Jim's Marketing Blog

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Twitter and me

As you might already know, I stopped using my @jimconnolly Twitter account on 31st of January; one of the top 50 most followed Twitter accounts in the world.  The reason for this, was that following tens of thousands of people took up way too much time – largely because of the hundreds of Direct Messages I received each day, (usually over 500 a day and occasionally over 1,000).

By trying to’ do the right thing’, I got it all wrong!

I got it wrong.  As a community builder, I wanted to follow everyone who followed me.  This worked initially; until the numbers grew so huge, so fast, with SO MANY people feeling the need to Direct Message me! The reason the numbers grew so fast, is because I wrote a LOT here about Twitter and this is a very well-read blog.  Each post is read by thousands of people and I have posts here with 200, 300 and in one case, a post about Twitter which has over 600 comments.

In just a few months, I attracted over 23000 followers.  At the time, even Chris Brogan (a Social Media genius), had taken 2 years to attract just 15,000 more followers.  My Twitter account grew too big, too fast.

Following back

Following so many people back is what caused my problem.

I would still have seen ALL the @jimconnolly messages sent to me, without following everyone back – and these were almost always the most valuable. PLUS, I would have had MORE TIME to respond and connect with more people, because I would not have been ploughing through several thousand Direct Messages each week. But it was too late – So, I decided to leave that Twitter account.

Tweeting again “small time”

I had a ‘chat’ last Thursday with Laura Fitton @pistachio, and explained what had happened with my account and why I was no longer using it.  Laura is a REAL expert when it comes to Twitter and has always been super helpful to me. Laura explained that I could actually clear the account, so I could keep the same Twitter user name (which is my actual name,) and use it to follow friends, clients and contacts.

In 5 minutes, I had lost well over 23,000 followers.

I had an account with 0 following and 0 followers.

As a result, my @jimconnolly account is active again – BUT this time, I am only following friends, clients and those who actually want to chat with me, (which will be quite a large number in itself.) If I am not following you on Twitter and you want to get in touch without sending a tweet to me (for whatever reason) – you can contact me WITHOUT being limited to 140 characters.  After all, I have always been extremely easy to get in touch with.

I’m VERY contactable without Direct Messages!

  • You can call me on 01427 891274 if you need to speak with me.
  • You can email me via the blog, if you want to write to me.
  • You can get in touch with me via a comment on the blog, if you want to share your feedback with thousands of other people.
  • You can send a message to @jimconnolly via Twitter if you want to share your message in 140 characters.
  • You can even write to me via snail-mailMy FULL postal address is here.

I think you would agree, I make it very easy for people to get in touch.

The ‘right’ way to use Twitter!

It’s weird – we live in a society where it’s ‘cool’ to say “I’m learning all the time,” yet it’s ‘uncool’ to say; “I made a mistake and I’m putting it right!” So, I’m about to be very uncool!

I believe that each person should feel free to use their account however they want; so long as it’s not breaking any of Twitter’s rules.  For me, it’s all about the value of the connections I make and NOT how many people I have following me.  The value is in the quality, NOT the volume!

Robert Scoble @scobleizer follows 65,000 people.  Darren Rowse @problogger follows around 9,000 people and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams @ev follows around 900 people. Each uses Twitter the right way FOR THEM.

All I know for certain, is that following over 20,000 people was wrong FOR ME.

I hope you can appreciate my decision and maybe even learn something from my experience.

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  1. Good for you guy. Only people obsessed with their own follower numbers will have a problem with this kind of honest approach.

  2. People impose upon themselves varying levels of demand to read and reply. If you are a person who really hates to make somebody feel ignored (like I do), then it is very demanding to keep up with a lot of people.

    I can certainly appreciate the message here. I also try to be extremely accessible and I never like to miss anything. On the other hand, I saw a tweet today from a woman being rude to somebody because they no longer followed her back. She made a statement that sounded as if she would only follow somebody who showed an interest in doing business with her.

    The lesson is that there are all types, whether on Twitter or at the local grocery. Hopefully you will enjoy your new methods.

