Two things that might change your mind, and two (unusual) tips for making productive use of Twitter
For a long time “why bother” certainly summed up my attitude to Twitter. I set up an account a few years ago to test it out but was quickly turned off. The twitter world was full of tweets like “just got a car park” or “washed my hair today”. So much noise and chatter, I didn’t have time (or the inclination) to sort through it. Twitter was for the “look at me” generation I decided. My account was left neglected and unused.
At a conference I attended I was urged to reactivate my account and provide comments via twitter. Reading the running commentary on the conference did not inspire me to take it up either (and it was hugely distracting. Were those people who were madly tweeting away actually listening to anything, I wondered?).
And then a major news event occurred that affected a lot of people around the world. A chance news report that mentioned Twitter prompted me to log into twitter to check out the comments there. I found that hugely fascinating and a really up-to-the-minute commentary on the situation. That certainly caught my attention. (I am a bit of a news and politics hound.)
So here is what I have found that makes me continue to use twitter:
- In amongst all the inane chatter, and self-promoting tweets, there are some really good sources of information. You just need to find them. Once you stumble upon some tweeters that you find interesting, you can track through their hash tags, or the people they follow, and soon build up a collection of good, relevant information. The information you get from twitter will usually be more up-to-date than the news or the newspapers. For a quick update on the news these days, I turn to twitter rather than the online newspapers (which direct me to the most sensationalist stories rather than the most newsworthy stories).
- As well as providing basic information, tweets also direct me to really good articles or websites with information that I might otherwise have missed.
And here are two (more unusual) tips for getting started:
- Set up two accounts. One with your real name and one that has some non-identifying username. Now, I am not advocating identity theft, or even that you assume that the second username account could not be linked back to you if someone really, really wanted to find out. It just makes it less obvious that it is you. Why? Because we all have professional lives and reputations to manage, our comments can impact on our businesses or reputations. Once a comment is out there in cyberspace, it will be there for a very long time and will be linked to you forever. If you find yourself censoring your comments, or not engaging in some discussions because of the potential negative associations with your professional life, then you need a second identity. I have two twitter accounts – one for my business where I post work and business related things. The second account (and no, I am not telling you the username) is where I engage in all things related to my passions for news, politics and the like. I follow people who also have non-identifying usernames. Some of them are political insiders who for the same reasons cannot use their real names. I love reading their uncensored comments on current affairs. Far more informative for me than the news sometimes.
- Ruthlessly cull the list of people you follow. It defies conventional wisdom to have a small list of followers and people to follow. Conventionally the number of people who follow you is some sort of status symbol. The quickest way to build that up ofcourse is to follow other people, who feel obliged in a lovey-dovey way to follow you in return. Nice. But remember you want to minimise “noise”. You don’t want so many comments that you cannot possibly keep up with them. Fine tune your list until you are getting just the sort of information you want.
What are your experiences with Twitter?