The Tweet Love Affair
I first set up a Twitter account a few years ago when I thought ‘What is this crazy thing people are talking about’. I set it up, played a bit, got bored, deleted my account. As more and more people in the media began to use Twitter I decided to give it another go. Now, I love Twitter, and barely a day goes by (who am I kidding – an hour) when I’m not reading, tweeting, retweeting.
I think the reason I love Twitter can be broken down into the following points:
1. You can follow complete strangers and they don’t think you’re weird. In fact, it’s actively encouraged.
2. You can have conversations with people in your profession that you’d never normally get to speak to so easily.
3. You can gather all the latest news and updates on anything you’re interested in, in an easy way.
How not to use Twitter
I’ve noticed that some people make the same mistakes I made when I first started using Twitter, and it puts them off using it. These are just my experiences and I’m sure others users will disagree, but here’s my short synopsis of some things that may put you off making the most of Twitter:
1. Trying to follow all people all of the time – I used to follow anybody that I thought was interesting and that had anything to do with any of my interests. This was fine before I really knew what I wanted to do with Twitter, but as soon as I decided I wanted to use it for work based news/connections then this tactic changed.
2. Following famous people. A quick look at who I’m following will show you I currently follow 10 famous people (and yes, one of them is Stephen Fry). This is not a high percentage of who I follow and frankly they are only there for the light relief amusement each one supplies occasionally. I made the mistake at first of assuming that because someone is well known (as a politician, actor, journalist) then that must mean they will post knowledgable things about their chosen profession. This is totally false, don’t fall into the trap.
3. Trying to read every tweet. I’m not sure what the magic number of people to follow is that will mean you can read all their tweets, but I think it might be around 100. Obviously this depends on how often they tweet, but I found that any less then 100 people and I could check my timeline only a couple of times a day and be up to date with what people have said. Important notice: This is not a productive way to use twitter. There are ways and means of keeping up to date with what’s happening on twitter, but don’t expect that you can read everything if you’re following a number of people that is over double didgits.
How to make the most out of Twitter
These hints I’m about to write about, I learnt them the hard way, and no one else should have to suffer. So please, if you have useful hints/tips/suggestions, please comment and I will share these in a later blog post.
1. Lists. Lists are your friends, use them wisely and use them well. There are many different ways of using lists but this is the way I’ve developed that works for me. Mostly my lists are made up of people I don’t follow. As I want my account to be mostly work-related (in terms of the people I follow) I add any other interesting Twitter accounts to a list. For example, I have lists related to politics, philosophy, running, sports. Many other great library tweeters have set up lists of library-related accounts, I follow those lists so there is no need fo me to set up my own.
2. Find an easy way of reading your lists. Having lists full of hundreds of twitter accounts is all well and good, but how do you get the most out of them? I use a few methods – I have a quick scan through my lists using the Twitter website or the app on my phone; I use Tweetdeck at home, so if I’m using my laptop in the evening a small pop-up appears every time someone tweets (as I’ve added all my lists as seperate ‘columns’ they all appear as well), I know many may find this distracting but I only put it on when I’m not doing anything that requires serious concentration, and I only glance to see if the Tweet looks interesting [both @girlinthe and @tinamreynolds recommend Hootsuite which is very similar]; Paper.li is a great little resource which will email you a magazine style collection of links and pictures from a selection of twitter accounts that you have set it up to scan, I set it up for all my lists so I get an email daily with the best bits.
3. Don’t try to read every tweet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you try to read eveything on Twitter, you may go mad! @mrswtaylor agrees with me on this, “I have regular time away from Twitter as I don’t have it at work + don’t have 3G. What I miss, I miss – it’s not like email”, @cjclib also agrees, “Twitter’s like a river, you see what goes by if you’re here, but if you miss it, it’s gone .. / .. Important stuff will keep cropping up so you won’t miss”. Think of Twitter as a conversation, if you see something intersting, retweet it or reply to it; if you think someone else may enjoy something you’ve seen, tweet it to them; scan for important things, key words, things that pop out at you; use hash tags in your tweets so you can easily find related tweets; save links for when you have a time to read them properly….
4. Which brings me nicely onto my next point, saving items for later. There are a lot of great links posted on Twitter, and if you tried to read them all as you saw them then you’d be there all day. The best way is to use a utility that allows you to save them until later. I personally use Pocket as I read Twitter a lot on my phone and in one click on a Tweet I can save a link to read whenever I have time. When I read Twitter at home I tend to open links in a new window and use a browser plug-in to save them to Pocket.
Don’t let the sheer amount of information on Twitter put you off from using it. It can be a highly useful resource in so many ways and if you can find the add on or the app that allows you to handle the information that is being thrown at you, then it can be very rewarding.
As 23 Things is supposed to be a learning process I have also been considering how I can develop my own use of Twitter. I think the main area I want to improve upon is replying to tweets. Quite often I will read something brilliant and just retweet it without comment (or just nod in agreement but leave it at that). I really want to get better at responding to what people are putting out there and engaging more with my fellow tweeters.
And finally, a great piece of advice I had to share thanks to @adamm1988 : “If you’ve had a few beers and something suddenly REALLY needs saying, best to wait until the morning!”