Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Twitter Advice

I have recently been told by some of my learning colleagues that there is little or no value in twitter and they do not see a need to participate. My response is always that social media only "works" when you put the time, effort and care into it. It does not matter whether it is twitter, yammer, facebook or any other social media platform. My personal opinion is that you need to be anthropological in nature and participate to really evaluate it success or failure. You never asked for email but could you live without it now?

However, for those who are considering Twitter as a tool for use in learning then here are some of my top tips for using it on day by day basis:

  1. Be very selective about the people you follow. Don't be afraid to unfollow if someone turns out to be a chatterer, tweets only about themselves, and generally does not contribute value.
  2. Use #hashtags to associate your tweets with a topic, and to filter the tweet stream. You can search on the hash tag later.
  3. Use Lists to organize what you see in the tweet stream. This is when you have a list of influencers, respected tweeters where you want all of their tweets to appear together.
  4. Use a software tool (e.g., Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck) to precisely control what gets your attention. These also let you aggregate other social media platforms like linked in, facebook, foursquare etc, into the one place so you do not need to hive off into a zillion different browser windows.
  5. POST LINKS!!!! a tool like tweetdeck will shorten long links. The reason for posting links is to get around some limitations of the 140 character format, and because they add value for the audience who is following you.
  6. Don't worry about the number of followers you have as this will take care of itself over time as you settle into your areas of interest.
  7. Use group discussions (e.g., #lrnchat, #edchat, #learning) to plug into professional conversations, make contacts who become valuable resources, and to manage your time on line to the optimum exchanges.

I get a lot of value from Twitter as a personal learning tool, just by being organized, and I believe we as learning professionals can easily build it into the framework of a course. Yes, you do have to help people understand how to use it (see 1-7 above). If you don't like Twitter, if you think it's dumb, if you are offended by the thought that your learners may be criticizing you or not paying attention, well, that's your privilege and you don't need to bother with it any further. But I have to say that I think you are limiting a useful channel for learning by not taking an anthropological approach to embedding yourself first and evaluating from the inside.

This requires a lot of rumination of self....


Anonymous said...

Excellent advice, Rob.

I believe that, for collaborative people, Twitter is an invaluable peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing tool.

For non-collaborative people, however, the value of Twitter will always remain a mystery.

Wilko said...

Thanks Ryan,

I agree. However I take it a step further as I think that for connected people it is invaluable. Collaboration does not necessarily result in connectedness and I think connections need to be formed if we truly are to make the most of this wonderful tool known as twitter.