Greenies’ Guide to Twitter

What I don’t know about Twitter is a lot. And though I’m still quite new to it, have really been “wowed” with what I’ve found so far…a big change from being a skeptic as little as a month ago. Several articles I’d read previously made it seem trivial, with examples like “Tweeting about breakfast.” Sure, it might be social but important or valuable? Maybe not.

Hearing one friend’s story helped erase my doubts. She was in a brainstorming meeting where someone raised a question that no one in the room could answer. They checked Google but didn’t find answers there either. So someone put the question out to their Twitter network. Within five minutes, they had about 15 replies and brainstorming suggestions. And here’s the kicker…many of the ideas culled from the Twitter post were better than those in the room.

I know that finding/building a responsive network like this doesn’t just happen overnite. But it’s a great example of how the Web can enable communities to come together in real time to help solve problems.

Have I become a super user on Twitter? Well, no…at least not yet. I only follow a few dozen people right now and have put out under 100 tweets. I’m still getting my bearings and don’t always find the time, which makes it harder to build a network there. But I’ve come across some wonderful folks and some terrific information. A key thing I’ve learned about what makes for a good post…include a link. You can’t say much in 140 characters, but you can point people to information you think they’ll value. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. The other thing I quickly got over was worrying about how other people use Twitter. Like anything, you tune into what interests you and let others do the same.

Here are just a few of many cool articles and posts about Twitter that I found helpful (seems good things come in “10’s”):
Ten mythconceptions about Twitter
10 Easy Steps for Twitter Beginners
Ten tips for Twitter and life
The Rules to Twitter and Cricket (funny!)
Ten people all Twitter beginners should be following
— Guy Kawasaki’s “All my Twitter tips” post
— Jeff Levy’s blog post “How to talk to managers about social media
— Al Dominick’s Do’s and Don’ts (Twitter edition)
— Henry Brown’s post on “Safe twittering

GovLoop makes it easy to find other people who are tweeting about government related topics. See recent Twitter posts in the middle column on the GovLoop homepage. You may also want to check out the Twitteratti group on GovLoop. If you do, be sure to browse the comments, which have some info about how people are using Twitter along with a few useful tips. Here’s one more tip: when you find someone you think is really interesting, take a look at the tweets they’ve tagged as “favorites.” People use this for different purposes (sometimes I just want to remember a post for later) but it can be a great way to find other folks you want to keep up with.

You can find me on Twitter at @JosJoseph. Still, would be glad to hear what you’re up to. And please share if you have other favorite tips or links for folks starting out? Cheers, Josh

p.s. New to GovLoop or this blog? Backstory on why I started it here. The “greenies” blog will be a regular feature on the Go! GovLoop for New Members group. Would also like to open it up to guest bloggers. So if you have a good idea and want to write an upcoming greenies blog, just let me know.

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Adriel Hampton

Nice post, Joshua. I would add that building a network requires contributing to it. Twitter has a high fall-off rate because people expect to shoot questions into the void (or to celebreties) and get a magic answer. The heart of usefulness on Twitter is people helping people.
For folks interested in the Gov 2.0 movement, @GovWiki is an account that simply re-posts content from that community.

Lisa Coates

Good information Joshua. I was needing to find some additional information on Twitter. You’ve made it easier, thanks!

Joshua joseph

Adriel, Lisa and Ari – thanks for your comments and for the additional links. I hope others check them out. Ari, what’s nice about Twitter is that you can get a lot even with limited time to spend. Hope that’s a takeaway for other new folks…there are many ways to benefit.

Jeffrey Levy

Good points in both your post and comments!

I’ve found Twitter to be an essential professional research and networking tool, and have personally experienced what your friend did during the brainstorming session. I’ve also had to explain to many people why it’s useful. I discussed both of those in my blog posts “Twitter to the Rescue!” and “Why I Tweet.”

Joshua joseph

Thanks for sharing these links, Jeff. You’ve got lots more info and good examples. Hearing about/seeing the different ways people use Twitter has definitely helped me see the broader possibilities. Also is a great incentive to put a few toes in the water.

Jeffrey Levy

Joshua, I had another experience last night and this morning. Since I can’t keep my mouth shut, and do things like offer free webinars on gov’t 2.0 topics, random ppl invite me to connect on LinkedIn. Now, I thought the whole point of that site was personal references, so you weren’t supposed to accept invites from people you don’t know. But I was getting so many, i wondered if I had that straight. So I tweeted that question.

Universally, the response was agreement with my approach. So my Twitter network helped give me more confidence I was using another tool well.

Lisa Coates

Good blog, Ari. All of the posts by Twitter users really give me ideas on the uses of Twitter.

Jeffrey, Thanks for sharing.