Something happened on Twitter this morning (and the specifics of what happens on Twitter stays on Twitter as far I’m concerned) which led to a brief exchange of tweets with @paulmirvine (and including @pezholio) about how you use / view / manage Twitter.

I’ve seen other people blog about their Twitter ‘policy’ on following / unfollowing and I guess this has spurred me to write something similar. So, here is my informal strategy and policy on using / managing Twitter (and let’s be clear – this is about my personal Twitter @sarahlay not the organisation’s account).

I follow a range of people – currently 237 of them. I think I can divide them roughly into four groups:

  • Other public sector / local government online communcations people. I follow them because of the immense knowledge I can tap into and share with them. We’re facing similar challenges so it makes sense to share the solutions (or battles won/lost). It works out well for me that they are also, in the main, good people who when not tweeting about work are still interesting to me.
  • ‘real life’ friends. This category is becoming problamatic to define as time roles on. When I first started out on the internets (way back before the turn of the millenium) it was very distinct – people I knew and socialised with offline and those I had never physically met but socialised with online. The two are now merging. But in this case I mean this group to be people who I mainly know offline and see regularly in the physical world. We carry on the conversation online. For a while this group were mainly confined to Facebook but now are straying onto Twitter and so another once easy separation is blurred (Facebook = socialising vs Twitter = work)
  • Music – I love music. I go to a fair amount of gigs, still listen to albums and seeing as I also love writing these two things often collide (mainly on my other blog Mirror of the Graces). I’ve ‘met’ people on Twitter who have read my reviews after being at the same gig as me, or being into the same band or artist.
  • Celebrities – only a few. None of the big Twitter celebrities. The sort of people who I might write about over on that other blog mainly.

There are a few people who don’t really fit into any of these categories. There are many more than now could be slotted into more than one. The main duel-category people are those I mainly follow because they work in online local gov but who I often speak to about music/sci-fi/shoes and have met in real life (outside of a work setting).

I think this comes back to the line between work and life. A line that is being constantly re-drawn in the sand and really only signifies that, for me and I think for others in a similar role to me, the line is not so much a line as a nice concept. My work and my life are both online and the two are bound to collide. I’m going to post both work-related and life-related things to my blogs, to Twitter etc.

I think Dave Briggs made some good points, which can be applied to this, in his presentation at PSF Buzz NE. He said that with social media you aren’t going to like everything. You can apply this to people online (and offline) as well – you’re not going to like or be interested in everything I tweet about.  I am sure my offline friends get bored of my work-related tweets and that sometimes people following me as a professional contact think I am spouting too much personal stuff.

Dave also said there is no such thing as too much information, only an inability to filter properly. I skim read through my tweets / Facebook news feed / RSS / email etc. I pass over things that don’t look relevant to me or aren’t what I am looking for at that particular time. I make decisions about how far back I am going to look when I’ve been offline for a while. I filter. Sometimes I do it better than others. Sometimes I drop people temporarily because I’m not interested in what they’re saying at that time. I hope people would do the same to me!

But it is through this filtering and the range of subjects from the same person that the serendipitous discovery of a new tweep is made (Dave Briggs spoke about this also). By seeing a tweet from so and so I find this person, follow them, they led to another person and so the network grows and becomes even more valuable.

A suggestion was made that perhaps having a work Twitter identity and a personal Twitter identity is the way to go. I don’t think this would work for me. It feels a bit like having multi-personalities. It also seems like it would be a hassle to make sure I had the right account for the right tweet and, as I’m pretty lazy, the novelty of that will wear off quick. This also makes my filtering harder as I have two places on Twitter alone to monitor (three if you count the organisation’s account). No, not for me the splitting of the tweets.

For me, Twitter is place full of noisy chatter on a range of subjects with people from all areas of my life. I think this is why I find it so valuable and also so enjoyable. I like that people are themselves on there. They post amazingly useful things for my work life but they’ve also offered great advice on music, on travel, on raising a toddler. And if I get boring or annoying I hope that people will unfollow me. Twitter is one of the networks where this is easy to do so I hope people use the option.

So what does all this comes down to? Well, pretty much a mindspew of a post but the summary of manage the mix,  filter the flow and don’t be offended if you’re unfollowed 😉

(and yeah, I know, I wasn’t really intending to be posting over here yet but nevermind…things will get prettier shortly, until then you’ll just have to bear with my undecorated look)