Do you use Twitter? Perhaps you’ve not heard of it or tried but didn’t get it? Let’s be honest, watching from the outside, Twitter like the the dumbest thing you’ve heard of “Why would anyone want to tell others what they are doing in 140 characters.”
And yet to dismiss Twitter is a mistake because it’s an incredibly powerful tool for your personal learning, connecting with others and complements your blogging. Twitters way more than telling people what you’re doing!
The key to “getting twitter” lies in using it effectively. Fortunately besides being a RSS power user I’m also well known as a Twitter-a-holic so let me share my tips on how I get the most out of using Twitter.
Disclaimer: Twitter is personal; it means different things to different people and there’s various ways people use it. Like blogging, my focus for using twitter is the conversations and connections. These are my personal tips and not rules for using Twitter :).
Getting Started With Twitter
Go to Twitter.com and click “Get Started-Join.” Think carefully about your username; I personally recommend use your real name. If I could wind back time I’d use Suewaters, and not dswaters, because branding with one unique and recognizable online identity is better.
Make sure you upload a picture; people connect more when they can visualize the person. Also very important you complete your “Online line bio” and add your “More Info URL” (for a link to your website) because people check these out carefully when deciding if it’s worth following you.
To gain a deeper insight into the value of twitter check out:
- This podcast, or the text from the podcast, I created with Alan Levine, Graham Wegner, Michael Coghlan, Kristin Hokanson and Simon Brown for the Knowledge Tree
- Michele Martin’s podcast with Jeff Nugent, Britt Watwood and Bud Deihl from Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Teaching Excellence where they try and educate Michele on what she’s missing out by not using twitter effectively
- Chris Betcher’s video tutorial on Understanding how Twitter works
Effective management of twitter lies with:
- Processes i.e. how many people you choose to follow, how you choose who to follow and your purpose for using twitter
- Technical i.e. the tools you use to manage twitter
How many people you follow, and who you follow, influences what you get out of twitter and to some extent how you use twitter e.g. how effective you will be at maintaining conversations.
When you follow a person you will receive their tweets. You get their tweets when they follow you; but not necessarily their replies (tweets that start with @) to people they follow but you don’t (unless you have @replies set to “all @replies” in Settings>Notices — this is not something you want to do if following lots of people).
Following too few people with too few following means you’re less likely to see the true power of twitter for connecting and providing assistance. Follow too many people makes it harder to maintain the conversation.
My magic number of people to follow is between 100-200; that was when life was easier. Once you’ve set up your account check out the twitter accounts of some of your favourite bloggers (most have a link on their blog)– go through the people they are following to choose people to add to your account. Remember to follow Edublogs twitter account so you get the last news on what’s happening at Edublogs.
Personally I avoid choosing higher profile people, as they often have too many followers, are less likely to engage in conversations or follow you back — however do check their @ replies.
Using A Twitter Client
The power of twitter is in the instant notification/response to tweets of people you follow.
A twitter client is a MUST; using the web interface isn’t the way to go. They provide instant notification of the latest updates. Which to use is very personal however my favourites, at the moment, are Snitter and Twhirl.
Twhirl is really nice which I equate to a lovely sports car; has a beautiful interface. Definitely a good choice if you aren’t following too many people. Unfortunately I follow too many people and find the way Snitter displays notifications of new tweets is better for maintaining my conversations.
Snagging Link URLs From Twitter
People are always sharing fantastic links in twitter that are worth checking out. I use Twitter Link Monitor to collect these links and feed them by RSS into my Google Reader so I can check them out at my leisure; also handy for grabbing links tweeted when I’m offline. Note — doesn’t display links from people with locked accounts.
Tracking Terms in Twitter
I use TweetScan all the time to effectively manage conversations in Twitter that I want to track e.g. replies to my twitter name dswaters and any other variations people have used e.g. suewaters and tags like Edublogs.
With the number of people I follow I need TweetScan as my eyes and ears. By subscribing to the RSS feed for the tracking term using my feed reader I’m notified through Google Reader whenever anyone, anywhere, tweeters that term. Here are my instructions for setting up TweetScan. Note — doesn’t display terms tweet by people with locked accounts.
Applying A Bit Of Twitter Karma
There’s nothing worse than having a conversation and not realising you’re having it with yourself which is why I use:
- Twitter Karma – displays whom I’m following and who’s following me back; I’ll often unfollow if they’re no longer following me.
- Twitter Board – Gets love and Gives love gives shows how much a user is into conversations
And Then There’s The Cool Stuff For Fun
Occasionally you’ll just want to have some fun which is why I use:
- TweetStats – graphs Tweets per hour,Tweets per month and Tweet timeline – here my stats
- Twitter Quotient – analyzes the number of followers/following and your updates – here is my twitter quotient which according to this I’m definitely not someone that should be followed
- TweetCloud – creates a visual tag cloud of users tweets – here is mine including @ replies and excluding @ replies.
- Quotably -makes conversations between twitter followers easier to follow – here is what my conversations look like
- Twittervision – displays tweets on world map as people post their updates (yours won’t be displayed if your account is locked)
And Let’s Not Forget The Classroom
The uses of Twitter in the classroom are really only limited by our imagination. Tom Barrett’s been writing some excellent posts on what his Twitter network means to him in terms of his classroom practice and the best ways that twitter can be utilised in your own classroom. Check out Tom’s posts:
I’ve shared my tips for using twitter but everyone has their own secret ingredients —what are your tips for getting more out of twitter? Do you have any favourite applications?
If you’ve tried twitter and it wasn’t working for you — what did you like/not like? If you haven’t tried twitter and you now plan to — please let me know how you go and don’t forget to follow Edublogs on twitter.