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Muting My Noise – How I Made Social Media Relevant Again

A little while ago, I felt like the old man on his front porch when it came to social media.

I reminisced about the old days, when people were on Twitter to talk to other people. When Facebook friends were actual friends.

I kept telling people/brands to get off my lawn, to stop automating, and filling my feeds with junk.

Then I realized it. I created the noise. I auto-followed back the first 32,000 people that followed me without context or relevance. I accepted every friend request on Facebook to make up for my lack of popularity in high school. I accepted every connection on LinkedIn for the vanity metric of a lot of connections.

Complaining about my social media noise would be like turning up Metallica’s “And Justice For All” album to 11, and then complaining it’s too loud.

I made it. You made it for your accounts.

Social was losing a lot of relevance to me, which is the death blow for any platform. Once people start wondering why they’re logging in, they stop logging in. It happened to me with Foursquare last year, and it was about to happen everywhere else.

So I did something about it. Since I hate automation and scheduling on Twitter, that’s my personal choice, not what is “right” on social. So I found a Twitter app, Tweetbot (iPhone), which lets me mute certain Twitter clients. I picked the ones that were mainly used for scheduling and automating/synching tweets. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, just not what I want in my Twitter feed. Here they are:

filter1 Filter2 filter3

Yes, some of these can be real live tweets, so I will never see them, I’m willing to lose the small fraction of them to turn down my noise. Combine these with creating a private list, and I’m now reading real-time tweets of people that I actually want to read. Entirely changed Twitter for me, instead of how I’ve been using it for the past year, which is to check my “@ mentions” and then leaving. Which goes against the entire principal of Twitter. If all we do is look for people talking to us, the entire eco-system eventually implodes to a sea of scheduled tweets, and no one talking/listening. It’s been amazing and surprising how little I see from of my social media colleagues now. So many just cross-post everything, makes me a little sad.

Facebook is a little more work, and I’ve gone from 4800 friends to about 1600, one by painful one over the past 18 months. Again, it has become relevant to me and I’m enjoying it much more.

LinkedIn? It’s a lost cause currently. Not only was it nearly impossible to remove a contact, now they send notifications any time anyone publishes something new, without the ability to universally turn notifications off (you can individually).

Social media should never be about numbers. Especially if your stereo is at “11”. Turn it down. You don’t want me yelling at you from my front porch.

  • Ruth Fidino

    Private lists have been great for me. Since I’ve created the lists I actually want to check what my selected group says.

    • ANGELE @shoeboxbegone

      This happened to me last year when I hit the 1k follower/following. Since I’d used it mostly for conversation I found there was too much noise and I pulled away – for several months. My tweetdeck now has an ‘all’ column and a ‘people I actually talk to’ column. I’ve had to manually add to list, but I’m once again in love with the twitter. Great post!

    • This is definitely the way to go. I’ve bookmarked my favourite friends list and I never look at any other version of my home feed.

  • Joey McGirr™

    Good stuff, Scott (as usual). I was about to dive into the podcast notes looking for, “that Twitter app he onced mentioned that made his feed more real-timey, ” when BOOM, this fancy email showed up in my inbox. Thanks for that.
    As for Facebook and LinkedIn, thank the holy maker that I was never as popular as you. I’ve gone from about 1000 friend to just over 600. Just at about 1100 LinkedIn connections, but why do I care? I’m just checking for notifications anyway.
    Big fan of the blog, podcast and the books. Keep it coming!

  • Sara @ They Call it Gumption

    Wow, this is freakishly timely. I’ve been having the same “where did all of the conversations go” chat with a few of my long-time Twitter friends lately (I recognize the irony there) and wondering what to do about it. I love Twitter too much to walk away but I can’t deny that it’s been driving me a bit nuts too and for this very reason.

    I wish I had more actively used lists from the beginning. I’m planning on going and updating the few I do have and creating some new ones. Maybe it’s time to clean up who I’m following too. Definitely going to give Tweetbot a try though!

  • Scott Rogers

    Thanks for posting an actual written blog. I am sure your videos are fantastic, but I don’t often have time to read them.

    • EyeConnectCrafts.com

      With you in that one!

  • Nicole Buergers

    I’ve been struggling a lot with this over the past few years. My biggest gripe is unfiltered noise on Facebook – I wish people used Facebook filters (or, I wish they were easier to use) to post their post. I have a lot of not-my-locality noise. Drives me batty. I do like this solution for twitter! I use twitter lists a lot too. Google+ circles are good for this. If I had an instagram filter to mute any concert footage, I’d love that. Get off my lawn!

