Dan sips a bourbon on the rocksWhen I talk to co-workers and clients, I’m often asked how I can bear to follow so many people and still feel like I’m part of discussions on Twitter. My answer is a simple one. I take part in the discussions I believe I can add relevance to or ask questions when I have a genuine interest in a topic or particular Tweet. I treat Twitter as if I’m at a huge dinner party filled with really intelligent guests. I add something to the conversation when I believe I can say something relevant, helpful or offer my opinion when it’s asked of me.

Ironically, while doing research for this post, I found out Chris Brogan used a Cocktail Party as his analogy when he discussed how he uses Twitter. It’s a great post!

As of this post (Jan. 15, 2009) I’m following 900 people and being followed by more than 650 people. It’s not easy to keep up with all 900 people I follow. For most users I’d imagine Twitter, is the chance to engage with people who have their similar interests in mind or with people in their vicinity. For me, Twitter has become an integral part of my day, a research tool and a method of communication.

The long and short of it is that I DON’T participate in every conversation. I DO go back and use Twitter Search to find topics I’m concerned about and follow up on them with vigor. As an advertising and marketing professional, I spend a lot of time following the competition of my clients, discussing my client’s service or product and using my feed as a PR vehicle for those products or services. That being said, I also use my Twitter feed as an opportunity to be myself and to discuss issues I’m interested in. I don’t believe in maintaining a separate feed for my “work” activity. I’m always working and usually let my personality seep into my work and my work relationships (perhaps to a fault?).

Sure, as someone who’s main client is Chevrolet, I spend a lot of time reading Tweets from Auto Blogs, newspapers, industry buffs and gearheads, but I’m also a passionate Geek who loves film, technology, iPhone applications, philosophy, politics and sports. I believe that as social media practitioners we have a responsibility to be ourselves. We can’t tell a brand to be authentic and transparent without being authentic and transparent when we’re doing the telling. We really need to drink our own Kool-Aid more often than not.

I personally don’t use any desktop apps to manage my feed. I check updates occasionally when I’m away from my computer at work through Twitteriffic on my iPhone, but if I miss some things I don’t panic. I take it in stride that I can’t be involved in every discussion that I’d like to be in and that I can’t be part of all the action. I react and respond to what I can. With the number of followers I have at the moment, I can still make time to respond to ever Direct Message (I get about 10 a day), and still respond to every “@.” However, I can’t respond to every request for a poll, can’t read every blog post tweeted by a user I follow whose opinion I genuinely value, and can’t stay up 24-hours a day to keep up on the feed. I do what I can, stay as transparent as possible and make sure I’m a part of the conversations I believe I NEED to be a part of – which usually equals 20-30 tweets a day on the average (more in cases I’m at events like #NAIAS – 34 tweets in 4 hours).

I imagine if I pop well over the 1,000 following mark, I’ll need to start using something like TweetDeck to keep up and keep things organized, but for now, I’m happy with the way I’m using Twitter.

Sidenote: @Eyecube has an amazing post today on the politics of corporate social media transparency with lots of great discussions in the comments.

How are you using Twitter based on your volume, job function or interests? I’d love to know your tips and tricks or if you converse in a different way based on your function. Post them in the comments below!