Tech-sceptic colleagues and friends often say they do not see the purpose of twitter, and if they have an account they rarely check it or do not really know how it works. I therefore thought I share few reasons why I tweet that I hope I might spark some curiosity.
Be updated. Firstly, you can have a twitter account simply to stay updated. It only requires you to ‘follow’ those that you find interesting, whether it is news channels, celebrities, politicians or your friends. One a day such as yesterday (22 March 2016) when Brussels was hit by terrorist attacks twitter was my most up-to-date source of information, both via different media channels and individual eyewitnesses sharing what was happening. Most current events and topics have one or several hashtags (#) that makes it easy to follow the conversation and coverage, such as #Brusselsattack, #RefugeesWelcome or #feminism. Twitter offers endless opportunities to indulge in areas of interest by following for example organisations, companies or individual enthusiasts that regularly share what is new and trending. Secondly, if you have an account and if you once in a while read your twitter news feed you already got what it takes to participate in the conversation. By the way, the news feed can be overwhelmingly speedy; I therefore tend to ‘like’ as a way of bookmarking so I can go back and read later.
Be visible. Sceptics may ask ‘why participate in the first place?’. Because our online profile and presence is a part of the first impression we give. Taking part in the online conversation can be useful, especially if you work with politics as I do. It gives you both visibility and networks. Employers and others often google you before they meet you (I know it because I do it, and many with me). An engaged twitter profile and LinkedIn is in some sectors more of a rule than an exception.
Tailor-make. Agree, to tailor is not a reason for ‘why’ but rather a ‘how’ to tweet in order to reach those you would like to. If you are a modest twitterer that would like to build your followers, it is even more important that you tailor your tweets to ensure your messages reach as many as possible. Otherwise they will most likely swish by in a fast twitter flow with few or none paying notice. Only if you happen to be famous and important to attract several thousands followers can you reassure yourself that someone will always read your random tweets. Otherwise I would recommend you to hashtag (#) keywords and identify the account of those you would like to read your message. Attaching a picture or a link may also help. A hint, if you start a message with @ it becomes ‘private’ and can only be seen by your mutual followers, put a point (.) in front of the .@ and it is ‘public’ and can be read by all.
Participate. When I attend a conference I often tweet to share points and quotes I find interesting. As a result I give direct feedback to the speakers (given they have a twitter account), which they often appreciate. By tweeting I also signal to other participants that I am there, and sometimes I am approached in a break or recognise at another occasion as we previously interacted online. Although an event may generate many tweets, it is important to stay sober about the fact that they rarely reach very far outside the physical walls of the conference room. With that said, if someone with many followers re-tweet it might travel a bit further.
Share. Often when I come across an interesting article, news or report I tweet it to colleagues for whom it may be relevant or interesting. I choose twitter in front of an email as I reckon my finding may interest others that are interested in the topic as well. Sometimes I include the twitter account of an organisation, as they are the source for more information, and in this way let others know about them. I too benefit from colleagues tweeting me links to news I otherwise might have missed. In this way , when we meet in real life we can pick up our discussions where we left off online.
Give feedback. Since I started my blog, I also use twitter as a way to thank an author for a great book that I read and written a post about. Either they respond, retweet or favour, which tells me that my message reached them. As I blog at work I also often tweet to politicians and institutions to let them know that I have written about their work or interventions. My experience is that people like feedback, especially when it is positive, and twitter is a nice way to give a person such response and visibility. Retweeting is also a way to show you agree with someone or find their point relevant. I seldom give negative feedback, although it can be very effectful as companies and service providers fear being ‘named and shamed’.
Network. Finally, while Facebook is where to stay in touch with friends, twitter is the place to interact with strangers. Sometimes this unconditioned networking can end up in both new professional contacts and friends. For serious twitter geeks you might find a local ‘tweetup’ where you meet for drinks. In Brussels you find us at @EUTweetup.