The story went back to one week in mid-March when I was so sick I didn't spend much time on Twitter. When I finally got back, I couldn't help but notice something was wrong.
Back in Feb & Mar 2022, I was easily getting this type of engagement with my following.
At first I thought it was the algorithmic penalty of being away. I engaged a lot (replied to other people's tweets) and it was still the same.
Then since Apr 2022, it has been clear that less people are reading my tweets (threads are worse). I'm not a data person so I didn't look into the exact numbers, but I knew.
I even turned on a feature on Hypefury that can automatically retweet my tweets after 6h and 12h. But no help.
That's when I started guessing what could have changed in the world. Maybe the algorithm changed. Maybe people are getting more active in real life. Maybe people are burned out.
Then one day, I saw a bunch of tweets from random people on my Twitter feed. I might have found the answer.
2 days later even Elon Musk gave everyone a quick tip on this.
This was the day I wanted to step up my game to protect my own Twitter experience. Twitter has empowered my entire online business, I am not ready to give up this platform that connected me to so many amazing people.
While a lot of people use 3rd party tools to help them with this, if I'm honest with you, I've been relying on the Twitter feed for all my interactions since day 1. No tools. No smart ways. Just disciplines.
I didn't want to complicate my 3 simple pillars of Twitter:
- Create value
- Talk to people
- Build relationships.
Because I know the more process I add to it, the less time I have to focus on these 3 pillars.
But anyway, I have no choice now.
The Twitter home feed is getting worse and worse by day. Before I jump in to share with you how I’m going about it, let’s first look at how bad things are.
All these things are destroying my Twitter experience:
- I see recommendations based on topics like “Mathematics” or “Online education” or "Web design"
- I see tweets from someone I don’t know when someone I follow replies or likes a tweet to this person
- I see a lot of ads
- I see a lot of “You might like this”
I can safely say that at least 50% of the tweets I see now are people I don’t follow. I know what Twitter is doing - to let us discover more people and expand our network. But then, it took away our relationships with the people we follow to hear from.
I also noticed the feed on my mobile phone is worse than the feed on my laptop.
This is obviously not okay. I follow people to interact with them and I want to mindfully discover new, interesting people to connect with. I don’t need the algorithm to keep suggesting content or people to me to distract or overwhelm my life.
The simple fix
So my first mission is to rescue my Twitter feed. I made all these changes:
- Settings > Privacy and safety > Off-Twitter Activity > Untick “Allow use of where you see Twitter content across the Web” and “Personalized base on your inferred identity”
- Settings > Privacy and safety > Personalize based on places you’ve been> Untick “Personalize based on places you’ve been”
- Settings > Privacy and safety > Content you see > Topics > Ensure you’re not following any topics
- Settings > Privacy and safety > Content you see > Interests > Ensure you’re not following any interests
- Settings > Privacy and safety > Expore Settings Untick “ Show content in this location” and “Trends for you”
Click here to go to your Settings > Muted words and mute all the following words:
This is the source I learned this from. You're basically asking the Twitter algorithm you don't want these "suggestions" in your timeline.
Unfortunately, you do have to mute each word one by one unless you know how to run a script.
I checked after 2 days, and my Twitter feed seemed to get significantly cleaner, focusing on the people I follow and care about.
Another thing you can do, which Elon already shared with you (see the above tweet), is to see tweets in chronological order. You can see this icon at the top right of your laptop or mobile screen that looks like a shining star.
You can change from a home feed full of recommendation to a home feed based on the latest tweets. This is an easy way to see the conversations happening around you, not controlled by the algorithm.
A few friends also told me to actively unfollow, mute, or even block people to protect my time and attention. I haven't done that extensively but it would be worthwhile.
If you want to stick with an easy approach to use your Twitter feed plus getting a bit of serendipity, you're all set here! But if you want more, read on.
The advanced fix
If you prefer something more sophisticated, let me introduce you a tool called TweetDeck that was acquired by Twitter back in 2011. Best part? It is free!
Tweetdeck is designed to let you have better control over the things you see on Twitter.
This is how I go about setting up my TweetDeck. I'll explain each column below.
Column 1 is notifications
But instead of receiving everything like on Twitter, I remove things like New Likes or New Followers that I don’t need.
Columns 2-5 are Twitter lists
My 2nd column is dedicated to my friends and I call it “PublicLabFriends” because I value connections the most on Twitter. I want to make sure I can see their tweets to support my friends.
Pro Tip: turn on "Exclude Retweets"
The 3rd column is actually an advanced version of the same Twitter list “PublicLabFriends”. By extracting the list ID and making it a search column, I can filter tweets based on the number of retweets/likes/replies. This comes into handy when I want to see top-performing tweets from my friends. But more important, this is to help me scout for valuable tweets that go into my Public Lab newsletter.
The 4th and 5th columns are exactly like my 2nd and 3rd but this time it is for a different Twitter list called “PublicLabExperts”. I like to read and get inspired by the top voices in the topic areas I cover. Not only to engage with, I also feature some of their tweets in my newsletter and want to follow the trend of the community.
Column 6 is expansion
The 6th column is dedicated to a Twitter list I put together to expand my own network each quarter. I’d identify 10-15 new friends and put them on the list so that I can slowly engage with them. This is my belief that “there is a journey to every relationship” and I want to get started in a slow way. This also makes sure that I’m prioritizing my circle expansion.
Columns 7-8 are tracking my website mentions
The 7th and 8th columns are dedicated to tracking my own websites. If anyone mentions it, I want to be there to thank them and show respect. I also retweet some of them as social proof.
Column 9 is to look at my favorite hashtag
Since I talk a lot about Build in Public, I want to stay updated to what the community is talking about.
With a set up like this, I’m able to get on Twitter for a deep 30 mins session each day and accomplish a lot. I don’t have to rely on recommendations from the algorithm and I can get the information I need or engage with the right people and hop off Twitter.
I likely haven’t covered everything about Twitter feed and TweetDeck that you should know, but this should be enough for you to get started!
By the way, I wouldn’t recommend using TweeDeck to schedule your tweets because you should split up "creating" with "consuming/interacting". If you mix up these two activities that are using very different parts of your brain, you're introducing chaos to your Twitter experience.
The Twitter feed is not the only chaotic thing in your effort to build up your Twitter presence. There are still so much noisiness, self-doubt, and exhaustion that are blocking your way. This is why I wrote the book, Find Joy in Chaos, to share my frameworks to building up my Twitter presence from scratch. You might enjoy the book.
Lastly, if you find this article helpful, share with a friend so we can all find joy in the Twitter chaos.