I was a dyed in the wool Twitter refusenik. I ignored its dubious charms for what has been an inordinately long time for me, a habitual early adopter and social media fan.
Eventually I was persuaded to dip a toe in the water by my colleagues on Makeitandmendit.com in the name of research and traffic generation for our fledgling website. As well as joining them on the MIAMI (our acronym for Make it and Mend it) page, I decided to set up my own page as well. My early experiences were framed by my mindset that the whole thing was a complete and utter waste of time and by the fact that I kept muddling mt tweets up and tweeting about the growth of sewing machines or the latest example of sculpture from recycled shopping trolleys on my personal site.
Over the first six weeks I twittered only 9 very embarrassed and awkward tweets on my own page, culminating in the anguished ‘Feel like a schizophrenic twitterer and this side has not been tweeting’. This cri de coeur marked the fact that whilst I was struggling with finding a voice for myself in Twitterdom I was becoming increasingly vocal through MIAMI. This caused me to re-evaluate how I might productively use it for ANT.
My initial resistance was based mainly on the fact that I felt so overwhelmed with more stuff than I could possibly and usefully read. The 140 character maximum of the tweets made my brain ache. Trying to process so many short and cryptic messages was causing severe cranial overload as I tried and failed to sort the wheat from the vast quantities of chaff.
I have now switched position quite radically and see Twitter as an incredibly useful source of stimulus, ideas, information and news. My Damascene conversion came about by taking the following steps:
- I radically cut back on the people I was following and regularly do a pruning exercise. It doesn’t take long to sort out the most useful of the twitterati. In my case, these mostly tweet links to articles and blogs, rather than uttering gnomic wisdom about their toothpaste preferences. I have a very small number of people who post links that are usually worth reading.
- I don’t obsess about how many people follow me. A whole industry has grown up offering tools to get your follower numbers up. What for? I’m not trying to be Stephen Fry. I want to use Twitter as a business tool, so focusing on a small number of highly valuable twitterers makes sense and in turn I only want followers who share my interests and specialisations. I can see no benefit to either of us in a Minnesotan farmer following me (unless of course he needs a marketing strategy!)
- I try to be generous. When I like a link I retweet it and give credit to the source, using the recognised RT and @ Twitter conventions. That way I get retweeted too and that’s a much better way to attract relevant followers
- I try to be disciplined. I use it for down time, over a coffee, while travelling or for defined short periods, otherwise I can get very distracted and go off piste on a wonderous ‘follow that link’ journey that leaves me forgetting what I set out to do in the first place.
- I use it for research. If I need to know something I tweet a request for information or suggested sources.
So now I am a Twitter convert. It enables me to keep up to date with developments in my chosen fields. It has introduced me to new sources of information and valuable opinion and, now that I have got used to processing the 140 character tweets and have limited these to people worth listening to, it is a fast and efficient way to get to the stuff I really want to read.