Keith De La Rue

To tweet or not to tweet

You've read about Social Media. You may have dipped a toe in the water here or there - or you may be up to your armpits. But have you tweeted yet? What's all the buzz (or should that be "chorus") about Twitter? Scared about making the commitment? I was not long ago, too.

TwitterIf you are not familiar with the basics of Twitter, this is very well covered in a great little animated video by Lee Le Fever at Common Craft. In a nutshell, it is a system for sending 140-character messages to a group of friends, as responses to the question: “What are you doing?”  It is sort of like “micro-blogging”.

If you are over this step, but still wondering why you would bother, my first take on it was to think of it as a form of “ambient awareness”.  It’s a way of developing a “sixth sense” about where your friends and extended network are, and what they are doing.

Finding the time

But we are all too busy for this sort of thing, aren’t we?  This was my main roadblock for getting into Twitter.  However, I decided to try it out.  I was tending to read most messages from my friends until I built a network of almost 100 people, and started noticing that this was becoming somewhat time-consuming.  This was when I realised to truth of what other “tweeps” had told me. 

Twitter is not like email.  The messages are “about” people, they are not necessarily sent “to” people.  Think of it like a stream – one that you choose to dip into when you feel like it, and see what is flowing past just at that moment.  If people do want to communicate directly, Twitter caters for that as well, with a separate view of replies and direct messages.

So why would I bother?

Since embarking on the Twitter odyssey, I have heard from many people about the benefits of Twitter.  I have been blogging about these on my AcKnowledge Consulting blog – see these specific posts here.

I have found through experience – and learning from the experience of others – that there is a lot more to Twitter than meets the eye.

My first real awareness of this was when Shane, one person in my network, tweeted: “If only most companies realised the treasure trove of expertise and information that their employees would be able to access if they encouraged the use of such services.”

This has become even more important to me as a solo consultant.  It is an incredible tool to tap into a huge resource of experience – and an incredibly rapid one at that.  As Shane had found, Twitter has become critical to doing my job effectively.

Among other insights, some have found the following powerful applications of this simple tool (thanks particularly to Serena and Jasmin for most of these):

  • A way to feel in touch with a work team while on maternity leave, easing the transition back into the office.
  • A personal and career development tool; and an aide to mentoring, particularly where the mentor is geographically distant.
  • Providing a “virtual water-cooler” - a looser network than the face-to-face one, but a network that includes thought leaders, and is “warmer” than the community provided on a (more traditional technology) listserve.

One insight I find of interest is that Twitter also provides a sort of “tool transparency” - the feeling of being “in” a network of people, rather than just “on” a platform.

That’s fine for me – what about others?

I have also found it to be an amazing way to engage in “open note taking”.  I like to record notes when I attend seminars.  For some time, I have been taking notes on a PDA rather than on paper, as the notes are then synchronised with my PC, and available for blogging or other reuse.  This is great for me.

But with Twitter, I can take notes in just the same way, and everyone “following” me on Twitter can choose to tune in if the topic is of interest.  The notes are necessarily brief, which helps to keep them focused.  Some of the feedback I have received from this has been overwhelmingly positive, with some stating that it is just like being there themselves.  (This is something I will blog about later in more detail.)

Also, launching recently with great fanfare and recognition is Yammer – a version of Twitter for use within organisations.  This is squarely pitched at collaborative working – the question to answer here is: “What are you working on?”

Looking to the future

But how serious is all this?  Is it something that I need to take notice of?

One of the most interesting recent developments is “The Twitter Agency”.  Laurel Papworth (aka SilkCharm), saw an article titled: “Vodafone confirms $30m media pitch”, and started wondering: “… what if Australia's best strategic talent were hangin' out on Twitter, havin' a rare ol' time? And what if their combined reach was more powerful than heritage media?”

As a result of tweeting this, within four hours, The Twitter Agency was born, with "35 blog posts, 20 odd comments and around 50-60 people".  The site now has 113 authors, and is a powerful resource on how to “market, PR and otherwise engage on Twitter.”

What will be next? Just wait and see – or join me on Twitter and be among the first to find out!


Posted by Brad Down, 5 November 2008

Thanks Keith, Twitter is also very additive, its power is in its real time nature. Through the election I was getting all the news from Twitter well before the news websites. You can follow Keiths Twitter stream @kdelarue or the Digital Ministry stream @diministry


Keith De La Rue AcKnowledge Consulting Keith De La Rue
Company: AcKnowledge Consulting
Position: Consultant
Keith De La Rue works as an independent consultant in knowledge management, communication and learning. He also has a keen interest in social media. He has a passion for education, and is a keynote speaker, lecturer and tutor in these and related fields Read Keith's full bio

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