I loved Twitter, past tense. I joined Twitter in December 2008 and it was very good to me, bringing about thousands of dollars in revenues to my business over the years, friendships, and fun. But that was then.

What Twitter Was

A good Twitter friend of mine posted a picture of when a bunch of us Twitter pals got together in real life at a conference around 2011. A few of us are still connected on some social platform, whether that’s Twitter or elsewhere. I loved my early Twitter tribe and some of those people changed my work and my life forever. Unfortunately, that was then. Now, I have almost no active relationships on Twitter. In the early days of Twitter—Twitter’s only been around since 2006—it was a much smaller pond. Currently, the number of users depends on whose stats you’re reading, or what those stats represent. There are differences among overall users, active users, daily active users, and monetizable active users. But recent stats I’ve seen hover around 300-350 million Twitter users. Back in 2010, Twitter grew from 30 to 54 million. Great growth, but still a smaller user pool than its rivals at that time, such as Facebook which had over 600 million users and the end of 2010. Our early tweet feeds were filled with posts to and from a smaller pool of people. So we could get more familiar with the people popping up in our feeds. Even if it’s slipped a bit in growth and active users in recent years, Twitter is a crowded and noisy space.

Who Changed? Me? Or Twitter?

While we can blame competition and information overload for Twitter’s decline as a social space, I have to admit that some of the change in my Twitter experience is due to changes in me, too. When I started using Twitter, I was active in the promotional products business and in the hashtag community of trade show and event professionals. The chatter I had within the community was about events and marketing. There were very few swag pros in those conversations. So it afforded me the opportunity to provide unique value. Through my event connections, I also became active in a community of authors, bloggers, and speakers, many of them being pretty high profile. I helped co-moderate the Twitter chats for the community, too. It was one step away from the events world, and one step closer to the next step in my career. After 17 years in the swag business, I closed those operations in early 2016. But by then, I was already flexing my expertise and experience in writing, editing, and publishing, now helping authors, speakers, and consultants with self publishing. This is really when my breakup with Twitter began. I found the author and writing communities on Twitter less conversational than my event friends. I did searches to find writer people and writing hashtags. But I wasn’t gaining traction similar to the volume and speed I had several years earlier. I’d try to retweet or reply to many of them. It would take days for them to acknowledge it, if they did at all. I saw a lot of “buy my book” type posts. I can’t say if this author behavior was attributable to this demographic, or due to changes in how people were using Twitter in general. In the smaller early Twitter pond, tweets were conversation; today, they are updates. My Twitter feed went from being a social channel to a news channel, similar to the bottom of the screen news headline crawl you see on broadcast news channels such as CNN. Twitter is no longer a social channel in my opinion. We just call it social media since that’s the way it started. Just because the public can comment on issues or content doesn’t make it social. It’s just a forum. Sadly, from what I’ve observed of Twitter now, that forum lacks collegiality, congeniality, and consistency.

Curation versus Chronology

A while back, Twitter switched from its traditional chronological home feed to a curated one that may include some or all of your chosen users to follow, along with suggestions. After some backlash, you can now switch to a purely chronological feed as in the past. Honestly, I’m thankful for the curation. In the early days, the purely chronological feed could get flooded with uber-Tweeters and you wouldn’t see anything else from anybody else. However, curation also reduces the chances of your tweets showing up in your followers’ feeds at a certain time because it’s controlled by an algorithm. We’re already used to that on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. But we do have to be aware that our tweets may get less visibility because of it.

Ghost Hunting on Twitter

So that I could make a more informed decision on my future on Twitter, I did an analysis on all—yes, ALL—the accounts I was following on Twitter which numbered a bit shy of 7,000. I know you’re thinking, “Hey, Heidi, don’t you have anything better to do?” Well, yes, I do. But being the analyze-to-death, overthinking person I am, I really wanted to take a more scientific approach. As a side note, I hit my Twitter following ceiling. If you’re a current friend and you’re wondering why I haven’t followed you there, that’s why. Please don’t think I was ignoring you. I wasn’t relishing the thought of reviewing and unfollowing thousands of accounts to make space for new people. Even if there are tools to help with that, I wanted to manually clean up my act there so as not to get my account suspended due to unfollow activity. Plus, I wanted to see what my Twitter tribe was up to. I must warn you, though, this is going to get a little scary because it I found it to be more like ghost hunting. There were a few accounts that, sadly, really were ghosts. I knew that these folks had really died, but their zombie Twitter accounts lived on. There also were many, many accounts that were acting like zombies. Some had links to things like their auto-posted horoscopes or other low or no value content. That’s all that was populating their feed. Others did great “Elvis has left the building” impressions. Their accounts were up, but they had ghosted Twitter years ago, some back as far as 2014, even earlier for some. You have to remember I’ve been on Twitter for 14 years. Reviewing some of the accounts brought back memories of people I used to be chatty with, but haven’t been in years. Our paths no longer aligned, or they joined the ghost and zombie group on Twitter, or aren’t active online altogether. This deep dive was also like opening a time capsule of my career. It was so very evident that I was active in the events and promotional businesses in the beginning. These accounts and I are no longer relevant to each other and I unfollowed the majority of these folks. They won’t miss me, and I won’t miss them. Back then, too, we all followed a lot of people, including lots of high profile celebrity type accounts. I followed a lot of sports and media profiles. They won’t miss me following them either. As I would come across an account for an author or speaker, or someone who could potentially have interesting or useful content, I would look at their profile and tweet stream. If they hadn’t tweeted in years, or if they tweet less than once every couple weeks or so, I unfollowed them without hesitation. Here are a couple of tips to avoid becoming a Twitter ghost. Don’t pin a super old tweet to the top of your tweet stream. If you do pin a tweet, change it frequently, or unpin it after maybe a month. Some people won’t scroll down past the noise of promoted and sponsored tweets to see the rest of your current tweets, and they’ll think that’s you’re more recent tweet. Saying goodbye and resurrection. If you truly are moving on from Twitter, and many of the accounts I reviewed are, post or pin a tweet saying goodbye and thank you to your followers so that they know you’ve left the Twitterverse. Including where they can find you now can help maintain those connections. Then leave! I saw some that were “Adios, Twitter” and then kept tweeting. If you do come back, tell them you’re back instead of being a zombie tweeter. As I’m writing this, I’ve already dispensed with 50 percent of the accounts I was I following. I’ll likely say goodbye to many, many more by the time I’m done. I just don’t have the interest or energy bandwidth.

The Elon Exodus

I do have author friends who are very sold on Twitter as a social media platform. In theory, I am, too, due to early positive experiences, and I love the concept and format of it. Other friends are making an exodus from Twitter due to their objections to Elon Musk’s political positions and meddling. Others think he’s going to ruin Twitter and that the platform is headed for its demise. Both are valid concerns. My stance is that I don’t know what’s going to happen to Twitter. If this early chaos is any indicator of the future, it’s going to be a bumpy ride with the transition. I don’t want to lose my username that I’ve had for 14 years, and possibly have to reestablish it, and an active presence there, when and if things settle or get better. I’m also not all that hep to build a new audience on alternatives such as Mastodon. I also had to chuckle when I saw that Substack is wooing Twitter users to switch over to their platform. That’s a completely different project in audience building. Actually, that’s really the building of an email list. I’ve ranted on both Substack and email marketing elsewhere. Both are significant projects, and not just a quick jump. Plus, your followers have to be on those alternative platforms, too. Many won’t be. I’ve found more engaged audiences for my content on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. I’ve moved out and moved on from actively using Twitter, and have reset my expectations. While I still tweet links to my latest content, I don’t expect that many, if any, genuine business or personal friendships will continue or develop. I also don’t expect a lot of on-Twitter engagement or conversation. I’m just glad if one of my followers is kind enough to reply, retweet, like my tweets, visit links in my tweets, or cross over to one of my more active social channels. Instead of bemoaning the loss of conversation and relationships, I’ve decided to embrace Twitter’s news crawl aspect. I’m using is as my PR and content newsfeed. I’m not sure how long this adventure will last due to Twitter’s future or my own. But there are other platforms where we can keep connected. Subscribe to my podcast and YouTube channel where I plan to remain active. Thanks to everyone who has been with me on my Twitter journey over the years. This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters. © 2022 Heidi Thorne

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