On Blogging and Social Media

To help educators get started with social media and blogging

Monday, May 25, 2009

Building your Twitter network

Posted by Nik Peachey

Twitter has become one of the hottest Web 2.0 apps of 2009, but what can it really do for you and how can it help you and your with your personal development and your blog?

Well Twitter serves two main purposes and these are in simple terms:

  • Information in - getting information from many sources coming to you in one place
  • Information out - broadcasting your own information to many sources

Information in

Twitter is a really powerful way to get very up to date information from Twitter users all around the globe. To do this just involves tracking down who the best sources of information are and subscribing / following them.

This will help you stay informed about what’s happening in your field and could also give you some relevant topics, tools and resources to write about on your own blog. Once you have a network you can also get help from them when you need it and send out questions about where to find help or resources.

Here are some tips for finding good people to follow:
  • Start with the big names in your professional field. When you follow these you will also be able to see who they are following and who is following them. Personally, I usually ignore the people following them and go straight to explore the people they follow. Most people will allow anyone to follow them, but are much more discerning about who they follow, so this is a ready made endorsement that you can rely on.
  • Before you follow someone, check out the information they are broadcasting and see if there is anything useful there. For me useful usually means links to resources or information. I’m not really interested in finding out what people have for breakfast or which airport they are sitting in.
  • Another useful way to find people to follow is to check out the various Twitter directories and look for people in your field.

  • Here are useful possible sources:
    ELTweet: http://www.eltweet.com A directory of ELT related Tweeters
    TwitR: http://twitr.org A general directory of Twitter users that you can search.
    Directory of Learning Professionals: http://c4lpt.co.uk/socialmedia/edutwitter.html A directory of learning professionals from both education and corporate training.

  • Here are some ELT and EdTech names that are worth checking out to see who they follow:
    Jeremy Harmer: http://twitter.com/Harmerj
    Scott Thornbury: http://twitter.com/thornburyscott
    Gavin Dudeney: http://twitter.com/dudeneyge
    Larry Ferlazzo: http://twitter.com/Larryferlazzo
It's important to remember, if what you are after is good information then the quantity of people you follow isn't important. Follow a few good quality people who are sending out good links and valuable information. Following too many people will dilute the information and make it more difficult to get at the good quality stuff.

Information out

Twitter can also be a very useful tool to broadcast information to promote your blog. You can post messages whenever you create new blog postings or whenever you see something interesting that you would like to share with fellow professionals in your field.

Information out is little more complex though, because to broadcast your information you first need to build your network and that means getting people to subscribe to / follow you.
Here are some tips for how to build your network and get people following you.
  • One key thing, before you attempt to get people following you is to start actually posting some tweets. This sounds a bit strange as you will be posting information with nobody following it, but one of the keys to getting people to follow you is the quality of the information you are broadcasting. If your tweet page is blank, then people are unlikely to want to follow you.
  • Be sure you set up your Twitter profile with a link to your blog or website, so that users can see who you are, what you are interested in and what kind of information they are likely to get if they follow you. Again, you should do this before you sart trying to build up followers.
  • Get a Twitter widget plugged into your blog or website. This will enable anyone who comes to your site and likes what they see there to follow you directly from your site.
  • Following other people who are in your field can be a good way to get them to check out your tweets and your profile and if they like what they see they may well decide to follow you.
  • Think about the name you use for your Twitter account. I use my real name, but you could use the name of your company, school or blog. Using a common name across all your social networking activities establishes it as a kind of ‘brand’ and helps you to build reputation on that name. Using funny, witty, foolish or anonymous type names that don't identify you as a real person with genuine professional interests are likely to put off some potential followers.
  • There are a number of directories that you can apply to or register yourself on. Being on these registries can help people in your field find you and follow you. These were mentioned above but here they are again.
    ELTweet A directory of ELT related Tweeters
    TwitR A general directory of Twitter users that you can search.
    Directory of Learning Professionals A directory of learning professionals from both education and corporate training.

These basic tips should help you to get your network started and growing. Your Twitter network can be a very powerful tool and if you use it correctly it will continue to grow. Be sure to respect the people following you. Post information that you value, re-tweet information that you find useful there and be part of the community. Read people’s messages, try to respond in a helpful way when you can and give something to the network you create.

