Why I'm Qwitting You On Twitter

This is a Dear John letter to my Tweople.

Listen, it's been great hanging out these past few months. Twitter feels like it's hitting the mainstream and things are really heating up. And that's the problem.

When I first started using the service, it was like I was listening in to the superstars of marketing, writing, and social media. I'd been reading their blogs for year, but now I was offered a glimpse into their real lives (OMG, Guy Kawasaki likes spam musibi!).

And this Twitter thing had a positive business application as well. By watching the superstars, I was able to stay current with up-to-the-minute news. I read the articles they recommended, decreasing the time I spent searching for good content and increasing the time I spent reading it. I was even able to engage them myself and network a little.

The most important aspect of all was that I could follow discussions occurring between them. If Brian from Copyblogger and Liz Strauss get into an argument, I want to know about it! These conversations taught me to be a better marketer, expanded my thinking, and consoled me that the best minds were wrestling with the very same issues I was.

When Things Went Wrong

This break-up: it's not me, it's you. It's the fact that you're too good for me.

As I found more and more smart marketers to follow, I expanded my customized news feed and my learning capability. Don't get me wrong, I was very selective. But I wanted too much.

Everything that made Twitter useful to me was being overshadowed in the torrent of content, ideas, and conversation. I was following people who were too good, too interesting, too smart - and it was just too much.

Roundtablers, Cacophonists, Spammers, and Me

I've noticed four (very) general variations when it comes to a particular person's follower/following volume and ratio.

Roundtablers are content with following a handful of people and usually have only a handful follow them back. Maybe they prefer the intimacy of these small conversations.

Other folks are very popular and want to reciprocate. The result is a large numbers of followers and followees (think @JasonCalacanis). It's a cacophony of voices.

Sometimes the ratio is uneven. If you follow 5,000 people and only 10 have deemed you worthy of a follow back, you look like a spammer. Either that or you got excited after just joining Twitter and went on a rampage.

And then there are people like Ike Pigott, Greg Verdino, and me who have lots of followers, but are following (relatively) very few.

You Guys Really Think You're All That?

We follow a few people and lots of people follow us. What gives?

We're content producers. We're not in it because we care about the number of followers we have or amassing a cult behind us. (I am referring to most people with similar Twitter ratios; not speaking for Ike or Greg, of course.)

We write. We produce content that interests us. Thankfully, it interests other people too and that's great. We still read a lot, but there is limited time in the day. We might be open to starting a relationship or engage in discussion, but we're selective.

A recent HP Labs research paper about Twitter (hat tip to Jeremiah Owyang) claims that "the number of people a user actually communicates with ['friends'] eventually stops increasing while the number of followees can continue to grow indefinitely." In other words, you wouldn't gain my attention if I reciprocated to everyone who followed me. In fact, it's likely I would interact less. "[U]sers with many actual friends tend to post more updates than users with few actual friends."

By keeping my interactions meaningful, I can create more friendships and that will probably result in more tweets for the community at large. Which means I can provide more relevant content for you (which is the goal for me anyway).

I know there are technologies that can help me sort and organize tweets, but I've still only got one pair of eyeballs. I'm not interested in Tweetdeck or anything like that - maybe I'm stuck in my ways. But I do know you deserve someone who can give you the attention you deserve. And it ain't me, babe.

And that's why, in order to stay sane, I've gotta qwit you.

(Image courtesy of misteraitch via Flickr)