Twitter is Messy

Seems that Twitter is starting to gain some traction with new people lately… after an interesting couple of posts on the OzTeachers list, I thought I’d throw in some tips and suggestions that have become more obvious to me now I’ve been using it for a while…

Here’s a snip from the email I sent back to the list…  take from it what you will.  Arguments welcome in the comments.  🙂

I can understand the sceptics about Twitter… I was one for a long time. However, I’ve also been getting incredible personal and professional value out of Twitter for quite a while now… So here’s a few thoughts that might help you get your head around it…

You might like to start with my original explanation of Twitter.

The first advice is this…
Don’t even think about evaluating the worth of Twitter until you are “following” at least 40-50 people. Twitter works because it invites diversity and traffic. If you only follow a few people, you’ll get neither and hence won’t really be able to judge whether it has any value for you or not. So find someone you think is worth following, look at who they follow, add some people from their follow list and so on. Don’t stop until you are following at least 40-50 people. Yes, this will generate traffic. Yes you will not be able to take it all in (well, maybe at 40 you still can, but not much beyond that) That’s ok… you don’t need to read every tweet. As you add people to your follow list, you gradually get to a point where the messages flow by you much faster than you can deal with. That’s ok too… it’s a smorgasbord, you don’t need to eat everything! But seriously, if you try to “manage” Twitter by only following a few people you will never see the worth of it. Trust me on this.

Second bit of advice…

Choose who you follow carefully… take a look at their bio, see what they do. I tend to avoid the “web entrepreneurs”, “marketing gurus”, “social media analysts” and so on… they tend to waffle about things I’m not interested in. I usually look for people who are educators, although I do add the occasional non-educator in order to keep some degree of diversity in the feed. Too many people with all the same outlook on things tends to create an echo chamber where there is no diverse opinions or ideas. So it’s good to have a few “ring ins”, just to mix things up a bit. Once you find someone to follow, look at the type and frequency of messages… you probably don’t want to follow someone who constantly tell you what they just had for breakfast or that they are getting their hair done, and you probably don’t want to follow someone who tweets every 3 minutes. However, again, a little bit of diversity can be a good thing, and you’d be surprised at how often these seemingly trivial messages can help you, and to help put a human side to these people you follow. You decide what works for you…

Third bit of advice…

Remember that your tweets go to everyone who follows you, and that they become part of the public record. I wouldn’t, for example, tweet about my bad day and how much I hate my job. I wouldn’t whine too much, swear too much, or do things that would generally have a negative impact on my “digital footprint”. It also means that if you have followers from different parts of your life, they will all get the same tweets… so your family (if they follow you) will read your tweets about education, and your educator colleagues will get to read your tweets about that family bbq last weekend. This is not a problem, but you do need to think about how you structure your online social world.

Learn to use the @ reply system and to send d direct messages to people. Take some time to work out the Twitter culture… like all online communities, it most certainly has one. And if you find a conversation starting to evolve in Twitter between yourself and someone else, and you are realising that it probably isn’t of real interest to the general Twitter community, take it to another forum to keep it going… Skype is great for this.

Last bit of advice…
Get a Twitter client! If you need to go back to the Twitter homepage all the time to check what’s happening, you will quickly lose interest. So pick a good client Twitter app that will run in the background. I used to like Twitterific, but Twhirl is my current favourite. Tweetdeck is pretty good too, though probably better once you get the hang of Twitter. There are plenty of Twitter tools for mobile devices too, like Twinkle, Tweetie and Twibble. Trying to take Twitter seriously without one of these tools is just making life hard for yourself. Get one.

Finally, remember that Twitter is about “small pieces loosely joined”, which is really how the world works in real life. In real life, it is the tiny, seemingly insignificant social connections that so often direct our lives in some surprisingly major ways. Some of you have jobs that you work in because your mother’s friend’s daughter knew a guy whose dentist sent her son to a school that was thinking about employing an extra teacher, and because of these loosely joined social connections, you ended up with a job. Perhaps you met your husband because you went for a drink with a friend one night and bumped into a person who knew someone you went to school with and his best mate had a brother that you were introduced to and eventually married. Isn’t this really how life works? You know it is! Think about your life, and identify all the little serendipitous things that happened to you because you just happened to be in the right place at the right time, talking to the right person. The more connections you make, the more likelihood you have of these “small pieces loosely joined” actually leading you into things that you never knew you wanted and that you never, ever could have predicted. That’s what Twitter does.

Still a sceptic? Trust me and just try it. Not by following three people and never looking at it again, but by REALLY trying it, addinglots of people to your network, and for at least 6 months. Then meet me back here in 6 months and tell me some of the amazing stories that happened to you because of Twitter.

CC BY-SA-NC Image by Nimages DR

CC BY-SA 4.0 Twitter is Messy by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

14 Replies to “Twitter is Messy”

  1. Another way Twitter is messy – you can delete your own tweets, but not those of others – so mark your favorite tweets (messages) with stars and ignore all the others. I have learned so much from Twitter, just in the last few weeks. For example, someone tweeted about Photopeach and now I am doing a project with 2 class using it (http://photopeach.com/home).
    In the long ago days, it was interesting to see who was citing whom in the world of research in your particular interest. Now it’s who is following whom on Twitter.
    One warning – some obvious people to follow are really boring (famous authors, some professors) – I call them monotwitteracs. It’s good to move beyond the prompt: “What are you doing?” If you are brushing your teeth, or eating a tuna sandwich, I’m not interested. Exception – I loved Kathy Ishizuka’s Twitterpic of a man and his dessert (lovely pudding)!

  2. Twitter has been a support group to me in time of need, has shared advice when required, given tips, new urls to read and web2.0 tools to try. I have so many valuable contacts in my personal learning network. Whilst in Qatar at the flatclassroom conference, I needed to work with a group to find some backchannel sites and uses of the backchannel in education, within 15 mins and then present to the audience. So, I quickly put out a tweet and withing minutes had 10 replies to my question. Tomorrow I am going to now use a backchannel, chatzy, in my accounting class. This has been inspired through my twitter network (which one could argue is a type of backchannel)

  3. Hey Chris – I’ve been using Twitter for quite some time now (18 mths) and of late I’ve been following a lot of ‘social media’ people and I have had the feeling that the Twitter conversations have been ‘diluted’.

    So after reading this post, I have found some ‘gems’ to use Twitter better – thanks, Allison

    http://twitter.com/theother66

  4. Chris,
    Great post! Good advice for all.

    @Melissa,
    It’s important to know that although you can delete your own tweets, some 3rd party clients do not delete those tweets. All the more reason to tweet with caution.

  5. Excellent article, Chris!

    Very sceptical myself until one morning, for the first time ever, my website went down, and so did the provider’s support site. I wondered what to do for a moment and then opened a search in Tweetdeck for tweets containing the provider’s name. Immediately, I found out what was wrong, when it would be fixed, what kinds of problems it was causing other people – just from filtering the chatter in the Tweet-o-verse. Nice!

    I used it to follow the IATEFL conference when I wasn’t there – that proved to be really useful too. So now I run Tweetdeck with several searches permanently open to look for stuff that might interest me and find users worth following.

    Oddly enough, what it reminds me of is radio – using the searches to tune into interesting ‘programmes’ from all that chatter out in the ether…

  6. Great advice. One bit of advice I’d add is to follow search terms in addition to people. When I explain to teachers in my district that they can follow news about our district as well as individuals that usually adds tremendous value for them in using the service.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?