Many professionals have asked me if Twitter isn't just a big waste of time. I don't think so. Here's an answer to this question that I recently posted in The eLearning Guild's group on LinkedIn.
It's like blogs, only shorter. Some people use their blogs to document and share their professional work, and some use their blogs to contemplate their own navels. It's like email. Some people use email to further their professional contacts, some use it to send spam and inbox clutter. Many of us use Twitter productively in our work. It's not the same thing for everyone. It's certainly not the End of Civilization As We Know It.
Some observations and some things you can do (if you want) that *might* help you find value in Twitter in 2009:
- Remember that it's more important to follow than to be followed.
- Remember that it's important to be selective about who you follow.
- Remember that you can UN-follow people if you are more distracted than informed by their tweets.
- Post useful stuff; minimize the number of "Putting on my socks" tweets you leave -- no point contributing to the noise.
- Learn how to use @, DM, hash tags, and RT to carry on a conversation and to share resources.
- Get familiar with the #lrn and #edu hash tags, and use http://search.twitter.com to filter out a lot of the noise.
- During eLearning Guild conferences, use the hash tags designated for that conference to follow what is going on -- lots of good stuff gets reported this way, in real time. Better than reading the blog posts from conferences, in many cases.
- Suggest relevant hash tags to your friends (colleagues) on Twitter, so that you can, as a group, develop your own topics.
- Use Tweetdeck to further filter and organize your timeline -- this may be the most important Twitter management tool available for busy people.
I think that should get you started. There are a lot of good, solid Learning and OD professionals using Twitter. Here are some you might want to follow for starters (and don't be dismayed by the fact that even the pros use Twitter as a social chat channel -- many of us work from home or travel and we miss the chatter and bonding that people who work in offices enjoy).
Me -- @billbrandon
Brent Schlenker -- @bschlenker
Mark Oehlert -- @moehlert
Marcia Conner -- @marciamarcia
Tony Karrer -- @tonykarrer
George Siemens -- @gsiemens
Alan Levine -- @cogdog
Tim O'Reilly -- @timoreilly
Tawny Press -- @tawnypress
Scott Leslie -- @sleslie
Will Thalheimer -- @WillWorkLearn
Cammy Bean -- @cammybean
Jay Cross -- @jaycross
Kathy Sierra -- @KathySierra
Clark Quinn -- @Quinnovator
Inge de Waard -- @Ignatia
... and there are many, many others -- these are just a few of the ones out of the almost 500 people that I follow (and I am nowhere near saturated). When you follow someone, check out the people that they are sending @'s to. If they are interesting to you, follow them.
I hope this helps. Twitter is what you make of it. You really ought to check out how other professionals are using it before deciding that it isn't for you.