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Declutter and refine your Twitter feed

02 July 2017 - BY Kath McNiff

I’m a long-time fan of Twitter – it’s the go-to platform for researchers who want to raise their profile, share their work and keep tabs on the latest developments in their field.

But somewhere along the line my Twitter feed became impossibly chaotic. Nothing but a tangled mess of news items, work-related links, personal chats, political rants and celebrity gossip.

It was like a junk-filled closet that I was too afraid to open.

Last month I decided to step up and do something about it. Here is my plan of attack – if you’re suffering from Twitter overload it may help you too.

Get clear about your goals

Since joining Twitter in 2010, I’ve taken a largely ad hoc approach to choosing who I follow.

I started out following everyone who followed me (so polite!)

I followed family, friends and random people who tweeted something funny or inspirational. Without a strategy, my Twitter feed soon became a time-wasting liability instead of an educational asset.

It was time for a Twitter manifesto:

I want to follow and engage with people and organizations who consistently tweet useful and original content related to qualitative research in academia, business, education and health.

This simple statement helped me to get clear about my goals for Twitter and for my work-life in general!

Have a go at your own mission statement. There are 300 million accounts on Twitter, so it makes sense to have a blueprint for choosing among them.

If your interests are wide and varied – you could setup separate Twitter accounts and have a different manifesto for each one.

Start by Discarding

In her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo draws a connection between a messy home and mental fatigue.

According to Kondo, the best way to banish clutter is to “start by discarding”.

She’s mostly talking about sock drawers, but the logic applies to Twitter feeds too. You need to unfollow those accounts that are creating noise but are adding little value.

To get started, I used a free web tool called ManageFlitter to find and unfollow accounts that were inactive or fake.

Then, I worked my way through those users that were left and measured them against the manifesto:

  • Do they tweet consistently?
  • Are their tweets useful and original?
  • Are they tweeting about qualitative research in academia, business, health or education?

Along the way, I checked Twitter bios to better understand the goals of the users I followed - if they aligned with mine, then I continued to follow them.

Choose top-notch accounts to follow

Clearing out the time-wasters meant that I could start following more valuable accounts.

But how do you figure out who they are?

Hashtags are a tried and true way to find influencers and people who post great content. It’s worth taking a little time to:

  • Review the hashtags used by your favourite accounts (look in their bios and tweets).
  • Explore the conversations around a few of these hashtags and follow the people who post the best content.

You can also use tools like

  • Hashtagify to see the top ten hashtags related to a selected hashtag.
  • Right Relevance to find people and content based on your areas of interest.
  • NVivo to analyse conversations around a hashtag and pinpoint the influencers.

Also, don’t ignore the Twitter-generated suggestions about who to follow – they're often very useful.

If, like me, you’re interested in qualitative research here are a few accounts you should definitely check out:

Use Lists to take the pressure off your Twitter feed

In my 7 years on Twitter, I never really got to grips with using Twitter lists:

Use lists to organize your Tweets

But it turns out that they're great for keeping track of people in a specific niche without actually following them.

For example, I’m interested in social media but it doesn’t play a key role in my Twitter manifesto. Instead of following social media experts and having their content clutter-up my Twitter feed, I can put them in a list.

When I feel like a bit of social media research, I can open the list and see what all the members are tweeting about.

You can choose to share your lists or keep them private. Just be aware that people are notified when you add them to a public list – so avoid using titles like “Annoying Colleagues” or “Miscellaneous Junk”.

What are your strategies for making the most of Twitter?

I’ve come a long way towards getting my Twitter act together – but there's always more to learn.

How do you optimize your Twitter feed?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

NVivo is a qualitative data analysis tool that can help you analyse content from social media platforms like Twitter.

Download the free trial and give it a try.