The other day I posted tweet no. 3,000 and thought I might take a few minutes to talk about what I find so valuable about this particular tool. Twitter is by far my favorite social networking site. While I use Facebook to stay in touch with friends, and it’s a place where I can have some fun, I use Twitter overwhelmingly for professional purposes. Admittedly, it is not easy to get started on Twitter. In fact, it’s downright counter-intuitive. Why exactly do I only get 140 characters to work with and what the hell am I supposed to say? Probably like most people I initially set up my account, posted a few tweets and then forgot about it for a time.
Like I said, getting started can be frustrating, but let me suggest why it may be worth it. The first thing you need to do is understand is why you are using it. Twitter is much more than simply responding to the question: “What’s Happening?” I use it primarily to share information related to historical research, the teaching of history, and other online sites that I come across that others may find interesting. It’s one of the most efficient ways I’ve found to share information that matters to me with individuals who have similar interests. Who, are these folks that I am sharing information with? Well, they are people that have chosen to “Follow” my Twitter stream. I, in turn, follow folks who are posting information that I find relevant. As of the date of this post I am following 153 fellow tweeters and there are currently 424 individuals who follow my stream. There is a practice or courtesy – sometimes referred to as “Reciprocal Following – that essentially returns the favor in response to the addition of a new member of your community. As you can see I do not make this a practice. I am very conscious of maintaining a Twitter stream that contains information that I find valuable. The more attention you give to who you follow determines the quality of information you receive and how much you get out of the overall experience. What it comes down to is that I now have an additional 153 pairs of eyes that I can count on to share quality information with me, information that I probably would never have come across on my own. Once that tweet (usually including a hyperlink) comes across my stream I can do any number of things with it, including “Retweeting” it for my readers, emailing it to a friend, saving it to my Delicious Bookmarks, etc. Finally, I enjoy the short conversations on Twitter. The character limit forces users to keep it brief and to the point. That said, I am continually amazed at the quality of the dialog that is possible with the various shortcuts that you will learn in a brief period of time.
Those of you familiar with Twitter will see that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of how this particular tool is being used to bring people together and share information. One of the most exciting uses is in the field of education and in the classroom in particular. Here is a video that recently came across my Twitter stream that focuses on how one history professor uses Twitter in the classroom.
Twitter has become a way for me to deal with the obvious, which is that there is strength in numbers when it comes to producing, collecting, and sharing information on the web. Happy Tweeting!