What I Learned During a Brief Twitter Fast

Marshmallow Wars

I posted my 100,000th tweet on May 18th, and then left Twitter alone for the next 12 days. Part of it was so that I could leave that weird milestone (and not one that anyone need feel proud about) up there a while, and partly because I thought, “I wonder what I would learn if I shut up for a while.” And so I did.

But I didn’t really. I started a secret account, where I wanted to follow other people from a non-me perspective, to see what it’s like to talk to “big names” who look and see a guy with only 45 followers. I wanted to see a lot of different angles, so that I could tell you more than, “I took a break for 13 days.” And so that’s why I’m writing you this post.

What I Was Using Twitter For

More than anything else, I feel in my heart of hearts that I used Twitter as a kind of “I’m still alive” pulse. I tweeted a lot of inane things, or “in the moment” things that really were basically the same intention: “I’m here. See me?” So, I found that learning to be interesting. I also found that it’s amazing just how many times a day I observe some thought that I want to share with everyone on Twitter, some of them useful and some of them that pulse I just mentioned. I spent one day tallying the amount of times I wanted to tweet but didn’t: 47.

Now, I obviously used Twitter for more than that. 209,000 people wouldn’t follow me if that’s all I posted. My most common tweets were @replies to other people. I found that I spent a lot of time responding to other people and interacting with them. What’s interesting is that when I went incognito (not really) and started my tester account, I noticed that many of the “big guys” I was following (in the music space, not social media) aren’t especially @reply types. In fact, I plan to write a report or blog post or something about what I learned about them in the process (and how it can help you).

How I Intend to Use Twitter Going Forward

As of today, I’m back on the clock. I intend to use Twitter in the following six ways, which align with my business goals and personal interests:

  • Sharing about causes. This continues to be important to me. Take a moment and visit Skip1.org. I’m wearing their shirt today.
  • Promotion. I will still use the service to promote my own business, offerings, and other activities.
  • Media. Most people want to learn something from following someone. I will do my best to educate and help.
  • Community. This is still a very powerful experience for me. What I get from the community I can reach on Twitter is a very wonderful two-way street.
  • Prospecting. I am in business, and Twitter helps me reach the people I need for my business.
  • Learning. There are so many educators freely sharing their knowledge on the platform. Not sure where to start? Try putting a few topics or keywords into Listorious and see what you find.

You can use it however you choose. That’s just what I’ve discovered I intend to do.

As for what media I intend to share, My goal is to help you build your network and help companies develop their digital channel. I’ll post accordingly.

Try a Twitter Fast

What would happen if you quit Twitter for 7 days? What would change? What would you learn about yourself? I know that, for me, I learned a lot. It also gave me a much needed chance to really consider what I intend to share going forward.

What do you think?

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  • http://budujmy.eu/ Robert Materialy

    Nice tips, but Twitter is the most popular in USA and it’s hard to use it in other countries with similiar effect.

    • http://blog.writethat.name/ Brad Patterson @ Kwaga

      This is very true, and then you also of course run into the time zone issues as well.  I’m wondering how it will evolve over the next few years as other social platforms evolve both internally and internationally.

      Great post as always, Chris.  I’ll take a 10 day hiatus for my wedding this August, but any more might be pushing it for a community manager ;-)  Best from Paris, Brad

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Nice.

    I took a month-long ‘digital sabbatical’ last year, I think making it an annual thing might be an idea…

    • http://twitter.com/KatieDavisBurps Katie Davis

       I do that, James. Between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a lot easier to do then! Okay, now I’m definitely getting back to work!

  • http://twitter.com/RobinDickinson Robin Dickinson

    Thanks, Chris. I really like the idea of taking time out to evaluate the purpose behind using platforms such as Twitter – especially as the social media landscape is forming and reforming so quickly. 

    As one of the ‘big names’, I’ve always marveled at your ability to respond and engage on Twitter. I think of you as Chris Brog@n. ;)

    Best to you,

    Robin
    @robindickinson
    Cheeky biz toonist ;)

  • http://twitter.com/phr0ggi The phr0gnomenon

    I’ve halted actual Twitter use (I think GetGlue still drops an update once in a while) for almost 7 days now (it felt like 14) and I find I don’t miss it at all. What I’ve noticed is that since I’ve done that I’ve been spending more time on G+ and getting more out of the content stream on there. Obviously, that’s more a reflection on the clutter in my Twitter stream than anything else but I still don’t know at this point if I want to return to Twitter at the same level as I did before.

    Great article by the way.

  • http://twitter.com/SirenS0 Lorelei Gibb

    Thought provoking stuff – I too think “Twitter” too much, but I also take an annual “holiday”, not just from Twitter but from the online world. Highly recommend it to all. 

