Whereas in the last social media post I talked about why I blog and why this might be a good thing for you or have benefits for your education company, I want to concentrate on some of the platforms for the upcoming posts in my social media series.
So let’s get started with Twitter today: why and how I use it.
I hope, it came across that the use of social media is rather individual and the ‘how’ can be different depending on the ‘why’. What do you want to achieve, what is the objective of your campaign or how does social media fit in the overall strategy of your company.
Again, this is just the way I use Twitter and I see other people being happy tweeple whilst using other but also valid strategies.
News and Information
Twitter is still my source for breaking news, anything interesting and related to online education in “real time”. Today, most companies or founders are on Twitter and when there is something to announce they will share this with a Tweet. Sure, there are still blogs and PR releases but instead of scanning my Google Reader, which I do once or twice a day, I can easily spot news when they pop up on Twitter. I can also directly engage with the person who sent the Tweet, ask for more information, set up a Skype call etc.
I also try to be useful for my followers in the same ways and thus I’m trying to provide them with information related to topics in education 2.0, startups and technology. The aim is of course to add value to their own streams.
Up to now, I did not use Twitter for personal stuff. I share most of my non education content on Facebook. This has a couple of reasons, one of them is my belief that channeled information works best, e.g. I separated my different “personalities” or interests in different accounts. The problem related to that strategy is of course to keep everything fresh and updated and so I confess that I am not at all happy with the performance of my personal website and Twitter account “My Brittany”.
I am also re-evaluating this premise based on Arnold Waldstein‘s theory of the “Interest Graph“. Since he started using social media he has always mixed his passion for organic wine, art and photography with his media and marketing expertise. The idea is that this is what makes him special and as it is a crucial part of his personality this should be part of his professional profile. The more I think about it, the more I do agree. In fact, this passion was the reason why I started to follow him on Twitter in the first place.
Long story short, I think to mix in some more passion in my Twitter stream so be prepared for cooking, art, music and history related stuff.
If you ask me for my favorite Twitter tools, I can only say that it depends on the device I’m on.
I would say that I find Seesmic Desktop 2 useful and I have been using it for about three months now, solely when I’m working with my laptop though. I simply like that I have both my Twitter and Facebook streams running simultaneously and can also easily access my LinkedIn and other social media.
For my less powerful netbook I’m still a big fan of Twhirl as it’s really lightweight and for me it has always been fast enough (may vary depending on how many people you follow), so I have never seen the necessity to switch to more sophisticated tools like Tweetdeck or HootSuite.
On Apple, I use the official twitter app for both iPod Touch and iPad 2 as well as Flipboard for the iPad as it’s doing an awesome job in visualizing what is going on in the social media streams.
I have been making very positive first experiences with curation lately and in particular with a company called Eqentia. This is not Twitter only but pulls all relevant tweets and people in my daily digest and of course, I can access Twitter itself anytime from my personal portal on Eqentia. I also like that they let me discover new, potentially interesting people on Twitter and show me the top 100 most influential people in online education via Twitter every day.
Bitly is my URL shortener as it gives me data about how many people clicked on the link I tweeted, when did they click and where those people come from. It does not really influence what I share on Twitter but it helps me to fine tune when I share a link to reach as many of my followers as possible and it also gives me a feeling what people are interested in at the moment.
To follow or not to follow
Even before I knew that there is actually a scientifically proven number of maximum people you can remember, I set the number of people I follow on Twitter to a maximum of 120. Right at the moment I am even below 90. I know, this is highly controversial and also disappointing to some but I’m determined to keep my stream very lean which obviously means that I won’t automatically follow anyone back who follows me. For me, my Twitter stream is about having a specific mix of people. As I said, Twitter is a news and information tool for me so I need to follow sources that deliver content that is related to what I am looking for at that moment.
Therefore the people or companies I follow also change from time to time which does not mean I completely lost interest in what those people are doing. In most cases they are in my Facebook or LinkedIn stream, I subscribed to the RSS on their blogs and many of them are even on my Skype list.
How do I decide on who to follow or not to follow back? Well, this again is an individual decision. First of all, I take a look at the Twitter profile of every single new follower. I check the information they put in their twitter profile, may it be their company website or personal blog. I will, of course, also look at their Twitter stream to get an idea what they are talking about. If they work in education they will be added to one of my lists like eduCxOs, educhange etc. This way, I still have them on my radar even if I don’t follow them back immediately.
Last but not least, I also tend to follow people who are generally interesting to me and who are not necessarily in education but other verticals that attract me.
To retweet or not to retweet
I personally decided against automatic retweeting. Even though I consider someone a trustworthy person in education 2.0, or any other topic, I won’t retweet anything they put on Twitter just like that. First of all, I see myself as a curator and my followers expect me to stand behind what I am sharing. “Back in the days” a retweet was considered as highest appreciation because you shared something with your followers, e.g. you put your own credibility behind it.
I sometimes get into discussions about an article I shared from another blog as if I wrote it myself which I find very interesting as it shows this notion of “if you share it, you support it”.
Therefore, it is simply impossible that every single Tweet of someone I follow ads value to my followers’ streams. Sure, many times this will be the case but that does not keep me from “handpicking” my retweets. The same is true for automated integration of Tweets into Facebook, I guess that I do more than 90% of my social media sharing manually.
Now there are of course a lot of different definitions of what “noise” is and the problem that I have with Twitter is that it does not offer me enough options to fine tune what I see in my stream. Let’s take the very popular #edchat even as an example. Though I have had the one or the other interesting conversation when taking part in one of these weekly chats, I generally don’t want it in my stream every single time as for at least one hour it would take total control of my stream. The same is true for people who tweet entire events or conferences with a matching hashtag. As I cannot filter this out, I then need to take the decision whether I follow this person or (better) not.
Don’t get me wrong, the general idea of connecting people around a specific topic and talk about it in real time is great and I am really impressed with the growth of #edchat but I also have to say that Twitter is not the right platform for events like this as it was built with the premise to share short status messages and updates but not as a group chat platform.
As always, I’m happy to get your feedback on my article and exchange some thoughts on a wise use of social media.
I guess, in the next part of this series I would like to concentrate on Facebook as I’m making some pretty interesting discoveries with my little German project called Deutsch Happen.