Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Should I Manage My Personal Twitter Identity?

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. And I started with one account: @NewsCat_in_DC. It remains my “flagship” account in a way; the oldest and also the most followed. But it’s also starting to suffer from brand confusion. It’s a little like software that is out-of-date but I’m trying to decide if its worth the loss of data to upgrade it. (This is a metaphor, let me explain.)

In my profile I talk about what the @NewsCat_in_DC account typically covers: Media & journalism, reproductive rights, and news about my community, which is Arlington, Virginia. This is probably too wide a swath, but I came to it because I’ve worked in Journalism, worked in reproductive rights and over time I realized how awesome Twitter was at connecting me with my wider community. So finding out what I wanted to Tweet about under my own name took some time to discover.

Of course this being Twitter, I don’t solely cover those topics, on any given day I might tweet about DC-area Food Trucks or what’s on television. I’m not going to lie; this hurts my brand. Different followers are following me for different reasons, and if I’m tweeting too much about something they’re not interested in, they’ll drop me.

As I mentioned, @NewsCat_in_DC is not the only twitter account I run, I also have a personal hobby blog @StuffUDontNeed, a work account @NameItChangeIt (circa 2012 in any case), and a specialized account dedicated solely to abortion and reproductive rights which is semi-anonymous.

One issue I noticed by having a specialized account dedicated to ONLY one topic is that I typical gain followers (real followers, not just spambots and advertisers) even when I’m not tweeting often. They’re finding me and not dropping me because I’m sticking to the one topic my profile promises them. No extraneous tweeting about what I ate for lunch.

But at the end of the day everyone has to decide what they want their Twitter account for and how personal do you want your Twitter identity to be. Sometime ago when I realized tweeting about TV was losing me followers I had to decide if I wanted to give it up. And I decided not to be cause tweeting about whatever I wanted makes me happy. I’m not doing Twitter solely for some communications-strategy (anymore than I started this blog just for personal gain). I do it for personal satisfaction – something I think everyone should remember when managing their Twitter accounts, we’re not all doing it for purely strategic reasons. We do it because we enjoy it. The question is: how to not lose the joys of Twitter while also being strategic?

If I was rebuilding my Twitter brand from scratch, or if you are building yours, it makes sense to segment off each area to a separate account: which in my case would be a personal (or community) profile, a reproductive rights profile, and a media & journalism-targeted profile. And then maybe even a private-private-private profile for just tweeting amongst friends (call it the Facebook extension version).

This way my “community” profile could tweet about my community, food trucks, TV or what I ate for lunch, without annoying followers who might only be interested when I tweet about media & journalism or reproductive rights.

So why don’t do I this? Drop the lunch tweeting or create yet another account just for community?

Because right now @Newscat_in_DC has almost 1,000 followers (circa October 2011), the most of any of my accounts. My abortion-related twitter account is growing; with very little work I’ve gotten it up to 500 followers. But the Venn diagram of followers of both accounts isn’t 100 percent.

Since @NewsCat_in_DC is my oldest brand it’s tough to restrict it to a Community Profile or create (build from scratch) another journalism-only profile. For example, the famous @Jayrosen_NYU follows @NewsCat_in_DC. He’s a pretty influential follow to lose if I turn @NewsCat into a profile where I only tweet about DC food trucks. But if I start an Arlington-specific account I’ll lose all my wonderful Arlington followers who do sometimes tell me when traffic is bad because of the Metro.

So this is the tension. I’m curious what more experienced Twitter users would advise?

UPDATE: Of course right after I posted this, I found a great article that points out it's not the sheer number of followers you have, it's WHO follows you. If you're followed by someone with thousands or a million followers, and they retweet you, that's better than another 1,000 followers who each have less than 200 followers.