Confessions of a Twitter addict

I admit it, I’m a Twitter addict.

They say that the first step in addressing a problem is admitting you have a problem. But I don’t have a problem. I’m loving every minute of it and I’m convinced that Twitter is helping me to change the world!

My Twitter stats

Before I go any further allow me to give you some context. On my account @communic8nhowe I have tweeted almost 5,000 times since May 2010 and on my (former) personal account @kingandottawa I have tweeted more than 12,000 times since April 2009. That’s 17,000 tweets in total. Put another way, that’s 9.2 tweets a day from my business account and 12.7 tweets a day from my personal account–or on a typical day if you follow both accounts you could be seeing 22 or more tweets from me a day.

Is that too much? Maybe you should tell me.

How many tweets are best?

According to a report in Hubspot in 2009, if you tweet more than 50 times a day, it’s too much; less than 10 times a day, it’s too little. It says, ‘Users who tweet between 10 and 50 times per day have more followers on average than those that tweet more or less frequently.” The post says the “sweet spot” is about 22 tweets per day. So by that account, I am in the sweet spot. I agree–though I’d love to see an updated version of the research. (Of course, many people only follow one of my accounts and so they see less of me.)

When I tweeted (what else?) the report in January, it sparked a blog post by Sue Horner, another independent communicator. At that time, I was averaging about 10 tweets per day on both accounts. Sue and I agreed that the quality of tweets is more important than the quantity of tweets. I still do. We both questioned if number of followers was a useful metric though I suggested it did help indicate a tweep’s level of engagement.

Quality more important than quantity

In response to her post, I said: “But a certain quantity helps to establish the presence that helps build new relationships. It also helps to remember that not everyone following you will see your every tweet. Tweeting throughout the day even sometimes with repeat content helps establish that presence and raises the chances that your followers will see your tweets. And I’d hope that anyone who regularly tweets 10 or more times a day is spreading them out over the day.”

“But the right amount is whatever works for you and what you’re looking to get out of Twitter.”

More time = more benefits

While I still agree with what I said, I’d like to elaborate on the last sentence. The more time you spend on Twitter, the greater the benefits that you experience.

Sure you can tweet 10 or fewer times a day, but you’re not going to be connecting with as many people or as frequently and you’re not likely to see as much content that is of interest to you. And everyone should be tweeting more than once a day on average and be on it daily–anything less and you’re not really on Twitter in my opinion. You may still experience some benefits from browsing what others are saying but you’re unlikely to get noticed or establish any new relationships. You can be a more casual tweep if you prefer. All I’m saying is that 10 – 30 times a day, spread throughout the day, puts you in the range to get the most out of Twitter.

I’m on Twitter all day

If I’m tweeting an average of 22 times a day, you might expect that I’m on Twitter all day long. You’d be right but not in the way that you think. I have Twitter on for most of my time awake but I’m only on Twitter for 15 minutes to an hour if you add up all the bits and pieces. An average day would be in the upper end of that range.

Time on twitter is an investment

I consider this time an investment. Twitter is by far my greatest source of professional development. It’s also been my most successful method of establishing new relationships and strengthening relationships. On the business side, it’s a way to demonstrate and share my expertise. On my personal side, I use it to build a better community, country and world.

For me, frequency of tweets and time spent on Twitter are indicators of being present in that space. I believe that being present is critical to being engaged (shown also by responding, retweeting and having conversations) and that being engaged is necessary to experience the benefits that I have described.

Value remains my top priority

For the record, I am a generous retweeter and I like to share what I find interesting with the people who follow me. I assume that these numbers also count replies. If I were to look only at my original tweets, the numbers above would be more modest though still high by the standards of many others. But in both cases, I emphasize value and I estimate that 90% of what I tweet has value for most of my followers.

How do I do it?

Most mornings, I spend about 15 minutes looking at the last hour of tweets from the full feed of who I follow on my personal account. That’s usually when I tweet articles about current events that I think my followers might want to read. I try to take a peek at my business account too.

When I start my work day, I take a look at the lists of tweeps that I follow most closely for a variety of reasons. Ironically, many of them are folks who don’t tweet often that I don’t want to miss. During the work day, it’s these lists that I take a peak at periodically when I’m looking for a mental break. When I have more time or doing a bit of procrastinating, I’ll take a look at my complete feed but never for very long.

When I say I have Twitter on all day but I’m not on Twitter all day, I mean it. I use Tweetdeck on my laptop and it’s on when I’m on the computer. But for the most part, I use it like most people who have e-mail running all day long. I have the notifications set to only pop up for the tweets that I’m most likely to want to see quickly–in my case any mentions/replies and direct messages. On my Blackberry, I have two Twitter apps. One for each account so that they can also be on all the time but again they only notify me when something directly relevant to me is said. That’s what I mean by on all day but not sitting and watching or reading all day long–just like is common for e-mail.

When I have spare time on my hands such as waiting in a doctor’s office or at a coffee shop. Twitter always gives me something to read and often something to share or to comment on. Those tweets start to add up.

Live tweeting is another significant source of my tweets. When I’m at an event, conference or speaker, I frequently tweet highlights, quotes and reactions. Those tweets really add to the overall numbers but I believe they add value and I don’t know of anyone who unfollowed me because of them.

Join the conversation

So yes, I am a Twitter addict but rather than having a problem I’m confident that it gives tremendous value to my life–and I hope has a positive impact on a wider scale. And although my wife would like me to spend less time on Twitter, I do make an effort to keep my Blackberry off when I’m at home with my family.

So maybe I’m not really confessing anything here. I guess that what I’m really trying to do is to give you a formula so that you can be more active on Twitter and maximize the benefits you receive from joining in the conversation. Be sure to say “Hi!”

James Howe
James Howe

Thanks for the feedback Sue! It was at the IABC World Conference in Toronto when I learned how to live tweet. There were so many excellent examples there. Thanks for contributing to the ongoing conversation on tweet levels. Like most of Twitter, there aren't really any rules but what I'm trying to show is how people can benefit from investing more time in it--and how more tweets can help you break through the noise when people are following larger numbers of tweeps.

Sue Horner
Sue Horner

Thanks for the mention, and for detailing how you use Twitter! I admit to not yet live-tweeting my life, but you are right, I would not unfollow you or someone else who tweeted a conference or event that you thought had value. Keep up the good work!