Maxing your Twitter Experience

I have been enjoying an extended conversation with Jane Mitchinson regarding the process of participating in social media. The conversation has wandered between conversations over coffee, to Twitter, to connecting face to face at Ed Camp Hamilton and back online, most recently in the comments section of my  Ed Camp Hamilton  post. Now that is a great example of keeping the learning going and leveraging different tools.

The last comment, raises a number of points and questions about whether or not Twitter becomes in echo chamber.  While I do understand that concept, and have seen it happen, there is also the idea of reach – communication reach through social media tools. Reach, and the notion of the 6 degrees of separation make explain some of this.  None the less, there are some solid points to consider when navigating this space.

  1. Given the number of your followers, and the number you follow, how do you best get traction in important conversations?
  2. Although Twitter arguably represents only a ‘slice of society’ what strategies yield the best diversity for enriching your experience
  3. Engagement styles:  depth vs skimming – how do you keep your learning rich? and your contributions worthwhile?
  4. Finally, I believe it is important to contribute by contributing content through blogging etc.  and asking good questions.  I wonder what percentage of Twitter users are also actively contributing?

Please join this conversation.  How are you maximizing your Twitter experience?


15 thoughts on “Maxing your Twitter Experience”

  1. #4 – how do we define “contributing”? Are only original creations considered contribution? Why is it not a contribution to “echo” content by retweeting and therefore extend the learning of followers who may otherwise not have had original access? I agree, including a question to provoke further thought is enhancing, but not always necessary.

    1. You raise a good point here Heidi. Echoing content that is purposeful and relevant is contributing. In discussing these ideas with my wife this morning, we also landed on the idea the retweeting adds to reach, reach can add to awareness and impact and that effect of reach can be to bring new people and ideas into the conversation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic.


      1. There are people who indicate that retweeting does not necessarily reflect their views. I find this odd, and this practice calls into question the validity or at least usefulness of retweets. Before I saw the qualifying statement, I had thought that the reason for retweeting was to spread content that I liked, agreed with, found interesting etc.

  2. Looking at the last two questions, I’m reminded of a recent interview with media writer Douglas Rushkoff. He said, “In a world where people no longer have time, no longer have goals…’everything’s happening now, I want it now’, …it’s all presentist. In a presentist world, how do you tell stories?” Hearing this question strikes a chord with me. Our use of Twitter to skim keeps us in the moment but we often miss a lot of the stories we have to share. We have to invest the time to go deep. I think blogging and asking good questions brings back the narrative. Otherwise, if we’re stuck in “skimming mode” we’re reducing our communication to “the top 10 tools” lists, which is really just what’s on top of the surface.

    Now, where did I put my scuba gear?

    1. Thank you for sharing this view point Jane. Perhaps the skimming acts as a precursor – gathering of information, figuring out what resonates, where we need to poke more deeply etc. Perhaps there are different approaches to contributing as outlined in Heidi’s comments.

      I am wondering if the skimming is more like personal intake, the retweeting a sharing of of what an individual finds interesting and relevant and the blogging etc. takes it to a more organized way to writing, reflecting, one place to refer to & therefore easier to direct people there. Is there a personal vs more journalistic approach coming into play here?

      I look forward to keeping this discussion going. I hope you found your scuba gear!


  3. Hi Mark. Looking at the first question, I’m always find myself in the process of editing the number of people I’m following on Twitter. My objective is to keep the number of people I’m following at a minimum, as a means to ensure I can view and consider conversations that occur. Over the years, I’ve made up a maximum number of people I follow to ensure that I’m minimizing the amount of “white noise” that tends to occur in social media. I seem to recall that I wanted to keep the number of people I’m following at around 20 when I first started on Twitter – now I’m up to 92, but I would rather follow a lower number of people that are having high quality conversations and/or share great articles. Because of this strategy, I accept that I might miss some conversations on Twitter that I would find rewarding, but I’ve found it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the incredible volume of information and opinions on social media.

  4. I’ve only been a Twitter user for about two years now and I still feel like I’m working out how to best use the tool. I share things I’ve found and check it regularly, but I’m not yet comfortable with the conversation side of it. If I reply to someone, if feels a bit awkward since I’m pulling all of my followers into a one to one conversation. I know, however, that sometimes people like to listen in to those and have a open conversation and jump in to offer additional input, which is great. But telling the difference between having a great borderless Twitter conversation, and just bugging people with my chats with people is hard to distinguish. I know I’ve unfollowed people because of too much useless chatter. I default to the private messaging, but I feel like I’m missing out on the global conversation part of Twitter.

  5. Mark your question about traction is one that I am wrestling with. As a newcomer to Twitter (just about one year of active use), I have built a very diverse PLN that reflects the work I do day-to-day (from K to 12 literacy, tech implementation & transformation, to global projects). However, with only a small portion of the PLN can I have extended conversations. When I attempt to engage in conversation with many who are following me and whom I follow, it more often than not is one-sided.

