Are You Sleepwalking Through Twitter?

In September 2009 I wrote a "blog" called "Great ITSM and ITIL People to Follow on Twitter." In stumbling upon it again yesterday I couldn't help wonder:

  • What had happened to some of the Tweeters on the original list?
  • Who do I now follow that I didn't way back then?

In doing this I couldn’t help feel that, while I value Twitter as both an information resource and a workspace, I have been somewhat sleepwalking through it the last two years.

Why am I sleepwalking through Twitter?

It seems a strange thing to admit to, doesn’t it?

I literally “work” in Twitter these days and I would lose a dimension of my capabilities and “personality” without it (or a similar social environ). But the fact that I still place a heavy emphasis on the Tweets of the people below, that an updated list would not include that many more Tweeters, and that I didn’t realize that a few of the Tweeters listed are no longer actively Tweeting is quite scary to me.

My conclusion is that I have been very lazy in my use of Twitter (heaven forbid that people think that “number of Tweets” is a sign of Twitter proactivity).

So what should I do?

My original thinking from nine months or so ago (when I realized that Twitter was becoming a little incestuous in terms of my following of people) was to follow more Tweeters. I think I have nearly doubled the number of people I follow but I am still in the same place in many ways.

For information, my current ratio for @stephenmann is:

  • Following = 767
  • Followers = 2119

It doesn’t seem bad to most people and I use a list to pull out the Tweets of my “most influential” people. But this, I now realize, only accentuates the above … it really is lazy and incestuous (but I would argue that it IS social).

I have to hold my hand up and admit that I was offered a better way in December but I thought it wrong for a number of reasons (which I won’t bore you with).

That better way? To unfollow a lot of people – so that I can manage a smaller Twitter stream – and to constantly add to, and remove from, the shorter (even minimalistic) following list. Only then will I be able to better see the true worth of Twitter.

So I am off to slowly cull the number of Tweeters I follow. I know some people will be “upset” BUT I want to get more out of Twitter and as the old adage says: “sometimes less is more.” I hope to get down to circa 100 follows that flexes over time.

How do you get the most out of Twitter? I’d love to know.


The original list if you are interested:

The Tweetmeister

·         @ServiceSphere (the man never stops)

The Sages

·         @jimbofin

·         @fustbariclation

·         @DavidM2

·         @CarlosCasanova

·         @pinkerdavid

Great Linkers

·         @raesmaa

·         @G2G3

·         @gmtomko

·         @riChchestMat (ITSM with  a side order of mirth)

Vendor Tweeters

·         CA @RobertEStroud

·         Was at ICCM but now at Microsoft @CyberJMC66

· @rglauser

·         IBM @dmcclure

·         BMC @matt_L @MeghanAtBMC (who is now @MeghanatCA?)

·         Compuware @ryanbateman @imrichb @kwhite6531


·         @glennodonnell

The IT Skeptic

·         @theitskeptic

New Additions …

·         @stevie_chambers (great at challenging the status quo)

·         @ivankamenken


I feel I'm suffering from the

I feel I'm suffering from the same ailments. Don't get me wrong, I learn a TON by quietly listening to the great group of folks I've followed over the years but that group is wearing a beaten path at this point. Culling through my followers followers isn't far enough outside the 6 degrees of ryan bateman and Twitter suggestions are mostly worthless. The ITSM twitter universe has to be bigger than what I'm seeing right? Is anyone having success with other tactics? Advanced standing searches perhaps?

Tools, ratios lists etc.

First of all can I deny the rumour that I am contractually obliged to respond to every post Stephen makes.

There are quite a few comments to make here.

First of all I think most of us have gone through periods where we question what we are getting out of Twitter, stop using it quite so avidly, or ask ourselves if there are other people we should be following. I think that is healthy. Often there is a natural rhythm to the value I find in Twitter. Hmm, Freudian slip, I typed ITIL first of all! As #Pink12 approaches I know that Twitter will be really useful as a way of finding out what the hot topics are, and the same applies for some of the much more low key events. And many us, of course, use Twitter as only one channel of communication. I find it staggering to think how many ITSMers I've met in person now having first noticed them on Twitter, and the exciting collaborations it has led to .

I find a healthy cull of follows is quite refreshing, though some times quite tough, for instance when you unfollow the first person you followed. I find around 750 manageable, with the aid of lists and tools like Hootsuite, but I think that is the practical limit, and probably only 500 or so of those I follow are regularly active, and I probably actively engage with only half that number again. I find that number works for me. I suspect I would have to reduce the number by half before I noticed a real difference.

Does the ratio of follows to followers matter? I think other people probably draw conclusions about it. Personally I'm uncomfortable with Twitter users who follow over a thousand accounts, but I care less about how many followers someone has. I've found that a lot of people with high numbers of followers include a fair number of bots amongst their fans, I prefer my followers to have at least a trace of a pulse.

Over the time I've been on Twitter I've found a number of analytical tools useful - and typically they all become defunct fairly soon afterwards. I would love to hear some current recommendations.

