How Well Do You Use Your Twittersphere?

That title goes to the crux of why some people rave about Twitter and others reject Twitter.  Of course different folks have different tastes so that might explain this divide.  However another answer may be that some have learned how to use Twitter and others have not.

Twitter Guides


If you have just returned from Mars, and the word Twitter is new to you, then you may wish to back up and do some reading.  Google lists a host of Twitter Guides and any of the first three they list will probably give you more than sufficient information.

Indeed a guide seems almost unnecessary since the Twitter concept is very, very simple.  Basically Twitter offers a very small text box that shows a maximum of 140 characters and spaces.  In it you can write a status message and your friends who are watching Twitter will see your status message.  That is fundamentally what it is all about.

The Twittersphere

So what exactly is the Twittersphere.  Google unfortunately has no definition for such a word.  CNet in May 2008 tried to bring some perspective to what it called the Twitter-sphere.  However it seemed to have a somewhat fuzzy notion of what it was talking about.

A more helpful reference was provided by TechCrunch in December 2008, where it talked about the state of the Twittersphere.  This was based on data from HubSpot who had published State of the Twittersphere - Q4 2008 Report.

Taking a page from Technorati and their state of the blogosphere report that reviews survey data from a few hundred bloggers, we're publishing the "State of the Twittersphere" report.  This is our first report, for Q4 2008.

HubSpot have created an interesting tool called Twitter Grader.  Twitter Grader provides a grade for each user of Twitter determined by the number of followers they have, the number of other people they are now following, the number of updates they have made and some other unspecified factors

If you check out the Twitter Grader website you will find a wealth of information about Twitter users.  Here for example is part of what was included in the TechCrunch report:

How many followers do most people really have on Twitter? The average number of both followers and other members people on Twitter are following is about 70. But that average is skewed by elite Twitterers who have hundreds or thousands of followers. The vast majority of people on Twitter use it to keep in touch with a much smaller circle of friends and peers. For those with 50 or fewer followers (three quarters of all users), the average number of followers is 15.6 and the average number of people they are following is 18.4.

You can also check out the Twitter Elite.  For example here are the five people with the highest grading among all users at the time of writing. (Note:  for some reason the gradings seems to fluctuate wildly from time to time.)  The numbers show the number of followers they have.

Rank Name Followers
1 guykawasaki  (Guy Kawasaki) 53,602
2 Scobleizer  (Robert Scoble) 51,594
3 mashable  (Pete Cashmore) 41,528
4 chrisbrogan  (Chris Brogan) 37,125
5 chrispirillo  (Chris Pirillo) 30,137

You can also check out the Twitter Elite by location for example for Canada or Vancouver.  If you check out the city where you live you may even find that you are one of the Twitter Elite.

This data may perhaps be signaling a problem with Twitter.  Looking more carefully at the data in the TechCrunch report, here is a table showing how many other people a given user is following and also showing for each user how many people follow them.

 twitter users

Bear in mind that people may update their status many times a day so the volume of information is immense.  If you are following more than a thousand people how can you hope to keep up with that flood.

The problem is that Twitter is an incredibly simple application.  What it shows is almost like a fast flowing river with a tumultuous flood of updates.  If this is how you are seeing Twitter, which you might call your Twittersphere, what can you hope to do to stay abreast of what is going on.

Defining Your Twittersphere

It is of course up to you how you will use Twitter.  You can if you wish block others from seeing your updates and restrict access to only a limited number of friends.  This may well be the way in which those in the previous table who are following or have followers numbering in the 0 to 5 range run their Twittersphere.

Unfortunately there are not too many choices, since Twitter is a very simple application.  If you check out the Twitter Support information, you will find you have very few options. The rules are set up to encourage you to be interacting with a group.  The number you follow must be not too different from the number who are following you, as explained on the Twitter support pages.

We've also placed limits on the number of people you can follow. The number is different for everyone, and is based on a ratio that changes as the account changes. If you hit a follow limit, you must balance your follower/following ratio in order to follow more people- basically, you can't follow 50,000 p
eople if only 23 people follow you. Based on current behavior in the Twitter community, we've concluded that this is both fair and reasonable.

Using only Twitter alone, you are basically faced with these two choices.  Work with a small group of friends or interact with a much larger group.

You could of course set up two personas on Twitter and have one for your private group and one for your public presence.  However there is a danger of confusion here. and there is a better way.

TweetDeck to the rescue

One way around this dilemma is to use one of the other applications that links to twitter but offers additional functionalities.  TweetDeck is what I use and I highly recommend it.  The particular function that I find useful here is that you can segregate those you are following into different groups.  You can then look at the status messages from a specific group if you wish.  If for example you decide to have a group that includes only close friends, then you can check their status more frequently.  You might then only sample from time to time what the wider group that you are following may be displaying as status messages.

How To Interact With Your Twittersphere

If you are participating in Twitter, then clearly you wish to get the best out of your involvement.

If your Twittersphere is small, then you probably only use it as a way of messaging among your friends.  If your Twittersphere is much bigger, then you can almost treat Twitter as a Microblogging software as some people suggest.  It is a way for others to be aware of what you are involved with on a fairly regular basis.

Making contact can be somewhat sporadic affair, but people in general seem to accept that is the nature of Twitter.  You can also use a small button from Twitter Grader to signal how many people are in your Twittersphere.  You can then put the following simple display, as appears on one of my blogs, and encourage others to join in.

follow bwelford on Twitter Follow Me!

I hope you will pick up the invitation.

About the Author: Barry Welford

Offering practical, effective ways of strengthening Internet marketing strategy and getting bottom-line success, particularly through local SEO.


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