4 Ways to Make Twitter Suck Less

A couple of days ago at the gym, a business owner, whom I know and respect for her great blog posts and use of Facebook, confessed to me “I’m a Twitter dropout. I hate all of its rules, and the conversation there is so stupid! I don’t want to know about the new pants people are buying.”

My first reaction was, “Drop out, then. Nobody says you have to use Twitter, and if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing.” I’ve certainly had days where I felt like I’ve had nothing to say to Twitter, and vice versa. In fact, I had a whole burn-out year where I rarely went near Twitter, and basically stepped back from all social media activities except some personal use of Facebook.

Ultimately, however, I’ve decided that there is much in Twitter that is worth keeping, and there are some simple ways to get rid of the parts that annoy you. Here are a few things you can do on a Sunday afternoon to make Twitter suck less, 7 days a week.

1. Use lists to improve the “Noise to Signal” ratio

If the tweets in your twitter stream are more annoying than edifying, you need a way to filter out the junk. I’ve classified people into lists through third-party Twitter management decks (like TweetDeck, HootSuite and Seesmic) and Twitter started this function a couple of years ago, as well. With lists, you can group the tweeps you follow into whatever works for you – close friends, news sources, music, fitness – and just look at Twitter through those filters. Much better than trying to wade through hundreds of tweets, some from people you followed back months ago and you can’t even remember why. That brings me to my next point.

2. Unfollow annoying twits.

If you aren’t getting value from the tweets that show up in your stream, turn down the volume. “Unfollow” is just a click away. If you take the first step, above, and put your favourite Twitterers into a list, you might get so used to the customized view that you never have to unfollow because you don’t look at that home stream anymore. But frankly, I still look at my “main” stream often, so it’s nice to just not have to deal with incessant marketing messages or self-centred drivel.

3. Spend less time on Twitter – while still posting to Twitter.

I’m thinking of the terrific, engaging posts this friend puts onto Facebook, and how they would work equally well on Twitter. Linking the two is only a step away, in her Facebook account settings. Better yet, she can choose which Facebook updates to share with Twitter by using one of those management tools I mentioned above. I like the ones with multiple columns for your favourite lists and search terms, with scheduled tweets so you can have a creative thought at 2 am that people might see at 8:30.

4. Don’t try to stay on top of it all

One of the most potentially annoying things about Twitter is when you try to read everything that comes across your screen. Can’t. Be. Done. What’s more, it’s way more input than anyone needs. Cut back to a couple of times a day, for just long enough to see if there are any good posts to your lists, and to respond to any mentions. If Twitter only takes 5- 10 minutes a day, it’s far less likely to annoy you. And on those days where the communication is better than you expected, you can take longer, much as you would an important email or phone call.

That’s not so bad, is it?