“I think I’m going to practice using Twitter.” This has been my mantra for the past three months as I embarked on a journey through the Twitterverse. I received a few laughs and some awkward smiles from colleagues, either those who were early adopters (as Patrick mentioned) and have been Twitter-literate for years, or those who were afraid to even create an account.
I’ll be honest: I’m one of those people who joined Twitter and subsequently forgot about it, as my earliest tweets sat and collected dust out there on the internet. I joined in June 2009 and made a once-per-month obligatory comment until April 2010. Those of you who are familiar with Twitter know that once-per-month tweets are just about as useless as not posting at all.
Like any professional development tool, Twitter can be challenging – but it can also be rewarding. Here are some of my best Twitter revelations thus far.
Timeliness. Twitter’s up-to-the minute nature is daunting. In our busy lives as student affairs professionals, how we can remind ourselves to be constantly tweeting? Easy: It’s just another text. As someone who has yet to cave in to a smart phone, I find joy in simply sending off a quick text to “40404”, the code number for my tweets. Whether it’s a simple “Good morning” tweet or a more specific tweet about the food I’m enjoying, timeliness comes easily with a few weeks of practice. On one occasion, I had my laptop open during the premiere of one of my favorite shows, and Twitter was ablaze with commentary that actually enhanced my viewing experience. I’ve never felt more Twitter-relevant and in tune with others than that evening.
Inter-office bonding. Twitter has helped me realize that I have a lot more in common with colleagues than I thought. Whether it’s bonding over Memorial Day weekend plans, number of mosquito bites, or periodic updates on my house hunting escapades, Twitter has actually brought me closer to my RU colleague-followers than those who are my Facebook friends. I can post about any activity (watching True Blood and eating ice cream, for example) and not feel guilty about crowding my friends’ Facebook news feed with useless updates. Twitter even helps me filter out what’s important – and that post goes on Facebook instead.
Trending. How many people are attending your events? What are they saying about your New Student Orientation program? Create a hash tag for your programs by using the # symbol and ask students to update their Twitter with feedback. Rutgers utilized this with the “#ruday11” hashtag to view all posts related to our annual Rutgers Day event, and I scrolled through dozens of tweets to see what others were up to that day. I can’t wait to try it out on programs for the fall.
It takes one minute to sign up for Twitter, and a lot more minutes to stay up-to-date. But as an exercise in professional development, Twitter provides the satisfaction of being tech-savvy, connected with colleagues, and socially aware with just 140 characters.