How I use Twitter

Twitter can be overwhelming. With more than a dozen or so people to follow, your feed soon becomes a wall of noise. Yet following a varied, deep list of accounts is one of the charms of Twitter. Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. And, like a box of chocolates, you accept you should only dip in now and again and refrain from consuming the whole lot.

Still, you can't help shake the nagging feeling that you're missing the stuff you want to keep track of. So, it can help to use a strategy: you can strike a balance between both must-not-miss Twitter accounts and the firehose lottery.

Here's what I do.

Create a private "follow" list

With a private list, people you add and remove don't know; they're not informed in any way. So, you're free to add and remove people at will without the social friction involved in normal following and unfollowing.

When you add someone to a private list, you don't need to follow them, so it can be a completely silent way of keeping an eye on certain accounts.

You can much more easily keep track of a follow-list of just a few accounts. Keep it reserved for only those you really want to keep track of. You'll find it's a real relief.

You can extend this idea to lists such as people you've met, or people at a company. There's no limit to how many private lists you can create, so make as many as suits you.

Unfortunately, lists are appallingly neglected by Twitter. The official web page and native app bury them so deep, most people would never know they exist.


Use Twitter clients that make using lists better

I use a couple of clients that make Lists first-class citizens in the Twitter world.

  1. Tweeten or TweekDeck. These clients allow you to add lists as columns and then add notification sounds and pop-up toasts to them. You can move your follow-list to be the first column and it becomes your new default timeline. I have several lists to the left and my "real" timeline far to the right. I only rarely dip into the firehose.

  2. Fenix (or similar). This is an Android app. If you need something for iOS, I'm sure you'll be able to find something similar. Fenix allows you to put your lists in its slide-out menu, making them easy to access. It also shows you how many unread tweets you have in the list.

Using this strategy makes it much easier to track accounts you're interested in and frees you up to follow more accounts, enriching your main timeline and making services such as Nuzzel much more interesting.

Screenshot of Fenix on Android showing the slide-out menu.