A year ago, I decided to lessen my reliance on Twitter. Here's my progress so far...
A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post pondering what would change in my workflow if Twitter disappeared. At the time, Twitter was actively looking for buyers and had just shut down Vine. I identified what I would miss without Twitter and decided to start looking for options to address some potential pain points.
In the last year, the narrative has shifted from Twitter’s possible sale to issues with abuse and hatred. Twitter increased the character count to 280 and that’s worked out fine, but it’s user growth is still flat. As Twitter tries to jumpstart the service, I still believe the likelihood of Twitter imploding within the next few years is high.
I thought I’d revisit my areas of concern from my previous post and share what I’ve done to mitigate those issues.
I’d lose a bunch of contacts. My first concern was that I’d lose a bunch of contacts that I only had on Twitter. I’m a little less concerned about this than I was a year ago. I’ve slowly started to connect with more people, experts and brands on other services like LinkedIn and Facebook. I’ve still got a ways to go and will continue to expand the roster of people I follow on other services.
I’d change how I watch live events. I’m still using Twitter during live events. For me, this is the hardest to replace. During the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl this week,* I kept up with commentary from reporters and friends on Twitter. Following commentary on live events is challenging through Facebook. Posts don’t appear in sequential order because of their algorithm.
Twitter is simply the best option to handle streaming written commentary during an event. I’m sure I could use something like Snapchat, but I don’t know enough people on Snapchat for it to be useful for me.**
I’d have to rethink how I find articles and stories. This was a big issue for me, but I’ve kind of solved it… by cheating a little bit. I’ve started using Nuzzel*** to surface headlines from my social media services. Not familiar with Nuzzel? It’s a pretty simple service. You connect your social media services — Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — and Nuzzel tells you what links your friends (and friends of your friends) are sharing. This works really well for finding the links and articles that your social circle is talking about… without actually going into Twitter or Facebook. It’s cheating because 95% of the links that come up are from people I follow on Twitter. I really like the service and I see lots of links I would have otherwise missed. I highly recommend it.
I’ve upgraded to Feedly Pro and I’m being more intentional about subscribing to interesting RSS feeds. I’m going to continue to expand my use of Feedly.
I find Facebook useless for finding actual news stories unless I want to know “27 Secrets from The Last Jedi” or some crappy, clickbait slideshow link. And LinkedIn seems equally useless for finding content that I’m interested in.
I need to give Medium another chance, but for some reason, I just haven’t been interested in building an account on Medium with people I follow and read regularly. Maybe that’s something to look into more in 2018.
I’d have to rethink how I share content. Sharing the content I create is another issue. I’m sharing more widely on other services, but I’m still using Twitter. For 2018, I’m shifting most of my short format posting to Micro.Blog with automatic cross posting to Twitter.
And to promote most of my blog posts or interesting content, I schedule posts through Buffer to several different services.
I’ve thought about reposting my blog posts and articles on Medium, but it seems like a lot of work to post everything twice. (And only posting to Medium is not an option for me. I want everything hosted on my site.) I may try Medium again.
I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I can’t get into Dribbble. I love the concept and I love the community, but it just doesn’t match up with the way I work. Still, the community is great so maybe I’ll give it another shot in 2018.
And finally, Pinterest. For some of my content — specifically my shirt and product designs — Pinterest is a great service. But I haven’t really spent that much time in Pinterest personally, so that might be another avenue I explore in 2018.
I’d change the way I use Facebook. So Facebook… I really do think that we’ve reached the point where you have to have a Facebook account, unfortunately. In today’s communications environment, Facebook is a necessary evil. Over the last year, Facebook has had it’s own problems with hatred, fake news and discrimination, though, and I'd love to reduce my reliance on Facebook, too.
Facebook is a great place to share family photos, but for serious content, I don’t think it works well. I’ve started to build an audience for the Sketchbook B Facebook page and I’m going to continue to promote the page and hopefully expand the number of followers. That said, I feel like Facebook’s algorithm is going to hide my content unless I pay to promote it, which I may start to do selectively.
I’d spend more time on Instagram. I still love Instagram.**** A couple years ago, I switched my account from a personal account to a business account. The bonus was that I could see viewer metrics, but the drawback was that it would only let me cross post to my Facebook Sketchbook B business page, not my personal profile. Since most of my Instagram shots are family or fun shots, I want to cross post those to my personal Facebook page. I don’t really care about metrics so I recently switched back to the personal account.
I plan to cross post my fun family Instagram images to Twitter and Facebook more regularly. I also plan to manually repost from Instagram to Micro.Blog. It’s a little bit of work, but I like having everything on my site.
I’d try to find a replacement. A little over a year ago, I was guessing that if Twitter disappeared, someone would rise up and meet the needs of it’s former user base. I didn’t have to wait until Twitter disappeared. A few months after I wrote my post, Manton Reece launched his Micro.Blog Kickstarter project. Micro.Blog is a service that allows me to host my microblog posts — basically, tweets — on my own site and then share through a social media service. Manton’s done a great job so far, and I really think that Micro.Blog is the tip of the iceberg for a resurgence of the independent web. The service isn’t for everyone and it’s in the early days. Manton is still figuring out how some features will work, but I think it’s a great fit for me. (I’m going to write a lot more about Micro.Blog this month, including why I’m excited about it, and detailing how I configured my Squarespace blog to work with Micro.Blog.)
Reality check. I’m not completely giving up on Twitter, though. I’ve been a Twitter user since 2007 and Twitter is part of my daily routine. It's just a less enjoyable part of my daily routine now. This year, I backed Twitteriffic for Mac on Kickstarter because I wanted my favorite Twitter client on my Mac.
Times are changing, though, and I honestly believe that we all need to be diversifying — and if possible, owning — our social media presence. Becoming less reliant on the big social media behemoths is the first step.
I look forward to revisiting my progress next year.
** I joke that I’m a grouchy old guy that doesn’t “get” Snapchat. The truth is that very few of my friends are on Snapchat and so it really isn’t that useful to me. If I had a bunch of friends active on Snapchat, I’d be there. Even if the interface is crap.
**** Owned by Facebook. Sigh.
Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on Twitter, Instagram and Micro.Blog.