  • Michael Nelson

    I’m guilty of the same steps. I’ve pared down who I follow on Twitter and make use of lists to create flows that I look forward to reading. On FB, “liking” posts from people I’m interested in has made my flow more palatable. LinkedIn is trying to figure out where it belongs and what its strategy is, even recruiters are jumping ship. Really enjoyed the article, very relevant and timely.

  • Why wouldn’t you filter people, instead of using their technology as a filtering mechanism? More work for you (or a VA) to do that, but seems like a more accurate way to reduce noise.

    • Because I want to see your conversation but not your bufferings.

      • Seems like an easier way to go then would be to just filter out all tweets with links.

        • It’s actually really easy this way. Plus gets rid of all the prescheduled motivational quotes!

          • Andrew Craig

            PREACH!
            I’ve just been converted… All hail UNmotivating!

        • I think he still wants to see your tweets, even if they have links, but he doesn’t want to see them if you’ve also used Hootsuite or a similar app to automatically cross post the same thing to all of the social networks you use.

      • AND it would seem likely that most advertiser/brand based tweets would be scheduled — so perhaps it’s a way to avoid the worst offenders on that front as well. Definitely seems worth a test drive!

    • I miss the good old days of Twitter too, but I agree with Jay. Authentic and transparent don’t necessarily mean unscheduled.

      Of course, you can do whatever you want to do to manage your own life and social inbox, but most organizations I consult to can’t extemporaneously shoot from the hip with live tweets and posts 24/7.

      You could go a step further and stop answering the phone and checking email as well and that will make your life a lot quieter, but it may also mean you are missing out on business opportunities. From a user perspective, that’s your choice.

      However, from a consulting / advisor perspective, what are you then recommending?

      • What does email and phone calls have to do with not wanting to see automated tweets. They are different universes. I said it wasn’t wrong, it’s just what I prefer.

        • That’s the beauty of social media. Everyone uses it differently, for different purposes and different preferences. One isn’t better or worse than another, just different!

        • Thanks for responding. I get what you’re saying…as users we all have strategies to manage incoming disruptions and to separate the useful from the useless.

          I was coming at your post from the other (an organization / publisher’s) perspective. As more people “turn off the social noise” how do we as marketers adapt?

          …and as you know…. we are ALWAYS adapting…

          I’m not asking you to have the answer right now, just food for thought….. 🙂

  • Kirsty Hall

    I deleted my LinkedIn account a while back but they still send me notifications that people are trying to friend me on there – sigh.

    On Twitter I use lists to keep track of certain people although I do also randomly read bits of my timelime when I have time and I’m in the mood. I’ve always tried to keep Facebook fairly tight, although it could also do with a cull tbh. And I never even bothered to get started with Google+. You can only do so much, you know and if you’re not careful, you end up spending all your time on social media and not doing any actual work.

  • This is super timely for me as well. I was recently chatting (in person) with the person who got me started on Twitter, and when I told her I didn’t love it anymore, she helped me realize I was following too many people. I’m currently working on a “new” system to rekindle my enthusiasm and my participation (like you, I was responding to mentions but that’s about it) and your tips will definitely help.

  • Andrew Craig

    A long time ago, just as I was starting to use Twitter, I remember reading a story about you visiting Niagara College, and talking to a class (Marketing, probably,) about using social media. My first thought: “Who the hell is Scott Stratten, and why does anyone care?” Second thought:
    “Wait, you can use lists in Twitter?” So, I logged in to Twitter, followed you, and then started sorting my lists. Sometimes, I go to a list and focus on the people I want to engage. And sometimes, I just bathe in the noise. The option works for me, like cranking Metallica, and then leaving the room.

  • darleenw

    SocialBro works well for me. But I do like this method also.

  • Harley Rivet

    Word.

  • Holy Kaw, you mean you actually blocked Alltop? 😉

    Is there a desktop version of this? And where can I send my virtual high-five?

  • Phyllis Nichols

    what’s the deal with paper.li anyway? Is anyone reading it? Perhaps I’m not hip enough to get it. I’m with you- I met amazing people who ended up being friends/peers IRL on twitter. It happens less now – I use it mostly for news – and sports info.

    • I get traffic and occasionally subscribers from paper.li. And new people subscribing right to the paper.li. So someone is still reading them…

  • Scott, this made me smile. I also found myself in overwhelm and questioning relevance, all while hearing every marketing “expert” telling me I MUST be out there on social media. Once I realized I could have real conversations, it shifted me. Now I show up less often, but I’m more engaged w/ others. Thanks for articulating it so well.

    And thanks for being vulnerable 🙂

  • Heather Wardell

    Interesting – my Tweetbot list of clients isn’t the same as yours. But I blocked a bunch and now I look forward to a better Twitter experience. I’ve been doing the ‘check the @ and GTFO’ thing too, and it’s dull.

