How to Manage Your Twitter Feed

If you follow a lot of celebrities who enjoy Tweeting, you could get very behind very quickly.
Screenshot courtesy Shanna Freeman

Do you Tweet? Do you have a lot of Tweeps? Whether you've been on Twitter since its beginnings in 2006 or you're a Twitter neophyte, it doesn't take too long to find out that keeping up with your Twitter feed can be overwhelming. Twitter is such a simple concept: micro-blogging with the occasional link or photo thrown in. You start out following your friends and family to keep up with their goings-on. Of course, Twitter isn't just about people that you already know; these days, nearly every celebrity has a Twitter account, too, as a way to interact with their fans. Following a celebrity can be a lot of fun. All kinds of businesses, from your local dentist to international retail chains, also have Twitter accounts. Some of them use their accounts to share special discounts or inside info, so you'll probably add lots of them, too.

Many of these people and businesses don't just Tweet once a day, but once an hour -- or even more often. Then there's the option of following specific topics. If you follow everything and everyone that you find interesting, you can end up with hundreds and hundreds of Tweets showing up in your feed on a daily basis. How can you possibly hope to keep up? Being overwhelmed has led many a formerly Twitter-happy person to abandon the service altogether.

Don't despair -- there are ways to manage your Twitter feed without giving up entirely. Not only does Twitter offer you ways to make it easier to keep up, there are also lots of different tools and programs available. Whether you want to read your feed on your phone or your desktop PC, you can streamline things and actually enjoy using Twitter again.

Read on to find out how to manage your Twitter feed, starting with working the tools on the Web site.

Tips and Tools for Managing Your Twitter Feed

You can use Twitter itself to categorize those you follow into lists (like Wil Wheaton here), and even view others' lists  and follow them if they're public.
You can use Twitter itself to categorize those you follow into lists (like Wil Wheaton here), and even view others' lists and follow them if they're public.
Screenshot courtesy Shanna Freeman

It's easy to suffer from Twitter feed bloat. Following one person or business usually leads you to others, and Twitter helpfully makes suggestions for you based on what the people you follow are following. Then when somebody begins following you, you may feel compelled to follow them as well. Before you know it, you're scrolling through your feed looking for the people, businesses and topics that most interest you and trying to keep up with the action.

It's important to note that unlike with other social media sites, you aren't becoming "friends" with somebody when you choose to follow their Tweets. If someone is following you but you don't see anything particularly fascinating about their feed, don't add them back. Conversely, if you're following someone who doesn't follow you or interact with you in any way, feel free to delete them. You may also want to set a limit on how many people that you're willing to follow; that way if you want to add somebody new, you'll have to make room first.

Another way to quickly pare down your feed is to make your Twitter account private. That way, only people that you approve can read your Tweets, which will automatically limit the number of re-Tweets and direct messages that you'll receive. You may also think twice about following everyone who wants to follow you since you have to approve them first. If you're using your Twitter account to interact with a business or a celebrity, making your feed private won't allow you to reply to them or direct your Tweets to them using hashtags. If your feed is out of control, though, it's an easy way to scale back.

Twitter has a useful management feature that many people don't fully take advantage of: lists. Lists operate like filters. You can assign every account on your feed to a list, and then use the lists to read your feed by priority or look for something specific. For example, create a "family" feed so you can just see what those people are up to if you don't have time to read your entire feed. Just click on the silhouette icon in each account's profile, drop down to "add to list" and start forming your lists. You can also save searches and then use them when you want to find out what people are saying about a specific topic.

If limiting your followers or creating lists isn't helping you manage your Twitter feed, next we'll look at how you can use other applications to do it.

Managing Your Twitter Feed with Third-Party Applications

TweetDeck is a third-party app (now owned by Twitter) that lets you organize lists, trends and saved searches into separate columns.
TweetDeck is a third-party app (now owned by Twitter) that lets you organize lists, trends and saved searches into separate columns.
Screenshot courtesy Shanna Freeman

In July 2011, Twitter surpassed more than one million registered third-party applications. With that many apps, how do you know which ones can best help you manage your feed? Let's start with the most popular ones available.

One common type of app for Twitter is the browser-based dashboard, or client. These programs interface with Twitter and allow you to do everything that you can from Twitter's site. The difference is that you can organize your feed to fit your needs. These programs do a lot more than just help you manage your Twitter feed, but we'll focus on those specific features here.

