Experiments in Social Media Number 3, Part 2: Rationing Twitter

By Jill Ruthenberg

Finally, I’m back to my normal twittering (with some improvements hopefully) but I thought I should share how I got on with my latest Experiment in Social Media which attempted to address some frequently asked questions about Twittering.

Recent stats suggest that more than 70 per cent of all tweets fall on deaf ears, while 96.9 per cent of replies and 92.4 per cent of retweets happen within the first hour of existence. Reactions nearly never occur once a tweet ages beyond 60 minutes. So we asked the questions, how much tweeting is too much? And if we think it could be too much, if we pare it down will anyone even notice?How do we make content more meaningful? Will it help?

The challenge

The challenge was put to you and me: to ration our tweets to make them count.

The method

We had decided that limiting tweets to 1 per day would be too extreme. Mostly because Twitter can and should be used for loads of stuff: listening, trendspotting, broadcasting, sharing, conversing… and a little because, well, 1 just isn’t enough.

So, with extra thought and attention to make sure we’re saying something meaningful we were to tweet only 5 times a day for 1 working week. But not just any 5 tweets willy-nilly, we had to use the tools available to us:

  • 1 original content
  • 1 RT
  • 1 direct message
  • 1 reply
  • 1 link share

(I decided hashtags could be used liberally… or else I don’t think anyone would’ve been willing to take part.)

The Process

To make my tweets count I thought about how I could use each of my 5 a day quota and worked at refining what I really want to share with you and where I could be of most use.

Here are snippets from my experiments journal:

Day 1:

I have to say the today was a little distressing; I wasn’t quite sure how to prioritise things.

I avoided my routine of logging in first thing and instead logged in at 12pm. Not 30 minutes in and I was so tempted to share how full I was after my curry lunch, or how that Malteaser on Kate’s desk was teasing me (get it?). Fortunately for everyone else, I had reached the limit. And I couldn’t completely fail on the first day… So I started thinking about what I was going to tweet tomorrow.

Day 2:

Was actually not so bad. I still had urges to tweet nonsense and have realised that RTs and link shares are the easiest (laziest) types of tweets to do, but I don’t use DMs nearly as much as I could/should.

I felt kind of proud of how I used my 5. I also felt liberated after my five were up so that I could focus on my work…

Day 3:

I’m not so sure this experiment was a good idea. I can’t join into conversations – they’re just happening around me and I’m failing miserably at taking things off of Twitter into other channels…

I wonder if people still remember me.

Day 4:

So I cheated a little. I got Follow Friday fever and went a little overboard with the @s!

Day 5:

Monday… remorseful after my slip on Friday. I thought I should take a break. Didn’t even log on. Went slightly insane from the isolation.

The result

It was great to see that several people took me up on the challenge and got involved. They were kind enough to give me some feedback along the way.

So the results in the words of some of the tweeties that got involved:

“Moderation and discipline can do a great deal of good from time to time.”

– @ZofiaMS

“I think that I couldn’t get by, by minimising contact… We should remember its the quality not the quantity.”

– @Charliesaidthat

“It has made me realise how much I depend on it – not just for business, but as a release…”

– @CloudNineRec

“It [was] difficult!”

– @IamSilverFox

About halfway through the experiment, I started regretting starting and I’m not sure if the experiment overall was a success. There were some surprises though.

On one hand, the benefits I saw from doing this ration:

  • I did get more work done
  • I was often shocked at how much of what I wanted to share was actually nonsense, so have determined to take it down a notch now that the experiment has ended
  • I’m definitely going to rethink the many RTs and link shares I do (although I might’ve slipped into my old habits already today)
  • I’m going to utilise DMs a little more (maybe for all those things I want to share but directed towards someone who will get it)
  • I thought my self-discipline was quite outstanding really; I didn’t break the ration once… if you don’t count Friday… I made up for it…

On the other-hand, why I’m never doing this experiment again is:

  • By the end of the first day I was already missing the human interaction!
  • I couldn’t join into conversation and I’m still feeling out of it… just 5 days did really affect my relationships.
  • I still think in 140 characters or less!

Massive thank you for those tweethearts who got involved, even if you broke the ration (it was probably a good thing)! If you have anything you want to add, what you found, what you missed most, what you’ll do differently now – please share!

Jill Ruthenberg is Communications Specialist at Wisdom London and promises to only tweet those things which she believes will actually add value to your day.

Follow Jill on Twitter


8 Responses to “Experiments in Social Media Number 3, Part 2: Rationing Twitter”

  1. Great write up – and glad to see you back tweeting like usual.

    Thanks for quoting me – I feel honoured. 😉

  2. Jill, This is a cool experiment, thanks for sharing. Like there are times I want to get more back from social media and Twitter relative to the time and effort I put in, then I remember all that I’ve learned, connections I’ve made. Harder to qualify or quantify.

    My biggest Twitter weakness is the link share, but I am selective.. only posts I find interesting, have read and/or commented upon. Or just stupid fun and therefore, value to the day. Plus there’s the community aspect of it, supporting each other via selective RTs.

    Other than that, I don’t have a formula.. save I don’t really DM that much. The @replies and conversations are what gets me, that pesky work getting in the way. Anyway, see you on the tweets.

    • Hi Davina,

      Thanks for your comments! Twitter is amazing for making connections, that’s what I love about it! It was the discussion and community that I missed most while I was on the limit!

      I think you can’t have a formula; if it’s forced, it’s obvious. It’s interesting, though that you don’t use DM much either – I guess by being private, they defeat the purpose of Twitter in general?

      Definitely worthwhile checking every now and then what you’re saying and how much you’re saying. Did you have a look at the article with the statistics? What did you think?


      • I agree that formulas can seem obvious. If I’m busy and can’t tweet, engage .. then I don’t, don’t try to force it. I sometimes miss the conversation, the constant being “in the know” when I’m off the Twitter, but there are times it’s necessary and actually more productive.

        I’ve seen those stats around the web, not sure what to make of them. Twitter is sort of microcosm environment IMO, so I try not to take it too seriously. One thing I’m looking at w/ my tweets.. reducing the number of tweets about Twitter. Gotta have more to talk about, right? 😉

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jill Ruthenberg, Kate Spiers. Kate Spiers said: Experiments in Social Media Number 3, Part 2: Rationing Twitter: http://wp.me/pN3pZ-fv […]

  4. Roxanne Persaud Says:

    Well done! Impressive self discipline there.

    For me, the links I share are part of the reason I think people might follow @commutiny. So I’d never ration them. (I also use packrati.us so twitter is a handy way to share and bookmark sites for future reference)

    This discussion/conversation is harder on twitter so I don’t mind missing out on that. It only really works if I’m watching twitter for an extended period – which I simply can’t! And I prefer conversations where more people can join in (with #yeoldetwitter you couldn’t easily see @replies unless you are following both parties, so conversations are too bitty for me). You can get some quite nice watercooler moments though.

    Rationing the nonsense is always good. Thanks for sharing – you know I’m a big fan of experiments.

    • Hi Roxanne!

      So true – it’s more about who you’re talking to, why you’re talking to them and more importantly, why they’re listening to you. If the purpose is to share, then share!

      I can guarantee if I had kept doing just 5 tweets, 1 of each type per day, I would have been going against the reasons people chose to follow me in the first place.

      Thanks so much for your comments. Really made me think! And thanks for acknowledging my extraordinary self-discipline 😉

      Looking forward to some watercooler moments with you @commutiny!

      Jill x

      PS. I secretly wish I had thought of that handle.

      Just saying.

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