading through twitter, while the Hootsuite one is better for setting up and scheduling tweets. When on my phone I will usually look through the main twitter list. The ease of scrolling quickly with my thumb makes it a much better read.

For the most part, I follow people who tweet about development, aid and international affairs. There are a few random feeds in the mix, but it is very development focused. As a general rule, I will not follow accounts without a photo and a short bio. You can tell a lot quickly from the bio as to what kind of tweets will be in a person's feed. Development tweeters tend to be a bit more professional with their bios, so that is a good indicator of a feed that will provide useful information.

By using lists I am able to focus on what are some of the best feeds. However, I am very sensitive to not creating too many filter bubbles. I worry that curating lists can stem from a bias of finding people with whom I largely agree. By following anyone who tweets about aid and development I feel that I can at least bring in some divergent view points. To me, it is important to seek out ideas with which I do not agree. For example, I listen to conservative talk radio whenever I am driving as a way to challenge my held beliefs and understand a point of view that I think is wrong.

By the afternoon I am going through my curated news content to pull together the latest edition of DAWNS. Stories that really stand out will then be scheduled using tweet deck to go out between 2PM and 9PM (roughly). Other stories that I found throughout the day will also make it into that time period.

I usually try to make sure I can get things done so that I can take an earnest break for dinner and some time to relax. Starting at 8PM I begin pulling together the stories that make up the Healthy Dose. Interesting global health stories will get tweeted out or queued up using Timely. That is followed by a short break and then another pass through the news before sending out DAWNS Digest at 11 PM.

Mixed in between will be some random tweets and instagram pictures - it is a fact that I will tweet at least a few times about the Euro Cup match today. This all probably makes it sound like I take tweeting way more seriously than I actually do. In total, I would say I spend an hour a day actually on twitter.

The method to all this madness has been trial and error and a lot of learning. The evolutionary process of two years of tweeting has lead to this current mode of operation, but I am betting it will shift a bit more over time. This is by no means a "How To" guide. It is what works for me.

Feel free to ask questions and make comments. I would love to learn from you as to how you go about using Twitter.