There are still lots of people out there who think Twitter is just a silly place for teenage girls to update the world on what they had for breakfast.  If you’re one of those people, listen up.

Twitter is not for people without lives.  Twitter is not stupid.  Twitter is not a place to get updates on the monotonous happenings of your friends and family.

…Well… It doesn’t have to be.

I, too, was a proud member of the Twitter hate club for a long time.  But, since I’ve gotten more comfortable with it and learned how to better utilize it as a learning tool, I’ve started to love it.

There are countless experts on Twitter in every category and industry (take this Mark Shaw guy for example who technorati recently dubbed the UK’s “Mr. Twitter”).  These experts are publishing valuable information in quick sound bites, and those sound bites are both easy to organize and easy to digest on Twitter.  Once you come up with a solid list of people to follow and organize them into groups that make sense, Twitter can easily be used as a fount of information.

Who should you follow on Twitter?

The first step in deciding who to follow is determining your purpose for using Twitter.  Do you want to get tips from industry experts?  Want to keep up with bloggers who write about your field?  Looking for ideas on how to decorate your home or information about your favorite cars?  How about deals in your town or gardening tips?

Heck… maybe you even want to read the monotonous goings-on of all of your friends and family (particularly if your dad says s*** like this).

Decide what kind of content you want to get from Twitter and let that help you decide who to follow.

I choose to follow a combination of people in my field, people in fields that I am interested in and my friends.  I have lists for:

  • Communications Pros – friends and acquaintances in the field
  • Communications Advice – bloggers and those with tips and advice in the field
  • News Updates – my favorite news sources
  • Friends
  • Mommy Bloggers
  • Companies and organizations to follow
  • Gardening
  • Recipes
  • Home design
  • Eco-friendly bloggers
  • Home brewers

How do you avoid clutter on Twitter?

Sort everyone you follow into lists.  This is the best and most important Twitter advice I can give, and there are a few reasons why you should do this.  The first reason is that, due to the large amount of information coming in, the average person’s home feed buries Tweets in a number of minutes.  That makes it nearly impossible to keep up with the information you really want to read.

The second reason is that sorting your Twitter content into lists allows you to read only about the topics you want when you want.  No more drudging through that home feed of jumbled mess looking for one specific thing.

To sort the people you follow, click the button displayed below on your personal Twitter feed, create a list and select it.

Once you have all of the people you follow sorted into lists, you should view their content by list instead of relying on your home feed.  To view the content by list, you can choose view this information through the list feed on Twitter (below) or you can use a tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck.

Hootsuite and TweetDeck allow you to organize the content you want to take in on Twitter in a more digestible way than on the Twitter page itself.  They allow you to view your lists in columns, seeing as much or as little information as you like at one time.  Here is a screenshot of my Hootsuite account right now to give you an idea of what to expect:

So, if you’ve been on the Twitter hating train, hop off, give it one more try with a better organization system, and see if you like it any better.

Any additional tips on using Twitter effectively?  I’d love to hear them.  Leave them in the comments!