Here’s an intimidating Twitter statistic: Twitter has 313 million monthly active users. Those people generate millions and millions of tweets per day. How are we supposed to keep up with all that information flying around in 140-characters-or-fewer at a time?
Fortunately, Twitter gives us tools to help sort through all the fuss and get to the information we’re really after, it’s just a matter of learning to use them effectively.
1. START WITH YOUR TIMELINE
Once upon a time, your Twitter timeline was a continuous feed of tweets from the people you follow, sorted out chronologically. In 2016, Twitter tweaked that approach and now displays tweets based on what it thinks is most important to you. That means you won’t necessarily see the absolute newest tweets. You may even see suggestions for tweets that came out many hours ago.
This can be a great way to keep up on tweets you may have missed, but you can switch back to seeing tweets in chronological order by going into your settings and de-selecting the Timeline option for “Show me the best Tweets first.” It’s all about personal preference and whether you value seeing the newest tweets over seeing tweets that may have slipped by earlier.
2. MAKE A LIST
So, you follow 5,000 different Twitter accounts. How do you sort them all out? You make a Twitter list. Twitter lists let you curate and group accounts together. When you create a new list, you can choose to make it public or private. Add to your lists by searching for accounts, selecting the gear icon on those accounts, and choosing which list in which to add them. Lists can be as broad or as specific as you like. You could have a list for just family members, one for your favorite news organizations, a list for your favorite celebrities, or one just for people who tweet about food.
It can take some time to build up multiple lists, but the reward is a much more organized method for keeping track of tweets than you will get with the hodgepodge on your timeline. When you visit one of your lists, you will only see tweets from the accounts you’ve added to that group. You can tweak these lists by adding or removing accounts to shape the feed you see. Don’t be afraid to tinker.
In addition to creating your own lists, you can follow public lists made by other Twitter users. When you visit a Twitter account’s main page, look for the “Lists” section (you may need to access this through more options on the Twitter mobile apps). Click on a list’s title to see which accounts are included in that list and the sort of tweets that show up in it. Then you can choose to subscribe and add it to your own set of lists for easy access.
Lists are powerful, but they sometimes fly under Twitter users’ radars. Try them out. You may soon find you’re spending more time browsing your lists than you are staring at the pile-up in your main timeline feed.
3. DON’T FOLLOW EVERYONE
One way to keep your Twitter timeline from filling up with irrelevant information is to simply keep a lid on who you follow. Just because someone follows you doesn’t mean you’re obligated to follow them back. You can also easily drop accounts by clicking on the blue “following” icon and choosing to unfollow. Otherwise, just make a quick mental check before you follow a new account: Do I really want to see these tweets in my feed?
4. EXPLORE WITH TWITTER
Twitter itself knows that people struggle to keep up with the onslaught of tweets pouring out across the site at all times. In late January, the company announced a new “Explore” tab for its iOS and Android mobile apps. Explore brings together trends, Moments (more on these later), live video, and search in one convenient place. Hit the Explore tab and you will see trending hashtags, a search box, a listing of current Moments, and popular live video tweets. It’s a quick way to get an overview of what’s shaking across the site.
5. TAKE A MOMENT
If you come to Twitter looking for diverse views on current events, then the “Moments” tab, symbolized by a lightning bolt, is the place for you. Twitter refers to Moments as “curated stories showcasing the very best of what’s happening on Twitter.” The default view displays suggestions from Twitter on what it deems to be notable news you might want to check out. For example, you might see a section dedicated to the Super Bowl or other major sporting events.
You can also customize the experience by creating your own Moment. This lets you choose the subject, cover photo, and what tweets to include. You can share these creations publicly with your followers or keep it private. Making your own Moments is entirely optional, but it can be a handy way to organize tweets around a particular topic you’re interested in.
Keep in mind that Moments on mobile devices is becoming part of the Explore tab. The same information is still there, it’s just integrated among the other Explore features.
If you only have time to implement one tip from these suggestions, then take a few minutes to check out Twitter lists and organize some of the accounts you follow.