It bears repeating

A handful of questions about Twitter

When is too much too much?

That’s the beauty of Twitter. You choose your own level of involvement.

If I don’t respond to follow them does that mean that they know I’m not interested in them? Why are they following me?

People new to Twitter, people who are unfamiliar with the follow/friend paradigm, and people who think it’s a popularity contest will be bugged if you don’t follow back. But that’s because those three groups don’t understand the power of a one-sided friendship.

On Facebook, you have to be friends (bi-directional) with someone to interact with them. Both of you have to agree on the status of your relationship.

But Twitter isn’t about who is listening to you, or who is a bi-directional friend. Twitter is about who you interact with. For example, I am not following about a third of the people I interact with (reply to, talk about, etc). A good chunk of them aren’t following me either. Because on Twitter, everything is open, and you don’t have to have a defined relationship with someone to interact.

If someone responds to you, it’ll show up under “@ replies” and you can carry on a conversation. But just because you’re talking with them doesn’t mean you have to listen to everything they say.

If they are following me are they listening or are they just waiting for me to follow them?

A little of both. Some people actually care, and some just want you to follow in return. Some are robots, some are spammers, and some are real people, who are really interested in what you have to say.

But regardless of the type of user, you should feel no obligation to follow back. I use a couple of tools to make this process easier.

Twimailer sends me really great “follow” notifications, so I can usually decide right in the email whether I want to follow back or ignore.

TweetSum calculates your recent followers’ DBI … It’s a bit like a Google PageRank for Twitter users. It’s based on their likelihood to follow you, to interact with you, and not send spammy tweets. It has a simple interface for sorting through the masses of followers and deciding who is worth following back.

At what point will I have to separate my friends from commerce, brands, I like, don’t like, don’t know.

I still haven’t. I unfollow brands and companies that annoy me, but I don’t worry too much about mixing them in with the stream. If you really need the separation, check out Nambu (Mac only) or TweetDeck (really awful interaction). They both allow you to group the people you follow, so you can interact with them as discrete streams. I tried that approach for a while, but it didn’t suit me, so I’m back to one big river of messages.

How many is the right number of people to listen to, follow.

That depends.

I follow anyone who interests me at the time. If you make me laugh, or you start a conversation with me, or I interact with you in some other space — Facebook, IRL, mailing lists, etc — I might start following you. But to me, following is a fluid concept… If I tire of you, I might unfollow. If you tweet too much, I might unfollow you. If you set up automatic tweeting of all your Last.fm activity, there’s a good chance I’ll unfollow you.

But following isn’t the only way I interact with people on Twitter. I track quite a few things that I’m interested in, and converse with people who talk about them. I listen to — and usually engage — everyone who talks to or about me, regardless of our respective follow status.

At what point does it get too hard to do?

When you think about it too much :)