    • Thanks Mark!

      I am lucky to count Seth Godin as someone I occasionally share ideas with. The reason Seth doesn’t allow comments on his blog, is that he feels the need to respond to each one and ensure everyone understands everything. I don’t have that issue with my blogs – BUT I do with Twitter. You are right, I hate to make people feel ignored and thus had to invest a huge amount of time sifting through DM’s. yeah, I could have ignored them, but that’s not me.

  3. I do not follow all the people who follow me. I look at their profile, their last 20 tweets and then figure out whether we have anything in common.

    I know that it may seem a bit rude. But I do not want to wade through lots of tweets that I have no interest in reading.

    If some one I follow persistenly posts personal or information not interesting for me, I unfollow.

    I think it makes lot more to pay attention to a few people and their tweets than be buried in all that information of no interest to me personally or professionally.

  4. Just noticed you havent made any of your twitter links clickable. The others user names are hyperlkinks but yours are’nt. You’re not trying to build loads of followers again then Jim, no?

  5. Thanks for the honesty Jim!

    I never expect to get to your dizzy heights of 23k, but often feel the same about my 500+ followers; keeping up with their going’s on is always interesting, but I never find the time to respond to as many as I would like!

    When I do let loose & get into chats with nice people all over the world, it’s great, but the hours then just seem to race by!

    The whole Social Media scene is fascinating for me, and especially the Small Business Marketing area you focus on (that’s why I keep turning up like a bad penny!).

    This is because I am a fledgling business, building up after redundancy, taking the message out to the less online businesses I meet that there are New Ways to market in this New World, post 2008!

    I am also a great proponent of the view that we are moving from a Masculine (hard sell/loadsa money/complexity) Economy to a much more Feminine (transparent, networking, nurturing) one, and SocMed is at the very heart of that picture!

    Thanks again for your transparency on this occasion – it serves as a beacon for those of us feeling the same, but not always understanding why!

    Keep em coming!

  6. Howard,

    Thanks for understanding my position & for being so honest about your own.

    After I stopped using my account, stacks of people told me (privately) that they had the exact same problem as me.

    Not everyone gets such a high percentage of direct messages from their followers. I spoke with one person, who has more followers than I had, who only got around 20 DM’s a day; because of the nature of their relationship with their followers. That makes it MASSIVELY easier to cope with large numbers.

    I think we each have a different limit we can cope with. The trick seems to be finding that sweet-spot and staying there.

  7. To be honest, Jim, when you were initially on Twitter, I sent you a couple of tweets to try to get to know you, but I think they got lost in the shuffle and I never received a response from you. My first gut reaction was that either you were rude, didn’t care about me as a follower or you were a snob. That was just my perception and I quit following you. Now that you have cleared this up, I feel somewhat guilty that I unfollowed you as a result of my judgment.

    I have a difficult time following 750 people, let alone 20K. I can’t imagine it. I won’t follow you on twitter, but I will read your blog and comment when the mood strikes.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and the opportunity to pipe in.

  8. Snow,

    One of the headings on the above post is; “By trying to’ do the right thing’, I got it all wrong!”

    Your comment is an excellent example of this. By trying to follow everyone, I almost missed everything.

    You are an extremely welcome member of the blog and I look forward to getting to know you via your comments here.

    Sorry I missed you before Snow!


  9. This is interesting.
    I am struggling on how to deal with Twitter. I think what you’ve written is a completely valid point of view. More so, it is the pragmatic and practical way to approach the situation. However, the flip side to this is that I see Twitter as a conversation. If I follow someone, I want them to follow me back, and it seems rude if they do not. I feel so strongly about this, that often when I see someone with a number of followers orders of magnitude greater than who they follow, I will just not follow them as I expect they won’t follow me back.

    This all leaves me the choice of being a hypocrite, or following more people than I can hope to really read. Chances are I’ll only ever notice the “noisiest” people.


    • David,

      I used to feel the same way about it being rude not to reciprocate with follows. THEN I realised that there was no point in someone with more than 1000 followers following me anyway – as they would miss almost everything I said in all the ‘noise’! All people ‘see’ when they have stacks of followers, is stuff sent @them.

