Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Ten Tweasons To Tweet

This may surprise some people, but I wasn't an early adopter of Twitter. Like many folk, I didn't 'get it'. I remember having a conversation with a colleague a couple of years ago, he telling me how great Twitter was, and me just thinking 'eh?'

I can't remember what prompted me to sign up in the end. But I took to it pretty quickly. I'll admit, initially, I treated it as a bit of a numbers game - I remember getting quite absurdly excited when I got my 100th follower :-). I got past that though and Twitter is a genuinely useful work tool for me. As I recently commented to a colleague (on Yammer as it happens) it's probably where I get most of my information these days.

My job is partly about encouraging others to use social media, so it is important that I can articulate that usefulness. So here goes...10 reasons why Twitter helps me do my job, and (hopefully) do it well. (NB. this is very much a personal perspective - why I tweet – my reasons may not resonate with everyone.)

1. I get information from Twitter faster than I get it anywhere else. Not so very long ago, I found out that the Scottish Government publications contract had changed (a couple of days before this information appeared on our Intranet). It's not a replacement for other sources of information, but complements the current awareness tools I use - RSS feeds, journal alerts etc. I follow people who have similar roles/interests and I know that they'll tweet stuff which is relevant to me.

2. Having said that, I follow a wide range of people in an attempt to keep my perspective from becoming too narrow! Twitter is a great way of getting exposure to a range of views and opinions.

3. Twitter allows me to vary my level of awareness of issues. I'm interested in lots of things, but to different degrees. Twitter allows me to maintain a general awareness of what's going on in lots of different areas, but also facilitates routes into those issues that I need to have a deeper understanding of.

4. It's a great professional development tool. My CPD framework requires me to have an understanding of all aspects of librarianship, and to keep up to date with developments in the field. I follow librarians and information professionals from all over the world. Even what may seem the most mundane comment (someone griping about a Library Management System for example) can provide a useful insight into their role. As I no longer work in a traditional library role, I find this really valuable.

5. I could leave it at that – using Twitter as just another information source. But I'd be missing out on the most powerful aspect of Twitter the ability to engage with fellow tweeters. I've had conversations with people I would never have 'met' otherwise. I’ve chatted to Pat Kane, Ian Rankin and Sarah Brown in recent weeks...but enough name dropping...I don’t follow many celebs on Twitter - they're often not very interesting :-).

6. So, Twitter lets me punch above my weight. I work in a very bureaucratic and hierarchical organisation (is there a more bureaucratic and hierarchical organisation?!) and I’m pretty near the bottom of the food chain. I spend a lot of time at work being frustrated at my inability to bring about any change – or even to have a conversation with someone who can. There’s no hierarchy on Twitter – just lots of people who want to get things done.

7. And I like sharing information. I'm a librarian. I can't help it! I'll tweet links that I know will be of interest to the folk who follow me. If I'm working on something that may be relevant to my followers, I'll tweet about that – and get instant feedback on it. I may also post on Yammer, on LinkedIn, or on the relevant Communities of Practice, depending on what the information is and who I think it’d be of interest to. But it'll get the greatest exposure on Twitter and what I do is of interest beyond my organisation.

8. I've written before about the limits of traditional conferences and Twitter is a great way of following events. I can't go to every conference I'd like to (in fact, attendance at any external event is increasingly difficult). By keeping an eye on the relevant hashtags, it's possible to follow several events all happening at the same time without leaving my chair. (NB It's always interesting to see how similar the issues being discussed at these events are - even if outwardly the focus is very different.) Sometimes it's possible to actively participate in an event via Twitter - asking the panel a question, for example.

9. I can react instantly to content. For example, I don't have as much time to comment on blog posts as I'd like. If someone posts a link to their latest blog post, I can send them a quick comment via Twitter – and maybe spark off a conversation.

10. I'm not very good at old skool networking. I find it really difficult approaching people at events. In addition to the fairly obvious networking potential of Twitter, it's also great for getting to 'know' people before you meet them in person. Having a laugh about someone’s avatar (usually mine!) is a great ice breaker

So that’s my ten. Any other good reasons to tweet? Or, reasons not to?