Interesting to see who is and isn't in your list. I'm not going to add my own suggestions here, but I will go away and review my lists to make sure I spotlight some of the missing names. Perhaps we should get a combined #back2itsm list intro circulation.

I guess my biggest concern is this question of whether we are missing key people we should be following. I used to think we almost certainly were missing hundreds, but having seen the response every time we've spoken at conferences and asked who uses Twitter I suspect we aren't, at least not people from the UK.

Monkeys, Reputation and Ego

SOCIAL: Attitudes, orientations, or behaviors, which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account

MEDIA: The main means of mass communication regarded collectively: "the campaign won media attention"

Where in this definition does it mention:
1. Reprisal ego stroking
2. Hanging Out
3. Chatting

Social Media - Behaviors that take the interest ...OF OTHERS into account during MASS communications.

Hmm, sounds like customer service.

I have been very quiet about my beliefs on "social media" for four years as I felt it was not my business to instruct others on "how" to behave.

I was once reminded that there is NO CORRECT WAY to listen to the radio.

There is, of course REGULATION if you want to BE A RADIO STATION.

You are controlled by the market place of listeners (customers), best practices and government regulation.

Following hundreds of people on Twitter while might offer serendipitous knowledge it serves NO benefit but self serving number increases and a complete lack of respect for the people you follow.

The reason we are heading into a reputation economy is directly based on people being CONSCIOUSLY (sleep walking not allowed) AWARE of their decisions to consume information and opinion from others.

The REAL value of twitter is not in the information but the apophenic nature of watching the stream.

Jane Goodall, watched the SAME chimpanzees, NOT ALL THE chimpanzees.

Thank you for taking time to create this blog, as a leader in the knowledge community your stewardship on this topic is critical.

Just as in real life, in the digital world, you are the COMPANY you keep.

Do not be offended if someone unfollows you or asks you to change what you are posting.

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK and continuous improvement are CORNER STONES ITSM and social media.

The 150 rule

Very interesting topic - Twitter has a certain "lure" to it which drags you into the habit of clicking the follow button too much.

It's becoming clearer to me that:

1) Number of followers does not equal influence or authority on a certain subject. @BarclayRae and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about an ITSM twitter spambot with several thousand followers that simply spewed out links to poorly written articles about ITIL training. The purpose of the Twitter account, and the articles that it broadcast was simply to increase the Googlejuice for an unscrupulous training company.

That account had several thousand more followers than Barclay (who I would consider to be an authority on the subject). Number of followers is a terrible metric.

2) Reputation management is an interesting topic. I think Klout is a good first stab at reputation scoring - but I wouldn't trust it as an authoritative source at the moment.

Personally, of the 562 accounts that I follow, I have a lot of news (both IRL and tech news feeds) that I don't consider to be diluting my interaction with real people, plus I follow a lot of friends that tweet very rarely.

I think a hard stop at 150 accounts to follow doesn't work for me, but I love the idea that the next maturity level of Social Media is that we need to increase the quality rather than quantity


24 hours on I have unfollowed more than 200 Tweeters. 95% of which were very easy decisions.

What has surprised me most is how many vendors I'd followed with great expectations and how many we're now a nobrainer to unfollow. It's sad.

Real Twitter is back...for me

As of late December, I was following about 1100 people . I had been meaning to clean up my following counts for months but took the project seriously and knew it would take time. I thought I had been carefully following people and I had no idea how many people I would end up unfollowing.

So over the holiday break I finally got around to it and reduced the number about 80%. I didn't use a scrubbing tool to help me. In the process I discovered a few things:
1. Most of the accounts I was following should have been in a list all along.
2. Accounts without a bio were really easy to unfollow and not list.
3. I still really prefer to follow actual people, instead of entities, with a few exceptions.

The end result was liberating and engaging. I had it all backwards. I was relying on my lists and searches to engage, while completely ignoring my home feed. In the process my focus was all over the map and I never really engaged with the people who matter to me. Bottom line, after a couple of years away, real Twitter is back.

This tweet just about sums it up for me.!/rglauser/status/154344927537532928

48 Hours Later

I can honestly say I've spent far too much of the last 48 hours making sure in my own mind that the number of twitter accounts I follow is reasonable. I still haven't found the tool I really need, though SocialBro was OK ish, at least in helping me identifying accounts I follow that aren't very active. I really want something like MentionMapp that works on following relationships rather than mentions.

I might start making more use of lists again,not least because of their usefulness to other people, but I would also recommend using a tool like Hootsuite and setting up streams for specific hashtags, like #Pink12 and #Back2ITSM.

Reviewing who I followed actually reminded me what a great ITSM community Twitter supports. There were very very few accounts belonging to individuals that I unfollowed, but like Stephen I found myself wondering about the sheer number of vendor accounts that appeared to be adding absolutely no value for me.

