Tweeting: how much is too much?

Well, 12 hours is too much!

Quoted online recently, Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone responded to “claims that some users are finding Twitter addictive, and spending up to 12 hours each day logged into the platform. ‘To me, that sounds unhealthy,’ he said.”

Hell yes!

I’m sometimes asked “how much should I tweet”?

There are no hard and fast rules – you bend social media to suit you – but I’ll take a leap and say 12 hours on Twitter a day requires intervention.

I’ve been accused of tweeting too much, and with more than 45,000 tweets under my belt I can see why people might make a case for that. I’ve had one young man approach me to say he’d unfollowed me on Twitter because I tweeted too much.

[Segue way: everyone’s Twitter experience is different. Your Twitter experience has been set up by you, and can be tweaked and changed if you’re not enjoying it. If you’re only following a handful of Twitter accounts, and one is more active than others, it will stand out like a child having a tantrum in a silent supermarket aisle. If you’re following many prolific accounts, they balance each other out and your stream doesn’t tend to focus on one person].

I’m happy with my level of tweeting and with the many things I use Twitter for, it makes sense.

I use Twitter for:

  • Business tweeting – promoting myself, sharing knowledge, reminding people of the work I do and what I can offer
  • Friendships – chatting to ‘real life’ friends, arranging to meet, checking on how they are, having conversations with them
  • Learning – reading, responding to and retweeting educational links
  • Conversations – joining in on regular hashtag conversations like #commschat or #SMOchat to talk about social media, PR, communications, marketing and so on
  • Keeping up with breaking news and sharing newsworthy items
  • Sharing what I’m doing with other social media tools  – sometimes checking in on Foursquare, sharing what I’m watching via Miso, sharing Instagram photos and so on
Weighing how much you tweet
Weighing how much you tweet

This means there are ebbs and flows with my tweets – and probably yours, too. For example:

  • When you’re taking part in a hashtag conversation, you might send off 6, 8, 20 tweets on one topic within half an hour
  • When you’re chatting to a few friends and trying to settle on a place to meet on the weekend, you might have quite a few back and forth tweets about that somewhat ‘mundane’ topic
  • When it’s the working day and you’ve got a tonne of tasks to get through or a deadline to meet, you may be quiet (and even unresponsive to tweets) for hours  and hours

The best Twitter connections, or friendships, are like the ones in real life. They stick with you, whether you’re in a particularly talkative patch, or whether you’re quiet and need to withdraw for a while.

Good tweeps will understand when you’re at a conference or other event and madly tweeting away on the hashtag. Good tweeps will understand that sometimes it takes 30 hours for you to respond to their tweet (of course, expectations of brands or organisations on Twitter will differ from the pressure placed on individuals). Good tweeps will be blind to your lengthy conversation with one pal.

That’s another thing that networks like Twitter have helped me to develop: speed reading / content filtering / tuning out skills. But don’t forget that social dashboard tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck also enable you to filter out a hashtag or topic for a period of time. So if you don’t want to know about #auspol or #respill any longer, you can block those tweets from appearing in your stream.

The best gauge of whether you’re tweeting “the right amount”?

The answer is whether you’re happy with your current Twitter experience. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

If “it is broke” then consider joining more conversations, initiating conversations, asking people how they are, joining hashtag streams. Your tweeps will appreciate that – that’s part of why many join Twitter in the first place.

19 thoughts on “Tweeting: how much is too much?

  1. I view twitter as a cobination of flicking through a magazine full of articles on topics I have selected, and listening in on other people’s conversation on a bus or in a crowd. If you aren’t interested in one, move on to the next! Sometimes you get those curious tweets that have come in the middle of a conversation and make no sense to anyone outside the conversation – and are amusing for it!

  2. I stopped really getting involved in Twitter about a year ago, then six months ago completely gave up reading it – except to be involved in actual social things. It was fun for a while, but in the end the cycle of neediness for external validation I was seeing sort of repulsed me – and also seeing it in myself.

    The last few months I’ve been spending more time with nonline friends and making new ones, and it’s kinda refreshing seeing them not refreshing their phones constantly to see what the rest of the world is doing.

    I said in a previous post of yours “Twitter is mostly an outlet for all the random oddball thoughts and visionary ideas that I used to annoy my real friends with on a daily basis – for that they thank me I’ve found Twitter to unleash on instead”, I’m not sure what happened, but at some stage I also stopped caring about telling jokes and making left-field observations about the world, and started refocussing the creative impulses internally to pursue greater things. Maybe.