    I liken this experience to moving into a new town. The people in the town are from the place. They have friends and family there and their social lives are established. It’s not that they don’t want to be friends, it’s just that there is no space in their lives for the newcomers.

    Everyone I meet online is friendly and helpful. There is time for a quick comment about the weather possibly, or even for sharing a resource. But to extend that time for rich conversation is difficult. Who has time to invest in a new relationship?

    As a result, I find I often end up as a lurker. I very much appreciate the open and direct conversations that many established Tweeters engage in because indirect learning is better than none.

    1. You have described a good view of what it can be like, Julie. It is interesting where and when richer conversation can occur. I am often “back and forth” on that one…. is it on twitter? On blog posts? One nurturing the other? Do we default to less open and inclusive spaces in order to have deeper conversations and connections to people? How similar or different to “real life” is it? What are we learning from the conversations we do engage in or become a part of?

  6. This comment flies in the face of Jeff’s: I follow hundreds of people, and really get satisfaction out of little bits and pieces of many conversations: it’s Intellectual Tapas if you will. Julie, I saw “global projects” in your post, and immediately added you to my list of Following. 🙂 I am a Big Picture person, so I would feel like I was missing way too much, to sit down to a full course brain meal with only 20 people. While the food may be outstanding, I would feel guilty about the folks who hadn’t been invited to dinner. I haven’t yet mastered Twitter as a tool- I’m working with Google+ at the same time, and not sure where it fits either, but as long as they’re both simmering on the mental stove, I can always lift the lid to see what’s cooking in either place.

  7. My first question was also in regards to how we would define contributing, as Heidi asked. We often call it “sharing”. But just as the message “to share” from adults can be confusing for toddlers, I think it can also be so in online spaces.

    For now I thought I would add some things I have been thinking/questioning lately as both a participant and a lurker in a few online spaces:

    We may be starting conversations, having conversations….but how are we/how well are we linking conversations? Are we connecting people and forums with similar questions and/or answers, as well as those with dissenting voices? Should we? Do we rely on others to do that? If we are, should we support that…. and how… in order to make the conversations and learning/understanding deeper or richer?

    Also, is our own participation or contributing guided by where we think our own voice and ideas will be better heard? Is that good and/or bad?

    I was planning to write a post about “who do you tweet FOR?”, but still thinking and thanks for this post to help with that 🙂

    1. Sheila,

      These are fantastic questions. I often find that dissenting voices are shut out. I’m not sure if they are viewed by some as cynical or if they just don’t fit in with the values expressed in an echo chamber. What are we using Twitter for anyway? Affirmation that we’re “right”? Bring on the challenges. Help me shift my views or at least understand and respect others’ opinions.

      Love your final question, “Is our own participation or contributing guided by where we think our own voice and ideas will be better heard? Is that good and/or bad?” There is so much social stickiness wrapped up in this question. Also interesting that the field of Public Relations knows to zone in on this as a priority for going after their target audience. Where do we as educators fit into this?

      1. Thanks for the feedback and further thoughts, Jane. I think some want their Twitter experience to be positive and enjoyable… and that is valid too. It comes down to being clear about purpose, I guess. It can take time to figure that out, and it can change of course. Awareness takes time too.
        As for Q2 from Mark: just using Twitter and being open to unplanned connections can enrich the experience. I discovered many voices/perspectives because others RT’d them into my timeline.

  8. I am in and out of Twitter. I find it overwhelming at times, and completely enticing at other times. I am much more inclined to consume content and to retweet than to create original content at this time. I feel that it is not very fair to amass followers, and then be silent; so have a sense that until I am prepared to dive in with both feet and tweet with the regularity that I “facebook” it’s somehow unjust to tweet much.

    That said, I have a number of colleagues who follow my twitter, and I am inclined to retweet excellent articles about BYOD, GAFE, and general tech integration. I don’t feel a need to reword or resummarize the article. I generally retweet.

    In terms of the depth and meaning of tweets, I can’t help but remark on the incredible impact that the succinct tweets of Commander Hadfield have had on people across this planet in the past couple months. Kids are excited about space programs again, Universities are seeing applications to aerospace programs increase this spring and in general, the world is aware of space exploration again. Especially in Canada. 140 characters or less, Col. Hadfield!! 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this Michelle. I like that you distinguish between “chiming in” vs. original content as that is a piece of the puzzle. And yes, I too followed Commander Hadfield with great enthusiasm – meaningful and great learning from those tweets.

      I find the process of writing, helps me clarify my thinking, the language I use and impacts how I respond to things in other forums (meetings, phone conversations etc.)


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