Tonight I declared Twitter bankruptcy.

Earlier today, I joked with a friend that had unfollowed me on Twitter.

I said:

Three – you unfollowed me on twitter. I almost deleted my account that day, because it was a black, black day in the micah twitter world. I am only joking through my tears… :)

He said:

No worries ;) I still read every blog entry. I could explain better in person. I think you are one of the most awesomest people in the industry, I just use twitter differently than others. (emphasis mine)

For some reason, that really got me thinking. What do I use Twitter for?

Until now, it was clear to me. Access and interaction. I have tweeted my cell phone number (720-231-7120). I have tweeted my exact location via brightkite (add me if you want to). I tended to tweet often (according to TweetStats).

But as most things go, has Twitter value changed for me? Was I using it differently than others? Should I change how I use Twitter?

I took a look at the people that I admire for their openness, accessibility, quality of message, frequency of message and purpose of message.

There was a pretty big range.

My friends like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble [people that use twitter both as an interactive tool and as a promotional tool] tended to follow about as many people as followed them. In most cases, the number of followers/following numbered in the tens of thousands. They tweet about 60 times per day.

My friends like Brad Feld and Eric Marcoullier [people that use twitter as a brain dump and a interactive tool] tended to have a couple of thousand followers, but only follow a couple of hundred folks. They tend to tweet about 6-7 times per day. (Apparently except for drunken times in Las Vegas at CES. One more ice cream tweet from you, Brad Feld, and you are unfollowed!)

I sat squarely in the middle. I have about 3,000 followers and followed around 750 people. I tweet 20 times per day. Most of my tweets were random thoughts, interactions or promotions.

So what to do? Experiment time.

I decided to do three things:

1) I would go through my following list (770+) and cull it. The intent was to get down to 200-300.

2) I would tweet less per day. Not sure how much less, but perhaps half as much?

3) Because I am tweeting less, I decided I needed to be more thoughtful about what I tweet as well as more judicious with the @replies. Basically, before replying ask myself this question “Is this something that would benefit everyone, or just that one person?” If it was just that one person, I would send a DM.

Seems simple enough.

I started culling. Here are the rules I followed (pun not intended!) to unfollowing:

  • Do you follow me?
  • Do I recognize you?
  • Do I remember a tweet from you in the last week?
  • Do I feel bad unfollowing you for any reason?
  • Have I met you face to face AND have we interacted more than if we were at a cocktail party?
  • Do I consider you a friend?

My following list went from 770-ish to 427, a lost of about 340-ish.

The next step was to determine why I would follow someone:

  • They interact with me enough to become an “online connection”;
  • I have dinner or drinks with them;
  • The potential for sex (just checking if you are still with me, or if you have completely puked by now);
  • Their preferred form of communication is twitter.

It was amazing. I set up Tweetdeck with four columns. All Friends, Direct Messages, Search @micah (so I can get all replies), and a Group: Friends (which is a subset of All Friends). People I hadnt see a tweet from in awhile, but were people that I really like, started to bubble up. Suddenly, the enormous cocktail party in a ball room, became a lavish dinner party at my house (if my house could fit 400 people in it lavishly).

I began to enjoy twitter more. It was like when I first started using Twitter when I was excited to see what my friends were saying.

For the next week or so, I am going to keep my following number low. I think its interesting and useful to understand the different ways that Twitter can be used. I will try and keep my tweeting to around 10 per day, with 3-4 of those @replies. There will be probably a huge jump in my direct message count, IMs, emails and other forms of content. Most of my tweets will be brain dumps (ideas) or promotional. Most of my @replies will be interactive in nature.

Curious to see if it modifies other online behavior (will people follow me less; unfollow me more?) Will I use Facebook, instant messaging, or (gasp!) the phone more?

Will I blog more often?

Hmmmm…..

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