I once read a children’s book called “Kartusch” by Stephen Cosgrove. It’s about these little forest creatures called Furry Eyefulls that were so enamored with the beauty around them, they never slept. They would not miss a thing.
You’ll find a lot of Furry Eyefulls on Twitter. Their networks are small—in the low hundreds at most. They’ll try to read and respond to every tweet. Not surprisingly, their networks are often highly active, tight-knit communities.
Inevitably, people who fit this profile ask me: how can you realistically follow thousands of people? Now I’m no Jason Calacanis. I only follow 13,000 tweeters, so I barely qualify as a Jason Crouch. But I tell them, rather than engage some people all of the time, I simply engage more people some of the time. Many have said this isn’t truly “following.”
Erin Kotecki Vest, who follows 15,000 people, admits, “It’s hard to keep up. So every so often I check in on a few streams to see what’s up.” (Her response to my query was immediate, by the way.)
Barrett Crites is right in saying, “Some people get caught up in the number vs. the usefulness.” But Chris Brogan isn’t one of those people. He follows more than 93,000 tweeters, and while I’m sure he can’t keep tabs on everyone, he seems to be widely and deeply engaged.
Brogan has said trying to interact with everyone is akin to being “someone with mind-reading powers walking down 38th Street in Manhattan.”
Even as a midsized tweeter, I feel this way. But while I may not get to know every passerby on 38th Street, I’ve certainly gotten to know many. So I continue to follow new people, because every time I put someone new on that street, I increase my chance of making a connection.
And it doesn’t have to be a deep connection. As Hutch Carpenter says in his fascinating post, “I don’t need to know all of you… I only need to know part of you.”
This may not sound like true engagement to some, but think about the many kinds of acquaintances in our lives. We all maintain different levels of interaction with our friends, family, and co-workers. Do we really have to be privy to every conversation they have for us to know them?
With some folks on Twitter, I enjoy very close relationships. I’ll read most of their tweets. I’ll check up on their blogs. I’ll buy their music and Obama statues made out of Coke cans.
And then there are those with whom I’ll have what Mr. Carpenter calls “drive-by interactions.” These might involve mundane exchanges about the lifesaving benefits of coffee or how house cats really are oh so much like us. But those minor exchanges over time can build into more meaningful conversations and relationships.
There are also those I haven’t interacted with at all. But just because I’m not interacting with someone now doesn’t mean I won’t interact with him or her later. By following more people, I’m simply expanding my universe of potential friends. When I click ‘Follow,’ I’m simply saying ‘hi’ to someone interesting.
You don’t have to be an unblinking Furry Eyefull to enjoy positive relationships on Twitter. It’s okay to miss tweets, and you’ll have to if you want to expand your world. But you also have to be good at making friends. And that means knowing how to broadcast and knowing how to listen.
Chris Blake, MSR