Monday, 11 October 2010

Twitter Explained

Twitter is a baffling tool in the social networking phenomenon dimension of the web. 

Most people get Facebook as a tool for linking up with newly found and long lost friends and all those in between.  I find Facebook invaluable for keeping in touch with the friends and family I have slung to the far reaches of the globe.  And then there are the people you know wouldn't necessarily make the effort to get together with or ring on the phone or write am email to or heaven forbid write a letter/postcard to.  But these are people who you would like to keep in touch with.  Facebook works for me.  Of course I have to be diligent about my privacy settings and I have yet to capitulate to my children's begging to be on Facebook.  I don't accept as friends people I don't know and I don't post photos or statuses I don't want the world to know.  But Facebook is a beautiful tool for finding long lost friends, like the best school mate from when you were 10 (Jessica) that you never would have gotten in touch with!  It's not hard to find friends using your email contact list or perusing friends of friends lists or searching for their names.  Just about anyone can figure out how to use it!

Linkedin is another social networking tool I use but this is for my business contacts.  These are the people that I have worked with, want to work with, are currently working with or want to work with me. It would be hard to keep track of them any other way unless you had a great business card filing system but even then you would lose track of them the minute they changed jobs.  Again, it's not hard to use LinkedIn.  When I get a business card, the first thing I do is link to them.  Then I throw the card away.  You can search on companies that you used to or currently work for and find just about everyone.  Easy peasy and invaluable, especially the mapping to other people's connections.  I can usually find someone who knows someone who can help.  LinkedIn has discussion forums which has helped my husband's small business with enquiries regarding products and services he would have struggled to answer on his own.

Twitter on the other hand is all a bit more obscure.  You have to invest a lot of time in Twitter finding the right people saying the things you are interested in and follow them.  Then you hope they follow you.  There is a lot of online marketing via twitter which is allegedly one of the primary benefits of the network but which I find wildly annoying.  I've been on twitter for several years now and have few followers but am assured that doesn't matter.  I try not to let it hurt my feelings.  I follow twice as many as follow me.  Daily I unfollow people who tweet rubbish which I am never interested in.  Daily I get followers that I don't follow back after looking at their recent tweets and deciding that on past performance they probably won't say anything in the future I would be interested in.  I block a lot of people who follow me.  I still can't say convincingly I get the whole twitter thing.  It can sometimes feel like I am participating in one great big long infomercial.  And since it takes quite a bit of time and effort to build up a catalogue of people you want to follow I can't say that it is easy.  I would hazard a guess that most people just don't invest that time and effort to make it worthwhile.  Since twitter has few people I personally or professionally know, it is a good place for me to vent anonymously.  And it is a great way to satisfy my insatiable curiosity of things are going on in a vast array of topics, eg energy, technology, poetry, writing, entertainment, politics, news. 

On a Venn diagram of my social networks, there is a big commonality between Facebook and LinkedIn.  It is inevitable that colleagues become friends, especially if you spend 8 hours/day for 8 years with a shared purpose.  Not so much with Twitter.  I have very few people (can count on both hands) that sit on Twitter and Facebook or Twitter and even fewer on all three (can count those on one hand).

What this does mean is that with the three networks, I have access to almost 900 people (allowing for duplicates in networks) which quite frankly I could never keep track of with an address book.  I certainly couldn't send them letters, or postcards, and could never give them a ring on the telephone.  But now I can electronically.  And keeping in touch with people is what it is all about.

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