How about you?
  • What's your approach to building your network?
  • Do you let anyone follow you or are you selective?
  • Who do you enjoy following?
  • Have you added your Twitter profile to any registers?
  • Anything you can add to these tips?
By all means leave comments and links to further reading on Twitter.

Related links:

© Nik Peachey


Unknown said...

Good article. However my view of Twitter contrasts your love and praise for this purposeless application. The site is is nothing more than a cyber herd movement with a lesser purpose than facebook or multiply.
A site that is built around one question, “What are you doing?” is potentially one of the most clever creations, but it seems to be geared towards people without important things to do except update the world on their whereabouts.
While cyber technology continues to advance, it’s consequently robbing humanity of the human relations.
A concerned engineer - www.EngineeringDaily.net
BTW you can follow me @EngineersDay


Super posting, thanks Nik.

I have been led to some really wonderful stuff via twitter... and I'd also like to recommend a few really great twitterers who always share tips and regularly spread great resources around... and not just toot horns, LOL -


and again @LarryFerlazzo who is simply awesome!


Nik Peachey said...

All technology is neutral. It is neither good nor bad, intelligent nor stupid, until of course someone starts to use it and then it can be any of the above. Personally I have found Twitter really useful and am getting more and more quality information from it, but for me that isn't what people have on their toast or how many coffees they have had, but for others it may be. Takes all kinds ...


Nik Peachey said...

@ Karenne
Thanks for the recommendations. Think there are a few there I can add to my list.

Graham Davies said...

I tried Twitter for the first time some months ago and I wasn't impressed. A few weeks ago, I had another look. Nik is right: if you select the people you wish to follow carefully you pick up some great tips and useful links. Twitter is now my main source of up-to-date information relating to my main area of interest: using ICT in language learning and teaching.

Graham Davies
Editor-in-Chief, ICT for Language Teachers website

Valentina Dodge said...

Thanks Nik, I found about this blog entry from @ericbaber via TweetDeck so that shows the power and the networking of like-minded people! To manage updates and browsing I've used Tweetdeck since @dudeneyge suggested it. What do others use? Feel is most efficient?


Nik Peachey said...

Hi Valentina
I have tried both TweetDeck and TwitterFox. I've found TweetDeck to be more efficient in terms of keeping me informed, but it tends to distract me too much when I'm working, partly because of the amount of people I'm following. TwitterFox is far less distracting and doesn't pop up messages every few seconds, it just shows a number of new tweets received next to an icon at the bottom of my Firefox browser. That number though is 850 at the moment, so I think i juts have to be prepared to let some information go, of I just generally check the webpage every now and again and can always find something interesting.

Sometimes you just have to let chance play a hand.



Valentina Dodge said...

Thanks Nik for your reply.
I haven't tried TwitterFox so I'll give it a go.
Getting on quite well with TweetDeck - makes the experience a lot more manageable I find especially if you disable the pop up notifications. Once I'd played around with settings (even colour of background can play an important part when absorbing/skimming this quantity of tweets I agree.
Not sure about the left to right scrolling, still need to get used to that but main frames are super for group searches and narrowing the deluge of tweets (at present, easier than also checking my dashboard on http://www.eltweet.com/ ;-9) You are right, have to let some flow by, shame but that's life!

SusanaCanelo said...

I just use Twitter to follow some Webheads, some of them like anamariacult always have interesting things and of course Larry Ferlazzo is a Twittering machine himself !!!

Thanks Nik !!
As usual I learn a lot from you

Johanna said...

I have a question: If I stop following someone, will they know? I don't want to offend anyone, but agree with you that it's quality not quantity. (Which also makes me wonder if I'm giving quality mayself - ooh-er, must try harder!).

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Johanna
If you unfollow someone, they won't be sent a message, so it's unlikely they will notice unless they have a very small number of followers.

If you are after information then it's definitely worth restricting the number and quality of people you follow.
Good luck


Rebeca said...

Twitter is really a powerful site i know. But i am new on twitter, so i have to learn more about twitter application.

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