      Just do what’s right for you David.

  10. I agree with you Jim, there’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter (unless you’re a spammer). We are going to learn a lot from your experience with Twitter. Thanks.

  11. Rene,

    Thanks for your comment. I am buoyed by the support I have received thus far.

  12. I agree with Dorai – that’s my approach as well. I don’t get offended if someone I follow doesn’t follow me back. I don’t auto-follow, auto-reply, or anything else either. I tried it and didn’t like it.

    Twitter is about conversation, not noise.

    • Lisa,

      You are 100% correct about ‘noise.’ No matter what software you use, with ‘too big’ a network the noise kills the conversation. Like David said a few comments earlier, you end up only hearing the people who make most noise.

  13. very very true – and if that noisiest person isn’t one I’m interested in, then they’re getting in the way – and I unfollow.

    I’d also like to add that I’ll sometimes unfollow someone, then follow them again at a later time. If they’re tweeting about their drunken weekends but they’re really a terrific business resource, then I go back and forth. I try to mix up my tweets with relevant info, with some fun worked in :)

  14. Lisa,

    I now find myself wondering who your drunken tweeters are.

    The drunken tweeters.

    Sounds like a pub name of the future 😉

  15. lol – and I bet it would be VERY popular! 😉

  16. I always wondered how you (and others) kept up with tens of thousands of people. :)

    Good to hear that you’re settled in to something more comfortable now.

    I think this whole thing will only further the relationships you created. Out of those tens of thousands that you “connected” with before, the ones who truly want to connect will surface now.

    • Tim,

      Thanks for another useful comment. Truth is, as one guy who follows 22,000 literally just told me, Pretty much all I see are DM’s and @replies.

      What you miss by following tens of thousands, is the stuff people SHARE that ISN’T @sent or DM’ed to you – which is 99.99% of Twitter.

  17. the truth is people like us, people who market have killed twitter. I call it the rape of an interface. I look at my twitter account and it is all URL’s now. A spammer paradise which means we no longer read the messages. Ijustine who I love promotes contests in twitter which means her users are spamming twitter for her. This will kill the usefulness of the interface and we all suffer from method saturization.. meaning it is time to find something new.

  18. Jim,
    I hope things work for you. There are strong arguments in your post, yet I am not sure to have had the answer to a simple question: Why did you tweet in the first place? and then, Do you still have the same reasons?
    From a pragmatic point of view, I use it just to give our visitors a trendy way to get in touch and provide feedback. They can also follow special accounts for the deals and coupons we publish instead of subscribing to the newsletter. Meaningful conversation over twitter? Please, this hurts either the meaning of meaningful, or the purpose of twitter. IMHO for professionals this is a marketing tool or an ego-enhancer. Fortunately we have a choice!

  19. Toma Bonciu - SEO Services

    February 15, 2009 at 18:02

    Hi Jim,

    I also tried to follow more and more people trying to get clients but soon I found out that the only thing I was doing is seeing information I wasn’t interested in.

    Now I’m concentrating on quality rather then quantity but I decided not to un-follow the ones that tweet about things no related to my niche market.

    I also found that I can drive more traffic to my blog by using other social networks like LinkedIn.

    I still like Twitter but it’s consuming a lot of time if you want others to interact with you and click on your links. I think the basic principle on Twitter is “post every day if you want others to talk to you”.

    Thank you

  20. Gabriel,

    I use twitter to connect with people. Its also useful for discovering new things.

    Theres obvious limits to what you can do via 140 characters.

  21. Glad to see you back. Really, who follows thousands of people? I lose track of my friends when i hit the number 7…Anyway you’ve always got some good tips so it’s nice to see you haven’t given up. :)

  22. Jim,

    I do not want to give you more work, so do not feel a need to respond. I just wish to complement your dedication to engaging with your readers. Social networking, blogging, and friendship in all forms is based on two-way communication. You have clearly embraced this fact.

