I just read Philippe Parker's thoughtful response to Janus Boye's provocative post "How I use Twitter for Work". Both these articles, plus my recent experience at PodCamp Western Mass, made me a little more conscious of my strategy and techniques for social media. As you can see from this geeky flow chart, I have put some thought into what I publish where. But I had thought less about who to follow.
My official Twitter policy was to only follow people that "inform and/or entertain me." Because I use Twitter mainly for work, my bias certainly leans toward the "inform" side. Although, I do appreciate a good snark once in while, I have un-followed people who fill the timeline with mostly personal stuff. If I found myself automatically skipping over someone's tweets because I was expecting something mundane, I un-followed him/her. If a Facebook friend re-published their Twitter stream into Facebook, I un-followed him/her on Twitter. These tactics kept my following count to a manageable number of 150. When I say manageable, I mean I am not overwhelmed by the volume of updates but I don't go back and read every tweet when I am away from Twitter for an extended period of time.
At PodCamp, I finally learned the value of lists. By using private lists for work, friends, fun, and news, I can follow more people but handle the traffic differently. When I am really busy, I just track my work list and my @replies. I glance at my friends and fun lists when I have more time but I never go back more than a few hours in the timeline. My news list takes the place of personal portals for the day's highlights. Since sorting this stuff out, my following count has grown to 164 with no real impact on time consumption.
The biggest change is in how I use RSS. With my new Twitter strategy, I check my reader less frequently and am able to skip over posts that I already found on Twitter. At this point, Twitter brings me timely (either because it is news or because everyone is talking about it) posts quicker. The un-tweeted RSS entries are still important to me for general learning and background knowledge. I expect that, over time, people will promote everything they write on Twitter. This has already happened with sites like CMSWire. Now FeedBurner gives you the option to automatically tweet every entry in your RSS feed. When a Twitter feed becomes identical to the RSS feed, I tend to un-follow/unsubscribe to one depending on how timely the information tends to be.
This system is working well for me now but I am sure that it will continue to change as the medium evolves. I am interested in learning other people's techniques. The tag #howiusetwitter seems appropriate and free.