  • http://twitter.com/KatieDavisBurps Katie Davis

    I don’t auto-follow just because someone follows me. I check people out, look at their last few tweets and if it’s something that intrigues me, whether it’s for my biz or not, I’ll follow. But there are times when I get the email that informs me that someone has followed me and I am so overwhelmed with work, I just hit delete because sometimes I just have to ignore Twitter. And Pinterest. And Facebook. And commenting on awesome blog posts like this. Aw, heck, what am I doing here? I have to get back to work!

  • http://www.justinparks.com Justin Parks

    I have to say I think that “test” you did was probably one of the most important things you could do – especially for someone who is possibly in a position similar to yourself and who can easily and unintentionally become an egotistical maniac very quickly spouting all sorts of inane drivel about things they have no clue or cause to be talking about (I know all hope is lost for you Chris – but keep trying - I’m rooting for ya :P).

    Getting down and dirty with the everyday rank and file of twitter will definitely making an interesting post, I’m looking forward to that one to see what insights you gained (only so I can rant and moan about them and attempt to correct you at every turn… I know you love it  - so I wont let you down!)
    When you thinking that one will make an appearance then?

  • http://everydayemstips.com Greg Friese

    Twitter has been a good way for me to let go of ideas/thoughts making noise in my head. 140 characters is just right for letting go of something I don’t need and moving on to things that require my focus. 

  • laineyd7

    I consider my Twitter community –  yes, I said “my” ;-)) –  to be my co-workers. I learn from many, others are fun, some both. The best provide the @replies that become conversation. You hit the nail on the head when you said that sometimes you just want people to know you’re there, you’re alive – I feel that too.

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Chris,

    Love the 2 way street mention. I spend less time on twitter these days but when I do, I engage. 

    I automate quite a bit, setting up a nice RSS feed showcasing top bloggers in MLM and cash gifting. It helps to add fresh, usable content to my stream throughout the day.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  • http://www.poweredbyintuition.com/ Angela Artemis

    Chris,
    100K tweets! Really? It sounds like you had a bit of an addiction. lol

    I tweet to promote my own and other people’s articles, books and products that I think would be useful to my followers. Occasionally I will interact with people on Twitter but, not that often. I don’t want to be tethered to my computer/phone/tablet all the time.

    I find it very distracting and exhausting frankly, to have to respond on so many channels of social media (FB, Twitter & G+, etc.). Honestly, between commenting on blogs and social media sometimes I wish I had never started blogging.

    What I want to know is did you find it refreshing to be free of tweeting? Was your mind renewed and restored after this break? Did you have any new insights aside from how you plan to use Twitter in the future because you were not constantly tweeting?

  • http://twitter.com/GoforNo Andrea Waltz

    Fascinating.  Any feeling of being “left out” as the “little guy?” It’s where we all start – yet, makes it feel like high school all over again ;)

  • dianebrogan

    Chris, Nice to have you back :)

    • http://thewisdomguy.com/ Hank Wasiak

      Hi Diane….looking forward to seeing you at Jeff’s 140 conf and seeing your presentation. I’m speaking on Tuesday. Hope all is well.

  • http://marktzk.com/ Mark Tosczak

    Really interesting Chris. One thing your experience makes me wonder about is how much interaction (@ replies and the  like) on Twitter are fueled by pre-existing relationships. I would imagine for a lot of big names that might be one workable way to deal with the high volume of replies, retweets and the like from people they don’t really know.

  • http://www.streetsmartmarketing.com.au/business/ business ideas

    Good thing I don’t have a twitter account. Nice page.

  • Hank

    great post Chris. Lessons that I will definitely apply to my use of twitter. Love the experiment you did tracking how many times you wanted to share info and learning with your followers. 47 times. that is powerful and reflects my experiences. I am always learning from the people I follow and follow me. I think I will try this twitter or Facebook fast with my Internet marketing class this Fall. I ‘ll beq speaking at the 140 conf in a few weeks. Looking forward to meeting Diane there.

    Appreciate your assets today!!!

    H

  • http://www.thewritedesignco.com/ Marcie_Hill

    Thanks for sharing your lesson, Chris. I have a bunch of @replies on my account, too, and I thought I was being too social. But I do realize that many of these people are paying attention to what I do and check in to make sure I’m progressing. And like you, I have noticed that big names do not say much. Not a good look.

  • http://www.huddleproductions.com/ Chris Yates

    My 1 year old brings me my iPhone when it’s in the other room. She must think it’s my “oxygen tank and daddy must have this to breathe.”

