In a recent piece I wrote about how it’s a common misconception for some to think that Twitter is a ‘waste of time‘.
There are others still who actually have an interest, and want to get involved, but fear getting caught up in something that’s going to be all-consuming, again leading to major time suckage. Your time is important, and anything that has a negative impact on that will be dismissed pretty quickly.
Or perhaps you think that unless you fully commit, you’re always going to feel (and worse, look) like an outsider, as if Twitter is a club to which you’ll never really belong.
The reality is, you can get everything you need out of Twitter in just 30 minutes a day. With practice, even less. Used wisely and with good habits, even this relatively brief period of time can be immensely rewarding and informative, to businesses and individuals alike.
The best part? Everything listed here can be easily managed atÂ Twitter.com andÂ Twitter search. The only thing you need is access to your favourite web browser, which means that software restrictions in the workplace (or on your mobile handset) aren’t going to hold you back.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Spread It Out And Break It Down
Let’s say you can only spare 30 minutes a day for Twitter. The network is a fluid, almost living organism that flows, trends and re-forms multiple times a day. Hence, using those 30 minutes all at once at a random point over a 24-hour period – which will usually be a hurried, last-minute thing when you get a moment to squeeze it in – isn’t the best use of your time.
Approaching Twitter in this way usually means missing out on lots of news, signal and opportunities. Which means you’ll get frustrated, and can leave you feeling like a bit of an outsider.
If your time is limited, it’s far better to slice what you have up into periods.
2. Try To See As Much Of The Twitter Day As You Possibly Can
It’s important to remember that Twitter functions over several time-zones and continents.
Instead of using your 30 minutes up all at once, which actually decreases the chance that you’ll get the information you need, spend 10 minutes on Twitter in the morning, perhaps while you’re eating your breakfast. Do this instead of watching television or reading a newspaper. The information in those mediums is already dated, whereas on Twitter it’s more ‘right now’ and real-time. (Of course, you need to be looking in the right places – more on this later.)
Then, spend another 10 minutes during your lunch break. You can easily do this while eating a sandwich.
Finally, after dinner, spend that final 10 minutes on Twitter.
It doesn’t have to be exactly like this – ten minutes on the train to work is as good as ten minutes during breakfast. The important part is you spread your Twitter usage over the entire day, separating those trenches by several hours. This maximises your signal and means you’ll be better positioned to ride the information curve.
3. Focus, Focus, Focus
Here’s your reality check – with 30 minutes a day, in periods of 10 minutes at a time, you simply will not have time to read the tweets of everybody that you follow. Going to Twitter.com and reading the front page will not be maximising the resources available to you.
You need to be smart about how you use your time.
- If you have something to say, think about when you want to say it. If you submit a tweet before doing anything else, there’s a good chance that even in 10 minutes you’ll receive replies and correspondence about that update, and responding to these may have a negative impact on everything else you need to do. It’s vital that you engage on Twitter, and as much as possible be doing so in a timely fashion, but if you leave your tweets until after you’ve done everything else in this list, you’re less likely to be caught out.
- Remember – you don’t have to tweet. I think it’s important to update at least two or three times a day, but only if you have something to say. Tweeting for the sake of it is simply wasting your already limited window of opportunity.
- Build a Twitter list of the people and brands on Twitter you care about the most. This will be those whose tweets you don’t want to miss. As you have a limited amount of time to spare, this shouldn’t be huge – I would recommend no more than fifty people. Focus on it. This should be your hub, your centre. Tip: building different lists that are focused on a given niche pays off big time, as you can easily switch between lists to get the news and signal that you want. Continuously refine and improve these lists. Retweet. Favourite anything you want to investigate more thoroughly later.
- Consider following just these people, too. Following thousands is almost completely pointless on Twitter, but this is absolutely true when you only have a few minutes to invest. Purge your Twitter network of everybody who isn’t of genuine interest and relevance to you. This may sound harsh, but you can always pick back up with these folks when you have more time. And don’t let fear of being unfollowed put you off – that doesn’t matter at all, and can significantly reduce reply and direct message clutter.
- Always check your replies and mentions. Read them all, but teach yourself to recognise what’s important and what is not. Skim-reading, when done properly, is a genuine skill. Reply where you can and where it’s of benefit (especially to your business), and favourite other tweets that you can reply to at another time.
- Assuming your Twitter network is relevant and not full of clutter and spammers, always check out your direct message inbox, too. Again, reply if and when you can, making a note of anything that needs to be tackled at a later date.
- Use Twitter search. What are you looking for? What questions do you want answered? Master the advanced search operators and save all important searches for easy access in the future.
- Take a moment to check out Twitter’s trending topics. Limited a medium as this is, it is a good indicator of ‘what’s happening’, particularly if you’re configured it to be relevant to your location.
- We all have favourite users. Take a few moments to check out their profiles.
- Keep an eye on the clock. It’s easy to get lost in anything on the internet, and Twitter is no exception. If you can only afford 10 minutes, then stop after 10 minutes.
You may think this is a lot of stuff to cram into 10 minutes, but with practice it’s incredibly easy to do everything here in a very brief period of time. And remember you have three opportunities over the course of the day to take care of business.
4. Don’t Let Twitter Take Over
This is critical. While it’s important to ensure your time on Twitter is as focused as possible, if you have limited minutes to spare in your day it’s no good if Twitter then bleeds into your ‘non-Twitter’ activities, too. Keep it separate from everything else. This may well mean switching off all email notifications from the network (new followers and direct messages) as well as any pushed notifications you receive from your mobile handset.
And please, in all that is decent and holy, don’t receive updates from Twitter via SMS.
Believe me – all of this just leads to temptation. If you let it, Twitter will find a way to drag you back in.
5. Make All Of This A Habit
While Twitter can be managed successfully in just 30 minutes a day, it’s important that this happens every day, too. At a minimum, to get the most out of Twitter you need to invest five days a week, but ideally it should be all seven.
(And yes, this includes vacations, but feel free to reduce your investment to ten or fifteen minutes in total. Per day. And keep breaking it up.)
If you have more time on the weekends, you can use this to check out older tweets and links, do more research, respond to the non-essential replies and direct messages you had to leave during the week, and so on.
Twitter moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. And that means that knowing when you should step away is just as important as knowing when you need to be there.
These are good practices to adopt even if you have 45 minutes to spare, an hour, or more. Or less than 30 minutes. Breaking Twitter up into manageable, bite-sized pieces can help you see a lot more of the big picture, as well as preventing you from picking up bad habits and wasting time.
It’s only your own time you’re wasting, after all.
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