The use and impact of micro-blogging continue to amaze me. There are currently four major micro-blogging services available. There is Twitter, Jaiku and newcomers Plurk and identi.ca.
Each service allows users to send out, in 140 characters or less, a status update or a tweet (if you are using Twitter) or a plurk (if you are using Plurk) to make an announcement, ask a question, promote an event or new blog post, or update friends, and so on.
The Twitter phenomenon in particular and micro-blogging in general are weaving their way more neatly and ingeniously into the pattern that is the Social Web.
In the year or so since I started using Twitter, I am discovering ways to maximize your micro-blogging.
The first bit of advice is as simple as pie. If micro-blogging intrigues you, or you want to learn more about this form of communication, you should participate. Get involved. If you have heard too many stories about Twitter's stability issues (i.e. Fail Whale) and want other options? Not a problem. While Twitter remains a personal favourite (and hugely popular in spite of its on-going problems), I would encourage the new user to try out other micro-blogging services such as Plurk and identi.ca.
2. Choose Your Friends Wisely
The power of micro-blogging, like all aspects of the Social Web, is community. The more participation, the more community grows and the more the service becomes truly rewarding. It is about connecting with colleagues in the same profession or even different professions. It is about connecting with someone whose status updates are thoughtful, insightful, or perhaps funny. It is about connecting with those who share your views or who hold alternative or even opposing views. Essentially, the key is to follow or befriend other users.
But I suggest you choose your friends wisely. How does that differentiate things? In order to choose wisely, I suggest you seek out friends. Be proactive.
We could randomly add friends and follow them. Nothing wrong with that per se. However, after having used Twitter for almost a year, I am noticing the signal vs. noise ratio increase, mostly in favor of more noise (unrelated, useless information) over signal (relevant, useful information). I will discuss how to handle signal vs. noise in point 4.
To build a better list of friends to follow I use Twitter Search (formerly called Summize until Twitter purchased the company) to find potential new users. Twitter Search searches tweets as they are sent. This is truly live search.
For example, I am looking for other archivists using Twitter. Enter 'archivist' (or any other archives-related search term) and click search. If one or more user stands out, I will follow them. Chances are good that they in turn will follow me. A connection is made.
I also suggest looking at the date when the person last updated. If the person you intend on following last updated 6 or 10 months ago, I would not recommend following them. It is wiser to follow those who have a current update status.
3. Speak Up (or don't censor yourself so much)
People send tweets about any and everything. I will leave it up to your good judgement to decide what and what not to tweet about. But whatever you say or ask, don't censor yourself so much. Sometimes the most spontaneous tweet receives a tremendous response, while the most carefully crafted tweet receives nothing. So be spontaneous with your status updates.
One caveat, though: Make sure your tweets are valuable to your followers. Think for a second, but not much longer than that before posting.
The issue of signal vs. noise, that is, coping with more noise (unrelated, useless information) and attemtping to find the signal (relevant, useful information) not only occurs on the Web, but in the micro-blogging space.
To combat this I follow a simple maintenance plan on Twitter. First, I remove people if their tweets are deviating from what had prompted me to follow them in the first place. I do this maybe once every two weeks. It is nothing personal. My aim is to keep the Twitter timeline as useful as possible. Second, I add more people based on the process I outlined in point 2. Finally, I make sure I am tweeting something of value to others. Am I sending tweets that could prompt someone else to follow me? Am I engaging other Twitter users by replying to their tweets? Am I partaking in conversations?
5. What about You?
You may have different experiences or different ways to maximize micro-blogging. Do share them.
[P.S. I'm on Twitter. Follow me and join the conversation!]
about the author
- David Kemper
- I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.
I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.
I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.