    To answer the question, there’s no schedule, if you have a burning thought to put to the world or want people to know of some achievement then go ahead, and get involved in conversations and stuff – but not to the detriment of being present in your reality. Each thing you say may seem important at the time, but it’s fleeting, nobody will think you’re amazing for any one post, but you can certainly malign people with a single poor thought best kept to yourself.

    1. Thanks Ash. I think your comment is a good illustration of how we go through cycles on Twitter – and with a lot of things. We change or mature or evolve. For some anxious newcomers, ‘how often should I tweet’ is a frequent question but you show, again, that in the end you need to bend social media to suit you.

  3. Correct:

    “… 12 hours on Twitter a day requires intervention.”

    I loaded my twitter client shortly after getting up, and was “connected” through computer, phone, etc. up to the point when I closed my computer and went to bed. On an average day, that would be from around 9am to 1am with only a short time off the platform (maybe an hour or two).

    In the end, I got to a point I couldn’t handle it, and toyed with the idea of getting rid of my account. But then, I got a job, and now spend a little time in the morning and even keeping up with things.

    I now enjoy the time I spend there more than I did. I am no longer tweeting ridiculous amounts each day, and I can only assume those who follow me are thankful about that.

    1. Thanks for sharing that Coelmay. Again, it illustrates how Twitter can be there when we need it, but often we come around to a different level of use, over time and depending on our personal need.

    2. Forgot to add…

      When talking of tweet count, and people saying you tweet too much, that is also dependent on whether they also follow others you follow.

      For instance, I follow Prakky and we both follow another twitter user. Prakky and this other user are friends and use twitter to converse regularly, and as I follow them both, I see all @ replies.

      If I didn’t follow the other user, I would not see these in my stream, so therefore the frequency of Prakky’s tweets would be reduced. So, while a user may tweet, for example, 20 times a day, you may only see 10, or 15 of those tweets because the other 5 to 10 are replies to users you do not follow.

      Does that make sense?

  4. I think people perceive that if you’re on Twitter throughout the day, you must be sitting on it all day. That’s the impression I’ve gotten from a few spectators, at least.

    I use it throughout the day, but for very short periods each time. If I am in “work mode” I will generally give social media – in general – a more concerted amount of my time.

    Having said that, I use it for business purposes, as a new feed, during #qanda, and to pick fights / join in. It does many things, neatly.

  5. There are times when I see people who are having essentially a private conversation on Twitter where I would love to tell them to take it to SMS… or at the very least DMs. Especially when they live in the same house and are tweeting from different rooms!

    The odd thing that I often find is that I forget that I haven’t tweeted purely because I’ve been reading everybody else’s tweets. So I feel like I’m interacting, and feel like I know something about that person even though I’ve not really tweeted anything of “importance” for a day and a half.

    I always say that I fit Twitter into the spots in my life where there isn’t anything else going on. On the bus in the morning, at lunch when I’m at work, whenever I’m waiting for anything. If I’m currently having some sort of experience, I don’t want to be pulling myself away from it to comment about it (this isn’t a 100% hard and fast rule… I have tweeted from events, but I tend to find it hard to “walk and chew gum at the same time” when it comes to “live tweeting”).

    I’m also curious/dubious about the definition of “spending 12 hours logged into the platform” at the top of your post. I’m currently “logged in” to Twitter… I’m essentially never NOT logged in insofar as I never have to reenter my password… and while I may be doing other things during the day, I will probably spend 12 hours today with Twitter active in the background. If I was sitting there tweeting for 12 hours solid, that I can understand as being unhealthy… but just being “logged in”? I think Biz needs to define his terms.

    1. Thanks Yaniism, I mused over the “12 hours” thing too. Lots of tweeters don’t log out, as you say, and it’s always on in the background of some device.

      1. Sort of in line with this, I’ve recently turned off ALL notifications on my phone except for text messages. I don’t need to know the absolute second I’m mentioned on Twitter or Facebook, or when someone does something on Foursquare, or I get an email.

        All of these “apps” I log into now and then to browse, so I’ll find out then, they don’t need to be constant background noise.

        This little blog post makes sense: http://lifehacker.com/5886873/notifications-are-evil

      2. I’ve always had all notifications turned off: don’t understand why people want them. They’re overwhelming, intrusive and very annoying.

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