For the past few years whenever I doing a training or speak about nonprofits and social media and more recently when we’ve presented about the book, The Networked Nonprofit, someone always raises this concern: “Social media is a time suck.”
Networked Nonprofits are not only experts in using social media, but they know how to streamline their work flow often based on an understanding of applying network theory to their practice. One of the best principles I learned was from Valdis Krebs who suggests following fewer people to get to the many in his classic post “So Many People, So Little Time.”
It isn’t about following thousands and thousands of friends on Twitter. We don’t have the time or brain cells for that. It’s about finding people who are connected to different social circles and following them. Of course you have to be interested in what information or conversations they are sharing on Twitter. Identifying these people or what Krebs calls “nodes” is core of social network analysis.
And you need to build some redundancy in your network so you have a few multiple paths to people and ideas of interest to you.
He explains why this approach is efficient:
For the time invested, I want maximum return. I use the redundancy of connections, between the many social circles I am interested in, to my advantage. I follow a select group of people that give me the same access as following someone in every group. Follow the few to reach the many!
Strategically I am building a small, yet efficient, group that reaches out into the many diverse information pools I am interested in. I know I am finding good people to follow on Twitter by the number of great exchanges that emerge on many topics. Think before you follow, use your time and ties wisely!
What if you have been following people without thinking and now have an overloaded Twitter Stream? Here are some tips that help you tame the Twitter lion.
What is most important to find and cultivate the connectors and weavers in communities or topics of interest. There are some free tools that can help you visualize your Twitter network or do quasi social network analysis on Twitter. Here’s a few that I’ve used.
Use Friend or Follow to download a spreadsheet of followers. Sort the information to find people to get to know. This works best if you have small network.
Mr. Tweet finds people in your network you should follow (use this after you have built up your following list).
Mailana can help you identify people who have strong affinity. I wrote about an experiment I did last year using this tool. One problem is that it doesn’t analyze your network in real time. You submit the userid and then have to come back a few days later unless it is already in the database.
Twiangulate lets you analyze cross over between your Twitter network and another Twitter user. This can be useful to find potential collaborators.
Klout lets you track the “influence” of specific Twitter users, including the growth of their network, who they influence, and who they are influenced by.
Mention Map helps you visualize who is interacting with you around which hashtags. It shows nodes on your network. There is not information about what exactly how the drawings are created though.
Once you’ve started to identify connectors and people to follow, you’ll need to manage it. Twitter lists can help you create sub-groups of all your followers.
Create Twitter Lists of those accounts, organized by topic or community
Keep the lists small and manageable
Add these lists to your Twitter client and set up a schedule to monitor. This makes the Twitter content feel more grounded, as opposed to just flying by.
Create Twitter searches for keywords to find additional sources. Follow them as needed
Tend to your lists regularly and unfollow people who don’t provide value to you, perhaps people who tweet about things you are not interested in.
Apply a little social networking theory and think before you follow. Ask yourself, if you were stuck on desert island and could only follow 150 people, who would you choose? How many people do you follow and why? How do you manage it?