A Minimalist’s Guide to Using Twitter Simply, Productively, and Funly

By Leo Babauta

This morning after our hill run my sister asked me about Twitter: “What’s Twitter all about? I don’t get it?”

Neither did I at first — I resisted using Twitter for more than a year because it seemed like just another distraction, just another way to waste time and have noisy chatter going on in front of you.

But I decided to see what the fuss was all about, and did my Great Twitter Experiment. To my surprise, Twitter was actually fun, interesting, and useful — if used correctly.

I’ve also found that Twitter isn’t something you can explain, and it’s not something you can understand until you’ve used it for at least a few days. You have to use it to get it.

I think that’s because Twitter can be so many things to so many people. One person might use it as a marketing tool, another to stay in touch with friends, another to collaborate with co-workers, and still others to stay informed about their favorite bloggers, websites, the latest gossip, reading, news and more.

Today we’ll look at some different ways you can use Twitter without spending too much time doing it.

A Minimalist Approach

When I first signed up for Twitter a few months ago, I followed a bunch of people I knew and was instantly fed with a stream of new “tweets” from all the people I was following. I read through all the tweets, but the stream just kept coming.

I’d wake up in the morning and try to read through all the tweets, or at least scan them. Then I’d try to keep up periodically throughout the day. It was stressful.

Then I learned the secret of Twitter: don’t try to keep up.

Twitter is like a river … you can step into it at any point and feel the water, bathe in it, frolic if you like … and then get out. And go back in at any time, at any point. But, you don’t have to try to consume the entire river — it’s impossible and frankly a waste of time in my eyes.

So that’s how I approach Twitter these days: I’ll just jump into the stream of incoming tweets and see what people are saying. I can ignore them or follow their links or reply if I want. Then I get out of the stream. I don’t try to read everything I missed, and if I miss a lot of stuff, I’m OK with that.

I’ve actually used this approach I learned from with other things, such as email, Facebook, RSS, news and other information. I don’t have to consume it all, but I can jump into the river anytime I like and read, reply if I like, and get back out. So what if I miss a ton of blog posts, news stories, and emails? Will my life fall apart?

The answer turns out to be no.

Simple Ways to Use Twitter

If you follow this minimalist approach, you don’t have to spend a lot of time using Twitter to get a lot out of it, no matter what your goals are.

Here are some guidelines and ideas for using Twitter that I’ve found to be useful: