Helpful Thoughts on Twitter

I do #edtech

In the context of my role as an instructional coach in an international school, I am often brought to guide/help people with their use/adoption of Twitter – whether personal or for #edtech purposes – at all levels of expertise.

3 years ago I posted If schools embraced the power of Twitter, and today, I thought I’d centralise this collection of feedback, thoughts, and insight, to serve as an informal guide to the more intangible aspects of the medium – in no particular order.

No tutorial

This is not a tutorial on how to use Twitter. There are many how-tos and tutorials all over the web to look up. I curated the most helpful ones in a Google Presentation: Twitter for Educators.

Bite-sized chunks

In the spirit of Twitter, these are bite-sized bullet points. I welcome thoughts, comments, additions.

Some thoughts

  • I don’t have all the answers. I’m evolving with this powerful medium and constantly learning as it does.
  • Some of these pointers are valid today – and will change tomorrow, technology does, the internet does, people do, I do, that’s ok, it’s living in beta – expect it, and adapt accordingly.
  • Having been on Twitter (@cloudlord) for 7 years now, it has changed a lot, so has my use of it. So will yours.
  • Twitter has become such a prevalent and potent part of the social, political, educational, technological and news landscapes, that its impact can no longer be ignored.
  • I use Twitter on my mobile, in my desktop browser, and in the tweetdeck app – at different times, for different things.
  • I recently watched the US presidential #debates (yes, at 3am Paris time) live on Twitter, where the open and crowdsourced commentary was an amazing (scary and frenzied) complement to the debates. Twitter now broadcasts NFL games (?!), which begs the question of “Where to next?”. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a force to reckon with – and rightly so.
  • Somedays I tweet (or retweet) a storm, some days I tweet less, some weeks I just “lurk”, some weeks (once last year – really) I’m off Twitter entirely. On average though I’m probably on Twitter an hour/day.
  • I spend more time on Twitter than I do on Facebook – a good thing – Less lolcats.
  • A lot of what I read on the web (articles, news, commentary, tech reviews, etc) is often initially sourced from someone in my Twitter feed.
  • A significant amount of new ideas, technology, people, theories and communities have come to me via Twitter.
  • Most every speaker I’ve witnessed at a conference, or presenter at a workshop is asked for her/his Twitter credentials before their email or contact info – Their Twitter “handle” will be on their first slide – their email will not be shared.
  • There is no “right way” to use Twitter – People use Twitter for different things – all are fine – none are wrong, but there are different aspects of its potential that can/should be leveraged.
  • It will take some time for Twitter to make sense to a new user, and return value – give it time, follow people, get a feel for the tone, start interacting and sharing.
  • It’s ok to “lurk” (passively following people without tweeting).
  • It’s personal – Give way to your voice when you tweet.
  • Don’t get your secretary to “Ghost-write” for you. – just like blogging – It’s YOU and your voice people want to hear.
  • Your personal Twitter account should not be a corporate mouthpiece – people will follow your organisation’s corporate Twitter account for that – that said, retweeting relevant tweets from your organisation’s corporate account is common practice.
  • It’s not an internal-communications tool – use email, slack, wikis, or purpose-built tools for that.
  • Mixing business, politics and personal is ok on your personal account – followers would expect that on Twitter.
  • Many people have a disclaimer in their bio  saying their tweets do not reflect the opinions of their employer, or affiliations… That’s the point – it’s personal, but can contain, work or politics.
  • Being a human is important. Friends, colleagues, community will appreciate it. Most any public-relations spin-doctor would advise it.
  • It’s a community – you follow people, they follow you, you exchange, and gather as birds of a feather.
  • It’s a conversation, people will reply, quote you, retweet you… Engage, or don’t, it’s up to you. Ex: Following Trump’s recent sexual boasts recorded on a now infamous media bus, Author Kelly Oxford sent out a tweet to her followers to tweet their own “first” assault. Within 24h she had received 9.7 million replies (!!!) – stories from women around the world. Unbelievable and shocking, but also an incredibly relevant testament to the power of the platform as a social tool to bring people together, voice and galvanise public opinion and foster change; 24h later the “#notokay” moment – as it is now known – would be instrumental in shaping the second 2016 US presidential debate.
  • You can be formal, or completely informal. The 140 character limit favors the latter.
  • Pasting a URL will generally result in it being shortened automatically to reduce characters – Twitter gave birth to the wave of URL shorteners in the late 2000s.
  • 140ch max > u must oftn shortn wrds 2 fit em. ppl get it. It’s ok.
  • #hashtag #overkill #is #unnecessary. Add limited but intuitive and relevant hashtags that people would actually use or search for like #edtech #debates.
  • It can be used as a public customer service medium; ex: Telco company notifying of an outage in an area – or vice-versa, people tweeting an outage in an area to a telco company – for a response or update. Companies will tend to want to respond to such requests that are public. Users often go to a company’s Twitter feed to check for an announcement about an issue before calling them to find out.
  • Only a tweet’s author can delete a tweet.
  • It’s ok to be a n00b – everyone’s been there.
  • Start by following a few accounts, people and brands, retweet tweets you found interesting, and eventually tweet things you find might have value to your current or future followers
  • Put something in your “bio” that gives people a sense of you, your interests, and what they’ll find in your tweets. A photo doesn’t hurt.
  • Yes – #hashtags can be “highjacked” by unintended users injecting unwanted content into a hashtag’s stream. That’s the reality of the medium – it’s open to the crowd. Educate your users (staff, students and colleagues) and deal with it rather than foregoing the use of the medium and its features. The same is true of the Internet itself – Education is the key here, this Ying vs Yang aspect of the web is inherent to its very capabilities, and is here to stay.
  • Chances are you will meet up “IRL” with connections you meet on Twitter around common interests – professional conferences are a perfect example.
  • Direct messaging between users only really makes sense if you need to communicate privately, and don’t have their email.. I seldom DM.
  • You will come across acronyms on Twitter, like ICYMI, IMHO, ROFLMAO, or even FOADIAF – Yes, look these up before retweeting them to your followers.. Mistakes are forgiven…
  • And you can always delete a tweet – but in some cases they are there to stay – ex: if they’ve been quoted or embedded on the web somewhere.
  • Each individual tweet has statistics, for reach, likes, engagement, etc…
  • Someone with a lot of followers will usually be a good indicator of valuable or relevant content (to someone) in their Twitter timeline.

What/who do I follow?

  • News organisations
  • Education tech community professionals / colleagues
  • Friends and family
  • Political commentators
  • Inspiring people

Things it’s great for

  • Following a topic (Ex: through hashtag).
  • Back-channeling an event or conference (Ex: through hashtag) and storifying it.
  • Finding thought leaders, following and connecting with these people.
  • Spreading the word at lighting speed – any significant event will trend on Twitter in minutes – even seconds.
  • Personal Learning Network (PLN) of collegial sources, you will find people outside your specific realm of interest that will also add value to your learning.
  • The more you share the more you get.

Get started

  • Create an account
  • Get the app on your smartphone.
  • Follow some people/accounts that are interesting.
  • Eventually when you have interesting content (tweeted or retweeted) in your timeline, people will follow you.
  • Retweet tweets you find interesting.
  • Tweet your own tweets when you are ready.
  • Reply to someone’s tweet.
  • Quote someone’s tweet – maybe add your thoughts to it or MT modify tweet.
  • Mention someone in a tweet – they’ll be notified.
  • Search for a topic by searching for its #hashtag.
  • Build your profile, you are an educator, add specifics, you are unique.
  • Follow a few or follow a lot depends on you, no need to read them all, you can unfollow.
  • Follow a blogger.

Related links:

Image credits

4 thoughts on “Helpful Thoughts on Twitter

  1. Now that’s list! Very nice Claude.

    What I enjoy about Twitter, and what I think attracts many people, is direct communication opportunities with anyone. Where else can you get a chance to talk to your favorite celebrity? In Paris, I met up with the author of Freakonomics to watch football…b/c of Twitter! Twitter has also created a lot of insightful conversations among friends.

    If people new to Twitter can first focus on establishing one-to-one conversations with people they admire or share similar interests, there’s a greater chance that they will create conversations.

    And that’s what I enjoy about Twitter….being a conversation starter because it’s so short and sweet

  2. Claude, This is fantastic. Sorry that I just got to it right now. Shows exactly how Twitter can lead to depth. So much of this resonates with me. thanks, Jeff

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