    Now I just need to figure out how to deal with my author buddies who RT every last promo everyone does. (I need private lists, methinks! Without their lovely selves included. 🙂

  • marklongbottom

    Numbers are ok just one at a time, one day they grow to millions without you knowing but it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t.

    Do what makes sense and is relevant, i learned that a few years ago from a video you made, reminded me of what my dad told me 30 years ago when i left school, talk to everyone but listen as you have something to learn from them all.

    Same as you, he was saying don’t just pick what you think is important look at other stuff, you never know and if we have time for others they’ll have time for you.

    Too many people in power suits with books these days shouting about how business is not all about being social it’s still sales. They are wrong it’s all connected never one or the other is better – they’re hjust holding onto what they knew worked 60 years ago and can still work.

    They would never have worked out the value of a song like kick out the jamms, they’d have stopped because the language used. Those on teh street get it those with spreadsheets have no instinct and don’t ever get it 🙂

  • Katherine Bull

    Come on! LinkedIn isn’t totally useless. It reminded me today that I’ve been at my job for seven years. That’s useful, right? Not. 🙂 LinkedIn has become increasingly creepy. The “who’s viewed your profile” messages makes me want to never click on anyone’s profile for fear they will say “I have a GREAT book idea!” just because I looked at their profile. Ugh.

    I like Facebook but I have been very diligent about keeping people on certain lists. Like if I want to post something about politics that is liberal (which is what I am) I have a “Friends except Conservatives” list. I don’t shy away from debate but I really don’t want to say for the 100th time “1 in 4 kids go hungry in our country” every time someone argues that we should reduce government assistance. There’s no point; there’s such a fundamental ideological difference.

    • Oh, PLEASE tell me how to create a Friends except Conservatives list on Facebook.

      • Katherine Bull

        Super easy! Just create a list and do the “Except” and start clicking people you do NOT want to see those posts. I also have “Close Friends” “Friends except Acquaintances” “Friends except Work” You just have to be super diligent about tagging people so you can put them on the list. Especially right after you accept a Friend request.

  • I almost never go to Twitter anymore. I’m not sure how to do the list thing, but I guess I’ll head there now and try to figure it out.

  • Natalie Rea

    Enjoyed this and think it will resonate with many of us “old-timers” 🙂

  • Cecilia

    Thanks for your article. I agree 100% and I am happy you said out loud what some of us are already doing quietly. I, for instance, have even left Facebook, two years ago, because of the same reasons and can’t tell you what a relief it is! As per LinkedIn I must agree again that it is a lost cause. I feel I have my hands tied and have to follow the crowd which I don’t appreciate at all.

  • I hear ya Scott. Some social media wizard somewhere has been giving out this rational that you should post to Twitter a million (I’m exaggerating) times per day to get “results”. Then everyone who claims to be a social media expert keeps perpetuating this garbage. This makes zero sense to me. It’s supposed to be about posting good quality interesting posts. Period.
    Keep it real and be interesting:)

  • Interesting move, Scott.

    Like you said, there’s no real wrong or right in this case, but here’s my take:

    I think that blocking things like tweets that have been “buffer-ed” would mean you may be missing some interesting articles etc (I’ve recently started using Buffer because I go on reading spurts, so rather than send out 15 links in 30 mins, they get spaced out and may not seem as annoying to people following me). Some of the things you have listed there, I totally get blocking though.
    The other thing I did to make my Twitter life a lot better was to create private lists (and I only did private because I didn’t want anyone to get offended by what list I put them in). I spent an agonizing weekend a few years ago (in the dead of winter, so not leaving the house for a weekend didn’t make me shame myself about it) and put almost everyone I was following into a list of some kind. I also unfollowed people that I didn’t care to follow anymore. Now though, every time I follow a new person/account the first thing I do after I follow them is add them to one of my lists. This way, every time I go to Twitter I can find things that I’m interested in looking at at that moment whether it be what my friends are up to/saying, news, or just looking for some interesting industry stuff from people (I also have way more lists… don’t even ask which one I have you under). This completely changed my Twitter experience and now it’s so much easier to handle following a large group of people without feeling overwhelmed every time I look at it.

    Anyways, like I said, there’s no right or wrong to how you want to approach your social media experience. Everyone does it differently and I get it and it’s one of the things I love most about social. Just wanted to share an idea with you to maybe make it better for you and not miss some stuff that may actually be interesting to you.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon

    PS – I hate motivational quotes also. Especially because the people who share them the most don’t seem all that motivated. If they were, they’d be doing awesome stuff instead of googling motivational quotes.