  23. Good for you! It’s easy to get obsessed with the ‘numbers’ on twitter and forget all about business, which for me is making friends, serving others and having fun. Cheers!

  24. An excellent post Jim.

    You’ve stated your situation brilliantly and I can see this as a good instructional post for those who are thinking of racking up the punters just to say that they did.

    I am glad to see you back on Twitter, as I thought you were gone for good there for a bit, though I am subscribed to your rss and read your posts as they come up, but it’s also good to have that personal interaction, even if it is limited to 140 characters. 😉

  25. Jim, You post makes perfect since. As a new Twitter user, I am still learning the does and don’ts and already know that following thousands would not be a feasible option for me because of the time involved alone. By all means, don’t look at your experience as “I Got It Wrong”, instead as one of those necessary detours along the way to Getting it Right.

  26. You may want to try it again, and maybe be more selective?
    As a very new twitter,I expected it to be a place where one can find people with similar interests, wherein groups will naturally form, large enough to provide diversity, but small enough to benefit from everyone’s input.Which is very often not the case.My guess is that in groups over 100 most of the info is lost=noise.But then I understood there’s also a popularity contest going on, so it’s not really about connections and interestingness, it’s more about fame…M-hmm.They should put it on the front page, just to be clear for everyone:”Contest ongoing!Biggest number wins!” But then again, we are all free to give and take whatever we need, and obey our own standards of quality.Best of luck, Jim!

  27. Anna,

    Not sure how much of my post you read, but your suggestion, to try again and be more selective, is actually what the whole post was about.

  28. Well done, Jim. I hope my post does not cause the negative side-effect to generate loads of followers you have to deny following… http://tinyurl.com/cu58vm

  29. An earlier comment summed up how I decide who to follow:
    “I do not follow all the people who follow me. I look at their profile, their last 20 tweets and then figure out whether we have anything in common.”

    My contact email is readily available on my web site (which is easily seen in my Twitter profile) and is almost 100% guaranteed to get ahold of me. I scan my @ replies and try to respond to any that are still relevant.

    I am shocked at the dm’s my little account gets, but even more shocked when I click a link that looks interesting and does not even have a valid URL. Thus I do not feel to bad about not responding to dm’s, esp if they are not following me.

  30. Hi Jim,

    I don’t know.

    Currently I have less than 10% of the followers you had and I am having trouble trying not to be rude. I feel bad if they do an @calgreg and I don’t have time to respond.

    However, I’ve done testing and found that we are lucky if 2% of your followers see your tweets at all. So, if you want to get a good message out, to grow your blog perhaps, then your results will be pitiful unless you gather a ton of followers.

    If I had a blog already in the big time like you do (and very deservedly, I might add) then I could dump Twitter.

    OR, I could go on collecting lots of followers and just do the best I can and not worry about the people who hate me for not responding. Hey, I would never have met them anyway, right? Nor they, me. It’s a wash.

    I want to declutter my life. One way I am doing that is selling off my domain names and websites and whittling those down to a precious few (Adsense revenue).

    So, I do totally understand your decision. I think it is right for you. I will be popping in here as often as possible as well.

    Keep up the great work, Jim!

  31. welcome back! i missed yah. oddly i was going to stop by with a comment that i had stopped following your blog as closely b/c lack of Tweeting when your newsletter arrived. you’re just too good at branding yourself Jim. too good. you spent just enough time away for me to miss you. and poof you return. lastly DM on Twitter isn’t a good communication tool at all. Twitter to me is all about letting it all hang out publicly. (though information control is grand too:) join the conversation and follow up via email.

  32. I read the last (related) post and am glad to hear you’ve come back around to Twitter. I have been on 2 or 3 weeks maybe, and recently did a follow dump. I was trying to do the “follow your followers” with all nonspammers, but it was overwhelming. I can only imagine what 20,000 would have been like! Now I’ve adopted a policy of interesting + relevant (valuable/resourceful). A lot of Tweeps post the same links–which one the does it in the most amusing, concise way? Some are interesting but don’t really add value (and throw in lots of drama). I’m sure the policy will get tweaked over time, but it helps.

