When I’m talking to people about social web sites, one of the questions I often get asked (usually just after the one about whether you actually need to join all the social networks, just because everyone else is) is “how do you keep up with everything?” People are often concerned about the amount of time it takes to read all of those tweets or updates, and wonder how in the world they will be able to keep up with everything, while still finding time for their work or hobbies. My answer sometimes surprises people: you don’t have to keep up with everything.
I don’t read every post or update on all of my social web sites. The secret to participating without losing your sanity is that you don’t need to read everything. Think about it like a river of information. When you have a few minutes, you can dip your toes into the water for a little break, but you don’t need to spend the entire day swimming in it. Participating in social web sites is like a huge chat room. You participate when you can, but you don’t need to catch up on the conversations that you missed during the times when you weren’t in the chat.
Each of us have slightly different ways to keep up with social web sites. For the rest of this post, I’ll focus on Twitter, since it seems to be one that can be the most difficult to keep up with for many people.
My strategy for improving Twitter efficiency has three components: smarter use of applications, ignoring Twitter and following fewer people. I use TweetDeck to manage the flow of information by filtering my stream to focus on the updates that I care about the most, and I ignore a lot of what happens on Twitter. I keep up with what I can while letting the rest stream past me.
Chris Brogan talks about how to use Twitter at high volume (he follows almost 90,000 people). He also thinks of it like a river of information. Chris uses applications to pick out what he can and lets the rest stream past. He also uses search extensively, and considers it to be the most important part of the Twitter experience.
Augie Ray has a twenty minutes per day strategy for managing Twitter. The idea is that you dip into Twitter five times per day, spending three minutes each time to read a few posts, check @replies and direct messages, and post your update or respond to someone else. This leaves you with five minutes per day to search for interesting information and find other people that you might want to follow.
How do you manage your flow of information on social websites?
Photo by Flickr user keepitsurreal, used under Creative Commons licencse.