    That is when I decided to unplug it at certain times of the day. I leave my phone when I am playing with my kids, having dinner or talking to my wife (probably should at other times as well)

    It was odd at first not having my “oxygen tank” but realized eye to eye contact and interaction with family was more important.

    I don’t know if I could do it for 12 days like you did and I applaud your commitment.

  • http://twitter.com/hudsonite Matthew D. Hudson

    Great write up, Chris. A good reminder that we need a break from social media from time to time to gain (or regain) perspective. Every 100,000 tweets might be a bit steep for me, but love how you had the courage to leave it alone for a while. 

    Do you plan a similar ‘fast’ from Google Plus [after 100,000 posts ;)]?

  • http://ariherzog.com/ Ari Herzog

    If you take a sabbatical, you take a sabbatical Chris. Creating a dummy account and playing with Twitter is not taking a break. Sorry.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Still being Ari, I see. My best to you. 

      • http://ariherzog.com/ Ari Herzog

        What does that mean, Chris?

        Your headline drew me in that you learned something during a sabbatical. But it wasn’t a sabbatical if you used it.

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Let’s start in reverse order. I never said sabbatical. You did. I stopped using my primary twitter account.So yes, I cut myself off from the use of my platform, which was the point. 
          In creating and testing via a non @chrisbrogan:twitter  platform, the point was to learn what it’d be like to not have my platform and see how people would interact/react if I seemed far less established. So the point wasn’t to test whether I could stay away from tweeting. The point was to learn what I’d learn from not tweeting as this presence. 
          Ari being Ari means that you missed the entire thrust of the post, found fault with your perception of it, and failed to glean anything from the premise provided, which falls in line with the majority of your comments on the majority of my posts from the dawn of time. 

          And yet, you spend time visiting and commenting on my posts, almost always to the negative, so there must be some morbid fascination or some unavoidable need to try and assert your perspective. 

          That would be Ari being Ari. 

          • http://ariherzog.com/ Ari Herzog

            Yes, I wrote sabbatical. You wrote fast. Agreed 100 percent. One word is synonymous to a leave and the other to an abstention but both words are apropos if you’re not doing an activity for a period of time.

            Nevertheless, Chris, your title (which I saw in a Twitter news feed from a friend and sparked me to click) indicates you took a Twitter fast. You admit this in your first paragraph above. But you then turn around and counter yourself that you didn’t fast but created a secret account.

            I am not being negative. I am stating the obvious. You linkbaited me into clicking here.

            And, if you don’t like my comments then don’t reply to them.

          • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

            Well that was entertaining. : ) 

          • http://ariherzog.com/ Ari Herzog

             Still being Chris.

          • http://www.justinparks.com Justin Parks

            Its possible your slightly nutty.

  • http://twitter.com/davelucas Dave Lucas

    I’m just tweety-go-lucky, myself!

  • Brett Danforth

    Would love to know if you feel there is a different “prospecting” approach using twitter if one is a minor player vs. a big name. Any insights from your experiment?

  • http://thesocialjoint.com/ Lucretia M Pruitt

    I take “twitter fasts” semi-regularly now. Turns out it’s still there when I get back!
    And I’m always going to be mystified at the people who don’t really @ others… Still reeks of standing in the middle of a great cocktail party and randomly shouting things out without really talking to anyone else. Not just antisocial, but outright weird.

  • http://www.kpib.co.uk/ website optimization

    Well, that wasn’t really a twitter fast. It wasn’t a hiatus at all. I would call that a social experiment of sorts. LOL. With regards to my personal twitter account I just follow artists, writers and musicians. Some would tweet @replies to me. Majority won’t tweet @replies at all.

  • http://www.stealthmode.com hardaway

    I have only tweeted half as much as you have, but I am not in the business of socialmedia consulting. I use Twitter the same way you do, but with somewhat less intensity:-) I’d be curious how well it works for you.

  • http://twitter.com/mqtodd Michael Q Todd

    Those are 7 great ways to use Twitter Chris. I would add connecting people as an easy and valuable use

  • http://sevenroots.com/ Tiyo Kamtiyono

    I have 3 twitter accounts, two for my blogs and another one for me as ME :lol: I use twitter mainly to find news and articles to learn about what I passionate about. 

    I use my blogs accounts  to automatically post new blog update to the farm, while another one to follow some motivation books writers. Both blogs account hit more followers but my own account have less. 

    After reading your next post, that will be interesting to have my case compared and find a better solution, may be Chris :)

  • Dave Hackett

    How about we all do a smartphone fast? My mom would like that

  • http://propertyagents.co/real-estate-lead-generation-course Muhammad Ayaz

    That’s really great ways to use twitter accounts and I will using twitter as community & for media to get more information regarding my industry.

