Zen and the art of Twitter

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Twitter Lane

Photo: Duncan Hull

This post is one that I really wanted to get down in digital ink, or pixels, and share.

Let me be clear about my use of the whole Twitter thing.  I'm not an expert.  In fact, anyone who says they are an expert may be being slightly ahead of themselves, because as a tool Twitter is evolving, and as more people design clever ways to interact with the basic service, cleverer people than me, or many of these so called "experts" will find even more elegant ways to use it.

No, I'm not an expert.  I'm a budding "enthusiast" and one of the things I am really enjoying is finding ways to use Twitter as a tool, that serves ME well.  It's all too easy for tools to control us, the constant interruption and ping of various applications and programs urging us to do something, and do it now.  In my mind I want to find ways to make tools work for me and allow me to bend them to my way of working and existing.

So, with all of that out of the way, I want to explain something that I think will prove invaluable to me (and hopefully to you too).

I've now come to the conclusion that (with the exception of real physical friends whom I always follow - and if you're on this list you'll already know that you are, if that makes sense) I will not follow just everybody that follows me.  This is not to be rude, or even to appear important.  No, it's a simple realisation that I cannot follow everybody.  I cannot drink the whole wide stream of tweets that flow.  No one can.

I will continue to look at the profile and recent tweet history of anyone who follows me and see if they add anything to the conversation that I am interested in.  If what you write seems to be unique, engaging or useful, well then I'll follow.

But here comes the original bit.  If you then send me a DM, that is cookie cutter, let's say it just says something along the lines of "Really good to tweet you, I hope my (interest/business) will be useful, check my website for more details...", well if I receive a DM like that I will immediately un-follow.

You see, Twitter to me is a conversation.  And conversation's have certain defined rules.  Don't be rude, don't be boring, don't just push YOUR agenda, in other words don't be an ass.

If you DM me and don't have the courtesy or grace to have a quick look at my profile, see what I write about and am interested in, well that just tells me that I'm not that important to you to make any effort.  And conversation without effort is not really fulfilling.

Whereas a simple DM like "Hi Alastair, thanks for the follow", well the fact that you have taken the time to find out my actual name and write me a genuine message, that speaks hugely about you.  It feels like the handshake one shares to start a conversation.  And that's a great way to start building a relationship.

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