  33. Thanks for the insight on Twitter, we at TPI are very interested in new media.

  34. Hi Jim – I’m beginning to have the same sort of problem as you with only 300+ followers. It’s funny how when we join twitter we get obsessed with the number of followers we have – then when we have a lot we suddenly realise we can’t cope.

    My best experiences with twitter have come from interacting with people with shared interests. Too many random tweets and DMs and I can’t spot these people any more.

    I’m going to follow your lead and be much more careful about who I follow – and certainly stop the autofollowing.


  35. You are incorrect about Chris Brogan Jim.

    He isnt a social media genius. He is a broadcaster. When I used to tweet I quickly realized he was not communicating with people. He was only able to see what his followers were saying AT him. No way can a person communicate with as many followers as him.

    Hes making a very amature mistake. How can a professional communicator set up a communication channel and then fail to interact with 99% of the people? Sorry Jim but you are wrong on this one 😉

  36. Caroline,

    Chris Brogan may or may not be a genius but he is not how you described him in my experience. Perhaps he has reached a saturation point but I think he is rushing to shore that up with outside help.

    Chris Brogan is A++ in my book.

  37. Greg,

    You make an excellent point. Considering how many people he follows, I think he does great.

  38. Jim – I understand your desire to reset the number YOU follow. But I think it’s terribly sad that you also reset the number who were following you. This wasn’t their mistake.

    • Vicki,

      It would have been extremely arrogant and totally unfair of me, to delete everyone I followed BUT keep THEIR follows. This way, I am slowly being re-followed by all the people who originally followed and spoke with me. I am now able to deliberately develop a high quality, smaller twitter network. Sadly Vicki, the reason there’s still thousands who have not found me is that they are the ones, who never read my blog.

      Otherwise, they would have known I was back a week ago, when it was announced. That post, announcing my return, got over 20,000 hits last week!

  39. Hi Jim,

    Another ‘challenge’ I noticed for these people with lots of followers is polluting their stream with of “@keen_fan yeah it was good” or “@keen_fan thanks” tweets. This seems to happen when the person has 5mins and wants to bang out a load of responses. Since the Twitter interface doesn’t allow conversation following without clicking on each msg its not too great a user experience for followers i.e. the content:tweet ratio is pretty low. I guess that’s a reason why following back might be a good idea: you could send a direct msg in reply to banale tweets and keep the stream for more interesting stuff that would appeal to a broader audience.
    Just a thought…
    Ps. loved the tone of the post

  40. Sorry, my previous post doesn’t make sense. The person being followed can send a direct message to the follower without needing to follow back. So, just send a DM and keep the stream clean for ‘the good stuff’ 😉

  41. Welcome back into the fold Jim, I thought I saw your “old” twitterID pop up in an RT t’other day…

  42. It’s liberating to scale back the chitter (chatter on twitter!)

  43. I’ve decided to migrate at least half of my efforts over to Facebook this week.

    I posted some Facebook stats in my blog. They definitely opened my eyes.

    I still love Twitter, but I think we need a recouperative separation?

  44. I’m so glad that I came across this post. I just thought to myself “I haven’t seen Jim Connelly on Twitter. What the heck happened to him?” Kudos to you for making the decision to re-tool your Twitter strategy. I agree that the Twitter noise can be deafening and each person should have their own tactic for handling follows. I hope that your new plan works out for you. Best of luck!

  45. Your right!

    The root of the problem for is “Thank for Following” DMs.

    My preference is to follow back and un-follow if tweets are all self promotions vs. twittering worthwhile ideas and links.

  46. Wonderful!

    The internet world is evolving at an incredible rate and I’m delighted that someone else is also having difficulties in keeping up. Plus Jim has the strength of character to own up. The longer I spend at this game the more I appreciate such honesty.

  47. Mike,

    Thanks – I really appreciate that!

  48. How does one “clear” their Twitter account quickly, without having to “unfollow” or “block” ~ one by one…by one by one… for hours?

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