    Thanks for sharing Chris :-)

  • skyle

    Fascinating Chris! Thank you for sharing your experiences and looking forward to the next 100K :) 

  • http://www.turndog-millionaire.com/ Turndog Millionaire

    I love how you re-joined and tested others. Did you unfollow anybody on your main account because of this?

    I can imagine some people will act one way to someone with 200,000 followers and another with 45. 

    It’s sad, but surly some people would?

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • http://twitter.com/BluewaterBrand Bluewater

    Very interesting Chris! I’m an intern quickly learning how to use twitter effectively while still being interesting at the same time. Good info for future reference that will help me learn what more to tweet about.

    Kelli
    @bluewaterintern:twitter 

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  • http://www.rizzotees.com/ Chris @ Rizzo Tees

    Chris, did you feel any more productive during the fast? 

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Yes, because I could focus on my work. I was less reflexive.

  • jetheights

    I think a Twitter fast is imperative, it could help especially when you need to refocus your business. Great ideas man…Going on this FAST fast!

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    Twitter has evolved into a place where there is a lot more broadcasting going on than communicating. It really requires extra effort to carry on the conversations that used to evolve far more easily than they do now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/drewmgriffin Drew Griffin

    I confess that I never effectively or fully embraced Twitter although I used it to broadcast and shout ‘Here I Am’ sort of stuff. Despite having an average quantity of followers , following a few thousand and have engaged with a handful of them, I haven’t leveraged it via listening and engaging. 

    I have started to filter who I follow so that I can use the servie more effectively and provide better value.

    Learning from what you’ve learned from your Twitter Fast is a good start. Combined with an introspective evaluation of who I follow and why is probably the beginning. Then, build on that with replies, and sharing would provide with a solid framework , yes? 

    Thanks for your suggestion with Listorious 

  • Pia Kreisman

    It’s always nice to take a step back and reflect on something
    objectively.  I admire your restraint in doing your twitter fast,
    especially because based on the twitter data you shared, it seems like you have
    really been at it quite regularly and then some.  Reflecting at a distance
    helps us become more responsible in our actions, makes us become more
    productive and progressive.  I have never really gotten hooked with
    twitter yet, but your post has somehow rekindled my interest in this social
    medium again.  Thanks for sharing your
    experience!

  • Desiree Scales

    I found this little nugget fascinating : “I noticed that many of the “big guys” I was following (in the music space, not social media) aren’t especially @reply types.” Why is that? Yes, I find the same holds true in social media sometimes too. You’re not that way. (Well, maybe you were for 12 days.) Nothing drives me crazier than a “big girl or guy” who posts a general question, then never answers when you post back. If you’re going to try to use Twitter to engage, then ENGAGE. Thank people. Manners are manners wherever you put your pixels. Can’t wait to see your post on that. 

    What I really want to know is how Twitter will evolve or if it will just drift away like Yahoo and possibly Facebook. What’s next?

  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    I’ve never thought about a Twitter fast but you’ve definitely intrigued me with your findings, Chris.

    Curious – do you think the big names will catch onto the fact that they are missing out with the lack of @ replies or do you think this type of Twitter use will continue for them?

  • Valerie Deveza

    Maybe I should try this at times, or as you’ve suggested for a one week period.  And maybe with Facebook as well.  It’s hard to imagine life now without these tools, but maybe I’ll still be able to discover something new from this experience. 

  • http://twitter.com/paulhelmick Paul Helmick

    Fantastic clarity of purpose Chris.  Amazing how insight often comes in our quiet moments vs all the business.  Thanks for sharing. ~ Paul

  • Tim Cigelske

    I did something similar when I rationed my tweets for about two months, and went down to 2-3 tweets a day. Found a couple of things. 1) It made me share what I thought was REALLY important, since I only had a few tweets to use throughout the day. 2) I explored elsewhere a lot more, including Tumblr and Google +. 

    Overall it was a healthy experience. I highly recommend it. 

  • Donegal

    What would happen if I quit twitter for 7days ? Well for one I wouldn’t create a fake account just to keep in it –
    So not sure you truly quit it

    many in ireland quit twitter and facebook for lent every year- that’s 40 days !

  • http://www.profiletree.com/ ProfileTree

    Maybe I’ll try this Twitter fasting and see what will happen. Its hard to resist what these social media are offering specially Facebook and Twitter.  This has been a great influence to one’s existence. :)

  • http://www.cloudva.co.uk/blog Karen James

    Great post Chris (and a great idea!).  I’ve noticed recently that businesses seem to use Twitter in one of two ways – it’s either all social chit chat or it’s all pushing messages out (even if they are helpful messages) – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of @replies going on in the 2nd type and no helpful messages in the 1st type!  It would be nice to see a balance of the two.

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