  • mumby

    I’m with ya. My private lists and category tabs in hootsuite make twitter truly valuable. Everyone I follow is listed. FB friends are only my IRLFriends.. I actually don’t see how FB could be FUN or useful with 500+ connections.. you’d miss so much!
    Instagram and LInkedIn though? I figure it can’t hurt. IG is just FUN and pretty… and since i don’t ‘browse’ linkedin.. there’s no noise.. and you never know when a connection will become important.

  • I have several private Twitter lists that I turn into columns in Tweetdeck. Truly a “social media life” saver and you can add someone to a list without following them. Great tips on muting Twitter clients.

  • What I’m observing from both the post and the comments is that everyone’s Twitter experience is different. To some, like Scott, presence is king. To others, authentic, relevant content is most important, whether its delivery is automated or not. To me, I just like Tweetbot so I can mute awards show and Game of Thrones hashtags on Sundays 🙂

  • Ian Gertler

    Agree, Scott … I want the social element of social media, especially with Twitter (still my favorite platform in the space). Thanks for the insight and perspective that resonates with me completely. Cheers, my friend.

  • I live by lists for that exact reason. Glad we haven’t lost ya.

  • Tarja Stoeckl

    The symbolism of muting the noise in general — in our heads, on our computers, in our feeds … good ol’ days. Dinner parties, hiking in nature, laughing at pics of friends on FB b/c they were your friends 🙂 I helped people build their brand and yet I don’t accept friend requests that aren’t my friends nor build automation into tweets or the like. If you want it to be real you gotta be real with it. Totally dig your messages, always Scott. Thanks for keepin’ it real!

  • I have this really bad feeling I’ve been muted… Oh well! Off to find an android Tweetbot alternative 🙂 Great info. Thanks for sharing Scott!

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  • nice information. Thanks for posting this..

  • Jesq

    Cool article! I also found more information about all these topics in #MultimindGroup you can follow them on @MultimindGroup 🙂 http://www.multimindgroup.com/shopping-cart-online-jewelry-retailers-losing-67-45-sales/

  • This morning I thought, “I wonder what Scott is up to?” I’m so glad I checked! The new Tweetbot sounds like it’s exactly what I need. (I could swear that I used to have Tweetbot for my Blackberry years ago.) For the past year I’ve only been using Twitter for a few chats and nothing else. Maybe Tweetbot can change that.

    Now if only there were a cure for the rampant hashtag abuse found amongst medical tweeters. Ridiculous tags aren’t just in robo-posts; they’re in live posts, too. In live chats! How do we stop the madness???

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  • I do have lots of followers and managing them is critical. So I got Lists. Now i can create my private lists and reaching people wherever it should be. When there is a problem. there is a solution. That we have to find.
    Great post.

  • Alex Dwight

    Marketing is more than advertising and selling your products. Marketing addresses all aspects of growing your customer base, and the more you know, the more successful your marketing and your business will be.

    http://www.soulpepper.com/

  • James Hughes

    It’s really annoying when you can’t find that important message or post because it has been covered up with nonsense ones.

  • Beth Grant

    Scott, I just attended the Buffini show in Richmond and really enjoyed your talk. Had no idea what to expect but it all makes sense! Thanks!

  • I’m new to facebook (whaaaat???) yes, i know – im a bit slow… and I was very anxious about my first post and what to show and how to caption it, and as I started to look around what a lot of others were doing i found that the majority just tended to like other peoples stuff, and re-post, share etc. For a society that is apparently very public with their lives, we aren’t actually showing anything about us, except that we like to follow others. Bit of a waste really. Time to let your brand and the real you shine through I think.

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  • latracy

    This post reminds me of an ongoing discussion I have with my business partner: quality vs. quantity. I am in a Mastermind group with someone who has been on Instagram for about 6 months and he brags about the number of followers, connections (whatever they are on IG) that he has. He has a ton. None of them are doing anything for his business or getting him where he wants to go. But he has 10,000 followers. I’m trying to grow my following more organically and try to have meaningful conversations with each. Obviously, I don’t have 10,000 followers on one platform. Is it wrong to want quality followers (thus, fewer) over a large quantity?

    • If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right!

  • If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. 🙂

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  • Social media is a very useful tool when it comes to online and offline marketing, you just have to know how to use it and incorporate it with your strategic planning. At the end of the day, it’s all about learning The key difference in strategies for B2B and B2C marketing because once you know the basics you will be able to create marketing strategies that will meet your client’s requirements.

  • wyatt jozwowski

    I’ve definitely felt the same way about Twitter lately

  • Internet Marketing Direct

    Thanks for sharing this mate, brilliant idea. It will be an additional for the average social media marketers