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Tonight, I’m going to share some thoughts about Twitter. You don’t have to follow my Twitter stream very long to see that I break just about every “rule” on Twitter. I read a lot of articles about social media and have seen the following “tidbits” of wisdom:
- Stay on topic
- Don’t tweet too often
- Keep conversational tweets to 2 or less before you move to “direct messaging”
- Have a strategy
And perhaps this works for people who use Twitter with one goal in mind or those in the marketing business who are busy calculating tweets-turned-into-sales-leads. But I have a number of different reasons for using Twitter…
- News Monitoring: I like to see “breaking news” on Twitter. Following both local and national news outlets gives me about 20-30 minute lead on when info will final trickle to an actual news website. This is particularly important to me as an emergency manager.
- Professional Development: It’s interesting to me to see what other emergency managers are dealing with across the nation. Sharing best practices, ideas and the day’s activities is like an in-motion white board that offers instantaneous feedback sometimes that can save me a ton of time.
- Relationship Building: I also follow a lot of “local people” who are active on Twitter because I’m very interested in what’s going on in my local community. More importantly, I’ve been fortunate to meet many of the folks who are active on Twitter locally. While I have learned a ton about both using the medium and how they are using social media in many other ways, I have also just made a number of new friends which is the best return on investment.
I don’t tweet around the clock. You’ll see me drop in and out of Twitter with random bursts of conversation as time allows. But my basic rule of thumb is that I’m authentic. I might be live-tweeting a wedding, watching a movie with friends or tweaking the tweets with other emergency managers to help out the community.
It’s important to understand that everyone has a different strategy with regards to how they use Twitter and that is perfectly okay. Figure out why you are there and niche your stream accordingly. I sometimes find folks who follow others without reason or feel compelled to follow certain folks.
If who you are following is not interesting to you or you find yourself offended by something said, feel free to disengage and unfollow. We should all be confident enough to walk away if someone’s Twitter voice is something we wish not to hear.
Use the power of the opt-in platform wisely, but remember that everyone’s voice is there for a reason and has an audience. Become a part of the audiences that mean something to you!
I really enjoy the educational aspect of Twitter. Whether it be an information-packed meeting that I’m unable to attend or a conference that I am unable to travel to, there are a number of ways that Twitter can expand your audience and the level of participation that can occur.
Most people look at me strangely when I say I’m “watching” something on Twitter. Often, people will ask “how, in 140 characters, can you ‘watch’ anything?”
Quite easily, actually…..in the Twitterverse, users use a “hashtag” which looks like #keyword. When the # mark is used, Twitter creates a hyperlink which means that you can click on this word and find all other “tweets” that use the same hashtag.
When an event starts to unfold, you might learn of it in a couple of ways:
- Your followers might start using a similar hashtag that you see repeated several times
- The topic might show up in the right column on Twitter as a “trending topic”
- You might hear folks announce the use of a certain hashtag
- You can even try using a #hashtag and then click on it after you post to see if anyone else is already using it.
I have not only observed meetings and conferences via Twitter, but have also tweeted actively at conferences and presented on various topics while my audience tweeted about my presentation.
It’s a pretty interesting phenomenon to be receiving questions and feedback from people across the country.
Consider the implications of the broader audience during emergencies….to me, it’s important to realize that impressions, credibility and messages can already be flowing out of a meeting before a press conference concludes. In a conference setting, it can double the power of the messages being shared to reach people across the continents.
So, what is important to share from a meeting or conference?
- If there is a key speaker or presenter, be sure to identify who is presenting.
- Share the case studies and resources being shared.
- Feel free to add some additional resources that are relative to the topic that you are aware of.
- Use Twitter to jot down notes or key statements of the speakers.
- Communicate with others who are also at the conference.
- Use the opportunity to participate in parallel discussions….if you share a tidbit from the conference, parallel discussions will often occur among those watching from their desks.
- Pose questions (if you are “watching” from your desk, your question might be posed to the speaker and your answer received….likewise, if you are listening to a speaker and want to test an assumption and see if your followers feel the same way, you can post a question to your Twitter audience.)
What should you NOT post on Twitter?
- Comments about the location of the conference or meeting.
- Actions of what is occurring (like speaker line-ups) without content.
- Endless pictures of the activity.
Remember, share the lessons and expertise of your speakers. The purpose of employing experts to speak to certain topics at meetings or conferences is to educate and inform the masses. Those who are interested in the message can find it if there is consistent use of a hashtag and conversation that is interesting to participate in.
Creating engagement via Twitter will not only broaden the messages, but will be a gain for presenters who receive immediate feedback on their topic that will be valuable for their future presentations.