TweetDeck is arguably the most popular of the Twitter clients. It's available for Windows 7, Mac OS and Linux, as well as iPhones, iPads and Android phones. All you have to do is download it for your platform, log in to Twitter and get to organizing. TweetDeck is column-based; you can create columns for each of your lists, trends that you're following, saved searches, and direct mentions. If you have more than one Twitter account, you can view each in separate columns. TweetDeck also incorporates other services like Facebook and FourSquare, making it a one-stop-shop.

HootSuite is very similar to TweetDeck, but instead of downloading a separate application, it's entirely Web-based (it's available in app form for iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys). In terms of managing your feeds you also create columns for lists, searches and direct mentions. While TweetDeck is free, HootSuite has a basic free version and a paid "pro" version. It also allows you to incorporate feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn. Seesmic is another, similar competitor; it's free, available for multiple platforms and offers both web-based and desktop versions. You may want to try out all three to see which one is right for you as they all have their pros, cons and respective fanbases.

If you don't want to go full into using a different client, there are other tools you can use to manage your Twitter feed. Tracking tools like Manage Flitter or Social Oomph are especially useful if you have hundreds of followers. They quickly show you which ones aren't following you back, as well as the activity levels of the people on your feed, making it easier to choose who to delete. There are also filtering programs like Twalala or Destroy Twitter. They filter out specific words and phrases from your feed and mute people you follow who Tweet a lot, without actually unfollowing them. Most of these smaller tools are just for Twitter (unlike the clients), and they're free and Web-based.

Managing Your Twitter Feed on Your Mobile Device

TweetCaster is a mobile-specific application for using Twitter and available on nearly every device.
TweetCaster is a mobile-specific application for using Twitter and available on nearly every device.
Screenshot courtesy Shanna Freeman

If you have a smartphone and a Twitter account, you're probably going to want to Tweet that way, too. Official Twitter apps can improve your Twitter experience and help you manage your feed, but these have had varying degrees of success and popularity amongst users.

Many of the same apps available for your computer, such as TweetDeck, are also available for smartphones. There's also a mobile-specific app called TweetCaster. It has full Twitter functionality as well as some handy feed-management tools. For example, "zip it" allows you to hide Tweets that don't interest you without unfollowing the person doing the Tweeting. Many Twitter mobile apps have free versions with fewer features, but most do a good job of helping you manage your feed. Let's do a quick rundown of some of the most popular Twitter apps for different types of phones.

The latest version of the official Twitter app for Apple mobile devices has a trending topics bar across the top of the screen called the "quickbar," which takes up room when scrolling through your feed. Some users dislike it enough to "jailbreak", or unlock, their device to install Twizzler, an app that gets rid of the bar. Here are some other third-party apps for Apple mobile devices:

  • Twitterific - allows you to filter out both people you follow and trending topics
  • Echofon - has a mute feature for people you follow
  • Tweetlist - lets you view your lists and easily swap between them

The official Blackberry Twitter app is actually pretty popular and can be used to manage your lists. If you'd like to try a third-party app, though, here are a few contenders:

  • UberSocial - creates separate timelines for different filters and an "inner circle" filter for close friends
  • SocialScope - lets you save searches and lists and easily scroll through them, also integrates Facebook (currently in beta)

Some users have complained about the official Android Twitter app, saying that it's difficult to switch between filters and that it doesn't show your feed timeline when you start up the app. Check out these other apps:

  • Plume (formerly Touiteur) - lets you classify people and topics by color as well as filter lists and mute people and topics
  • Twidryod - all of the features of Plume, plus LivePreview (allows you to view links & media posted to Twitter next to the Tweet)

The official Windows Phone 7 app doesn't support the use of multiple Twitter accounts, which can be a problem for some users. There are other apps available that do, however:

  • Birdsong - maintains multiple lists and timelines, allows for infinite scrolling through feed
  • Twoziac - unlike other apps, has different ways to view lists: regular, histogram, or cloud

Now that you know there are so many different options for managing your Twitter feed, there's no reason to feel overwhelmed any more when you log in to your account. Time to start keeping up with everyone again in 140 characters or less!


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