So let me start off saying that the title of this post is a total lie. I actually joined Twitter on April 1st, 2008 like the April Fool that I am. So at 517 days at this moment, I’ve been a member for more than a year. That said, I was mostly a lurker for much of that first Spring and Summer so I consider it a full year ago that I started to use the service in earnest. (Incidentally, a fun if single purpose site is http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com/ which lets you know how many days you have been using Twitter).

Here is how my Twitter use has changed and evolved over that time:

  • Lurker: In the early days, I left my account mostly dormant. I “didn’t get it” for a few months. I only followed people I was friends with in real life and didn’t follow anyone back. I also rarely tweeted.
  • Frantic Follower: Around the time that I started this blog, I started to really use Twitter in earnest. I honestly do not remember how I found the first few people that I followed. I just know that each new person I found led me to other similarly useful people with each retweet and I started to build up a list of people I started to follow. If I liked you, I followed the people you followed. I started to use the service almost every day and really liked having a network of people to bounce ideas off of and discuss things with. The more I tweeted and engaged others, the more followers found me and the more interesting people I found to connect with. I started tweeting out dozens of tweets a day or more.
  • Serial Follower: As I became more active on Twitter, the number of followers I had started to go up and up. Then, I got lazy. I didn’t feel like manually taking a look at each new follower and seeing who was worth following so I found a service that auto-followed every person who followed me. My rationale was that if anyone was tweeting things I didn’t like or turned out to be a spammer, I could just unfollow them later. Unfollowing a few bad eggs seemed like less work than manually evaluating each person who followed me. Around this time, I started rocking the TwitterFox plugin for Firefox to help me manage what was now 6 Twitter accounts I was managing.
  • Addicted and Overwhelmed: Though I was still only following new people at my usual rate, auto-following everyone who followed me suddenly gave me far too many updates to reasonably manage from the Twitter website. I downloaded the wonderful TweetDeck (this is still my favorite client) and created a “Favorites” list out of my followers and a few keyword lists. This ensured that I never missed anything from my favorite people that I followed and the keyword lists alerted me to anything else relevant to my interests that the rest of my followers were saying. As for the main list of everyone I followed, I only glanced at it from time to time. I also became a little unhealthily obsessed with Twitter. I used to leave it on all the time in the background of working and was a slave to the little noise TweetDeck makes when a new message comes in.

The past few weeks, I have found myself approaching Twitter differently than before. For starters, while it was fine for me at the start to auto-follow everyone who followed me, the bad eggs on Twitter nearly outnumber the good now that the site has become so popular so I finally had to turn off auto-following as the number of auto-DMs I was getting rendered DMs useless. So I am back to following manually as I go, doing a bulk “vetting” process a few times a month to follow relevant followers. I haven’t been doing this long enough to know how not auto-following will affect the growth of my follower list but I had to do something. Now I find most of my new people to follow from recommendations from others and by reading their blogs. Ever wonder who actually takes that Follow Friday advice? I do. ­čÖé

On a side note, I don’t unfollow people just because they unfollow me. I know a lot of people do that but if I enjoy your tweets, why should I care if you don’t enjoy mine?

Secondly, the Twitter follow limits were causing me a lot of grief. I kept hitting the follow limit and then I couldn’t follow the people that I was interested in. This caused me to go through several slash and burn runs through my follower list and get rid of spammers or tweets that weren’t relevant to my interests. It took far too long and I cannot help but feel like it was a waste of time that Twitter made me jump through those hoops.

Thirdly, I no longer check Twitter obsessively. For days when I have a light work load, I still load TweetDeck in the background for the full Twitter overload experience. Most days, however, I just keep track of my Twitter keywords via RSS and only pop in to tweet if something is relevant on most of my accounts. On busy days, I am more likely to Tweet and Run where I will post something quick and then not stick around to see what people say. On less busy days, I will sit and chat like I did when I first started the service.

The biggest change in my Twitter use over the year has been the understanding that Twitter is an information superhighway that I don’t need to drive every day. I can pop in for a quick chat when there is a hot button issue, new news story or other need for discussion but I don’t need to be addicted to it.

As a tool, it is still invaluable. I love having a network of similar professionals to discuss issues with (even if that discussion is just me watching them talk to others) and it has been an amazing marketing tool for my blog and business. I am still using Twitter and still getting benefits from it but, as it has evolved, so has my use of it.

But how about you? Have you noticed yourself using Twitter differently now than you did when you first started?

Give us your two cents below. Oh and please consider following me on Twitter as @HillaryDePiano.