How To Use Twitter Packs — And Twitter — Successfully

Twitter can be pretty intimidating. To people just starting out following few people, and with few followers of Flocking with those with similar interests on Twitter can help you get startedtheir own, it can seem like their words are disappearing into the ether.

After a few days of broadcasting into silence, those people drift away having never realized the immense potential of this tool.

I recently wrote about how to find people to follow on Twitter. Chris Brogan has gone one better.

The idea? Twitter Packs.

If someone were joining Twitter today, who should they follow?

The idea behind Twitter Packs is simple – create lists of people with shared interests, geography, etc, so that new users can find a few good people to follow and help them get up to speed on Twitter. Chris decided to use a wiki to let the community contribute to the lists.

Great idea in my book.

Problems

However, there are a few problems with the result. They largely result from the tool that is being used – the wiki.

Why? Because people on these lists may, over time, gain a lot of followers.  As a result, a lot of people want to be on those lists – just like Jeremiah Owyang‘s follow-fest a while back. In fact, the demand for the site has been so high that it was pretty hard to get access to edit the wiki for large parts of today.

Simply put, there’s a lot of chaff in amongst the wheat.

Another potential flaw – the possibility that these ‘packs’ lead to Twitter cliques and undermine the openness that is responsible for much of Twitter’s success. The potential is especially large with some of the race/sexual orientation/religion groups. However, that’s not the intention and I would hope there are equal benefits for people who may look for connections and support within those groups.

So, yes, there are flaws. Chris openly acknowledges the problems with Twitter Packs.

Still, it’s fundamentally a good idea. The question is:

How can you use Twitter Packs successfully?

I recommend four principles, which you can also apply to Twitter in general:

Open up

The sheer number of people who want to get involved requires Twitter Packs to split into narrowly-defined groups. Remember, though: they’re not intended to narrow your perspective.

If you live in Toronto (hello!) don’t just follow Torontonians. If you’re a marketer, consider following people in other professions. If you’re a runner, you’ll likely have things in common with cyclists too.

Be open with other people. Be careful, as you should always be online, but don’t define your own horizons as narrowly as these groups.

Recommendations as a guide, not as a rule book

Start with the lists and work from there. Don’t stop at the end of the list. Look at who those people are following. Who do you find interesting? Who says things that are relevant to you? Consider whether you want to follow them too.

Use your judgement

There’s a lot of “me too!” in the Twitter Packs. Don’t follow people blindly. Read what they say. Check out their blogs. Get a sense of who they are before you follow them.

Define “useful” as it applies to you. Don’t clutter your airwaves with people that have nothing useful to say.

Take Your Time

Ease in to your new-found community. Don’t rush in.

As you follow more and more people on Twitter, the way you use the tool will need to change. For example, you won’t be able to follow every message any more – you’ll have to be more selective. That’s a difficult enough transition without leaping head-first into it.

Furthermore, people will look at your follow/follower ration when they decide whether to follow you back (i.e. whether to listen to you) or not. Why? To avoid following the spammers who are starting to appear on Twitter. If you add a tonne of people at once it will skew your numbers, reduce the likelihood of people following you and lower the chance of you having a productive, positive experience.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Four tips for getting the most out of Twitter Packs:

  1. Open up
  2. Use recommendations as a guide, not a rule book
  3. Use your judgement
  4. Take your time

Experienced Twitterers – what tips would you offer for newcomers looking to use these lists?

(Photo credits: zzzed)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.