Why Should I Care About Twitter?

Ellen Paxton (@epaxton) asked a question on LinkedIn, Are You a Twit? A few weeks later, Allejandro Reyes (@successfool) at Successfool.com asked the same thing. Here was my response.

My LinkedIn Answer

“For me, Twitter is my professional development, late breaking news and support system in one tool. It enables me to ask and answer questions from my network and has led to more than one “A-ha!” moment. While some are quick to point out it’s rather unstructured nature, it is that very characteristic that makes it so valuable. The lack of structure has led to some unique and effective community generated processes, such as the open but specific response (@edventures) and the TwitterPoll. Twitter does take on a life of its own and regular users will find that they will develop a sense of community with those they follow and those that follow them. The sense of ownership is strong and has led to the development of real world networking and collegial opportunities that might not have otherwise presented themselves.”

It’s been over a year since I first heard about and chose to dabble with Twitter. I’d long been frustrated with the one to one limitations of the majority of Instant Messaging services and had longed for a means to collaborate with a number of folks simultaneously. Twitter was the answer to my needs but it took nearly four more months after I used it for it to become the tool I desired.

You see I wanted a network that was a stripped down version of the Facebook/MySpace wall. I wanted a community of contacts with whom I could converse on a variety of topics without all the extraneous chrome that surrounded Social Networking sites. The problem was not with the tool as Twitter was designed for this very thing. The problem was adoption. It wasn’t enough for me to be online, I needed colleagues and contacts to adopt this tool as well. As it turned out, it was simply a matter of time. By last fall, Twitter had, for me, finally reached a critical mass. This was identified not only by the number of Twitter users, but by the number and variety of tools that sprung out of the needs and desires of the community to communicate and collaborate in different ways.

Now, a year later, my very own personal and professional network has grown. I have 421 followers and am following 352 Twitterers from all over the world. Nearly every day I add someone new to my network and as a result I have a steady stream of information flowing through my Twitter client, Snitter. Which begs the question…

How do you keep up with the flood of information?
There is a literal ocean of information that floods through our processors every day: e-mail, RSS feeds, Tweets, IM, SMS, the list is endless. It is impossible to keep up with the torrent and foolish to even try. So rather than spend one’s time trying to consume it all, try a different approach. One of my colleagues (can’t remember who, so drop a comment and I’ll make sure to give you proper attribution) had an analogy about a river and fishing. Mine is quite similar.

When I was stationed in Pensacola, I used to head to Johnson Beach as often as I could to escape back to nature. One of my favorite pastimes was to throw a cast net and see what I caught. I could spend hours casting just to see what I could find, or I could spend just a little time fishing for a specific critter. And as with every endeavor, the more your refine your technique, the better you become and the more efficiently you use your time.

CC Flickr Image by jaredb

Throw a cast net and see what you catch. Sample bits and pieces and if you find something of interest, follow up. Or you can refine your technique by automating the process of searching on a specific keyword that you can identify.

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