A laggard returns to Twitter

It’s funny, but my friends think I’m a digital wizard. After all, I maintain 3 blogs and have a life in 6 social networks (not all are on FriendFeed). For a 55-year-old geezer, some think I am seriously connected. Now I add one more network.

After bailing out of Twitter more than a year ago, I have returned for a look around. And I like what I see.

This isn’t a post to extol the virtues of Twitter. I’m still learning my way around the application and observing the culture. Nor is this a mea culpa for my occasional criticism of “twits” over the past 15 months.

But I will say this: Twitter is more useful and interesting than it was in the summer of 2007, when I sampled it then dropped out. I didn’t get it then, but I am no earlier adopter. Today, I find on Twitter has a critical mass of interesting people I can learn with and learn from. It makes an old professor smile.

Most readers of ToughSledding aren’t part of the Twiterati, so I’ll share a few observations:

Twitter offers great links, provided you follow thoughtful people. I tag 3-4 blogs and websites a day — sites pointed out by those in my network. Ergo, Twitter supports my research and advances my learning curve in the digital world. I find great links on traditional blogs, too, but that takes time I don’t always have.

Twitter is efficient. The writers post a sentence or phrase telling me why a certain link has value. If the topic interests me, I click. Some links prove useful, some not. Point is, the tweets expose me to a broader range of content than I get form the 40 or so blogs on my feeder. That said, we all know there’s a downside to brevity: lack of substance.

Twitter is human. This is good and bad. I’ve seen the personal side of folks who heretofore were just avatars at the top of a blog. It makes them more approachable and it adds dimension to the characters of this social media drama (or is it a comedy?). Some tweeters tell us way too much about their lives and activities. But I have the option of dropping their feeds.

The downside to Twitter?

Tweet are seldom profound and never in-depth. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, and most are hastily posted. Only a select few are what I’d call “thoughtful,” and I tag those with a gold star when I spot them. In the end, I see Twitter expanding my network of contacts, and it takes a lot less effort than writing a post like this.

Spam lives on Twitter. A number of my followers are hoping I’ll also follow them and in turn be exposed to their self-serving tweets. So far a musician, a stock broker and a couple of for-profit bloggers are following me. Twitter need not be a reciprocal arrangement. Don’t follow a spammer.

Twitter is a little too immediate. I get the most from Twitter exchanges when they occur in real time. But I’m not willing to take feeds on my cell phone, and I’m not interested in wireless Web access. So if I’m not at the keyboard, I’m late to the conversation. No matter. Twitter is a community that doesn’t seem to care if you drop in and out whenever — or if you just listen.

Damn. I guess I did write a post about the virtues of Twitter. Sorry. But you know, as a teacher of public relations, it’s my job to understand social media along with the other forms of communication. Like my students, I learn by doing. That said, I continue to be shocked at the number of PR professionals I meet who aren’t even experimenting in this Web 2.0 world.

The Twitter widget in the right column is just another part of learning by doing. Someday I will be a master of the WordPress. Right.

One more thing. For you Grateful Dead fans on Twitter, check out @Jerry_Garcia.  The Fatman lives, and there’s lyrical wisdom in every tweet!

6 Responses to A laggard returns to Twitter

  1. Ike Pigott says:

    One more double-edged sword: Twitter can be a check against the echo chamber, or your self-made prison.

    It’s tempting to follow only people who share identical beliefs. I see this as a mistake. If you’re open and engage with a diverse group, you can better hone your own thoughts. It’s an instant crucible for those who don’t want to wallow in half-baked ideology.

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Well said, Ike. My favorite online people are those who disagree with me. It enriches both parties.
    What I’m seeing so far on Twitter is a useful and civil exchange of ideas. But I’m still new in town and haven’t visited the tough neighborhoods.

    Thanks for stopping in.

  3. You know you’re going to get flack from JG for this (I know I have!). I, too was quick to judge “twits” before playing around with the tool. The truth is it’s like any other social media tool– it has a lot to offer and it can suck you in if you’re not careful. You’ve covered the gist of it– don’t follow spammers and stop following those who waste your time with updates about every step they’ve taken that day. If you can filter your network, there’s potential to access some great material and boost your brand awareness.

    And yeah, if you add the Twitter app to your blackberry/iPhone, you could succumb to the Twitter monster. It’s all about mcromanaging the microblog.

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for joining forces with me, Brandon. I do find Twitter far more addictive than other social media outlet so far. I’ve steered clear of the Blackberry because of my limited texting abilities. A touch typist needs a keyboard that accommodates all the fingers. Blackberry’s qwerty keyboard doesn’t help me a bit. Just as well!

  5. I was not a fan of twitter this summer. One of my friends talked me into signing up and I added those people who were spammers and who updated with every movement they made. Luckily, I decided to give Twitter another chance once I was in a social media class and knew my friends from school were using the site for important tweets. After being on Twitter for more than a month, I have added multiple professionals and people I met at PRSSA National Conference. The people I am now following have interesting things to say. I feel as though I use Twitter for news and updates on whats going on. I know what friends will post things of interest to me, because Twitter lets you into their life in a new way, and then I check out those friends links.

    On a different note, as a twenty year old student addicted to social media, I am avoiding at all costs to taking any soial media site, not just Twitter, to my cell phone. I am already busy and distracted enough, just like the rest of the world. I do not find it necessary to post while I am walking to class or driving home. Sometimes, despite my love of social media, I think people take it too far and it is getting over done. I am beginning to get sick of social media and how everyone is talking about it. I think social media should be kept to the computer and not invade every professionals life everywhere they go.

  6. Greg Smith says:

    I’m also now trying to re-engage with Twitter. But really, there’s only so many hours in the day I can devote to all these things. Amanda, good on you. You’re right. We are in danger of being “eaten” by social media. Get out and talk to people … in person.

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