Now I'm conscious that in our particular roles you could argue that neither Stephen nor I are the prime target audience for ITSM vendors, after all neither of us are service desk managers or service managers. Then again you would think vendors would like to keep an influential Forrester analyst and the senior EMEA ITSM consultant in one of the world's largest and most successful IT services providers at least vaguely entertained, wouldn't you?

They don't.

Why not? Those vendors I unfollowed have a lot of things in common:-

- They don't respond to other Twitter users, except to retweet unadulterated praise of their product
- They don't spark conversations about the future of the industry or wider IT management issues
- They tweet information that if I really needed as an outsider I would go to their website for, or if I was a customer I would expect to receive through a more personal channel
- They tweet relatively infrequently but repetitively. Have you really thought of nothing else to say in the last six months?

So let me balance this out by giving some praise. I guess two Service Desk vendors stand out for me in their use of SocMed.

One is Service-Now and the other is Hornbill. LANdesk get an honourable mention, but only because of @IanAitchison

There are also some training firms who do a good job, but I'm going to single out G2G3.

What do they all do differently?

- Their main corporate account is supported by individuals whose tweets (mostly) reflect the core ethos of the company
- They are as keen to give as to receive
- They are responsive
- They act as part of the ITSM community on Twitter
- They recognize me when they meet me in the flesh
- They go reasonable periods of time without mentioning their product
- They follow me back
- They join in the fun


I'm glad you posted this ...

... As I've been unsubscribing accounts there are some obvious things that help with my decision but ultimately the "quality" of the Tweets is a big part.

There are other ITSM vendors that are worth a mention such as SysAid, Marval, and Cherwell but looking at vendors in general I can't help think that many don't get it. Or don't want to get it.

In terms of people Tweeting on their own but in a vendor context one wonders why they aren't being snagged internally to help with the corporate account or accounts?

Relationships are formed with people...

Hi Stephen,

It's an interesting point about people tweeting from their own accounts, on behalf of vendors.

Do customers form relationships with corporate entities or the people that work for them. Some brands are more tactile and easier to bond with than others (For me I have a relationship/following with Google that is comparable with people that work for them).

Personally, I would prefer to tweet as myself rather than my employer as I have a different perspective than my colleagues who work in marketing, sales and so on. As a developer I might be more willing to see the negatives in our product and hold a conversation with a critic in a different way.

I'd like to see vendors (including the one I work for) adopt the Twitter style of signing their tweets using initials of the person composing. For example ending the tweet with ~sm


The FAIL is in the vendors that see twitter as a marketing tool. Indeed, it is a marketing tool, but it's greatest power is in building community—communities of thought, communities of interest, communities of practice. The winning vendors will be those who see that from the start and use twitter as a way of listening to their users and putting users in touch with each other. UserVoice is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else I've seen. They have a community manager who is vocal, responsive, and very much into the ethos of the company and its user community. But UV is a stripped back help desk tool, not a full-featured IT service desk tool.
From the limited exposure I've had to Service-Now, they look like they're promoting a healthy user community from the website and FB, but I haven't tweeted to them so can't gauge the level of engagement there, though the tweet stream looks like they do.


Useful blog.
I have kept my following below 150 but sometimes had doubts and thought should I just follow back every time. This discussion helps to loose those doubts. Actually I just lost a lot of rugby related tweets:)

Update 2

Just realized that being close to 300 followers now makes the native UI usable again.

Update 3

In a mad scientist moment I have unfollowed everyone and will start again a la Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon using James Finister as Kevin.

The worth of Follow Friday?

In light of my new approach to “effective Twitter-use,” I’ve been thinking about “Follow Friday” (the #FF hash tag which still might confuse some people … “you want to “fast forward” @jimbofin?”). To me there were a few things fundamentally wrong with the #FF activity when I followed 767 people:

1. Twitter was just a rapidly-passing blur, bar the people I had in my ITSM list; and what would be the point of #FFing those people on the assumption that they are/were already prevalent in the following lists of the people that follow me – they are “the usual suspects.” Why would I want to “teach my granny to suck eggs?”

2. Given the high number of Tweets, I would never see the “true picture” of any given Tweeter. Yes I might pick up the odd gem but I never really saw their Twitter “profile.” Would it be right to recommend someone that might pollute the Twitter-stream: with one great Tweet for every twelve nonsense Tweets (sounds like my profile)? I couldn't see in in my already polluted stream but it would adversely impact someone new to Twitter.

3. I probably missed the people that just Tweet one great item every day, lost in a sea of “less valuable” Tweets from others.

4. I hated the practice of RTing or saying thanks via a pseudo-RT to a #FF. I can’t repeat what @FakeITIL described this as in a public forum.

But most of all, I realized that like in The X-files the answer is “out there.” By paying closer attention to the people that I now follow I can see who they are really recommending by their RTs - you could say that now I am using Twitter in a different way I no longer need to be spoon-fed.

I still won’t be #FFing anyone either. Well not explicitly – I do #Follow_every_day – just look at who I RT or converse with. In a simpler less cluttered world, they would be the ones I #FF.