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Being a Savvy Tweeter: Following and Followers Part 1

Who should I follow and why? The first lesson I learned when I started my experimental account with my university students, was that Twitter is full of cliques. Let me give you an example: Here in Newfoundland we have some high profile local “celebrities”.  (There are always celebrities in any hierarchy – our local one can be viewed as ludicrous, since we only have a total population of approximately 520,000.)  But we learned our first valuable lesson here. There was much activity surrounding this group-jockeying to get in, and attempts to get their attention. Not far removed from high school. They clearly enjoyed their “big man/woman on campus mentality” and pontificated frequently amongst themselves to their captive audience. Very much about ego.

Then you get the larger version of tweeter celebrities worldwide. Someone in the class suggested Russell Crowe since he has a close connection with Newfoundland through his relationship with Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea. We “followed’ Russell for several weeks along with thousands worldwide. Russell was in Vancouver filming “Superman” and all he tweeted about was his training regime – how many push-ups, laps, etc. Totally boring and a big waste of his time and ours.  Conclusion: The concepts of audience should be important to you. What audience will I be in and who do I want as an audience?

After starting the Canadian Geographic Education account, more realizations emerged. Who to follow again? Obviously, school districts, K-12 educators, geographers, related organizations, university professors in geography/geospatial and all issues-related and news sites. The rationale was to get our message out there and to get information back. The list grew to 1000+ because we had to identify who’s who.

I have to do a sidebar here. I started “driving” on the Internet back when it was a novelty. For those of you who are digital natives or new millennial, in order to put this in context, I invite you to watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suE8cd6VU1M ..my how far we’ve come in 20 years! We have often referred to the Internet as an information highway, but as it grew it was more like a dirt road with many bumps. Having experienced the full ride so far, I think I am safe when I say that Twitter is evolving in the same way. Recognize pitfalls and distractions.

Some people who think they are using Twitter properly are delusional. The best example that comes to mind is a prominent education professor who studies the effects of social media. I have to acknowledge that he knows how useful it can be in the education field, but I had to stop following him because he had an attitude of “celebrity”, had a little clique that had “inside” conversations, and filled up the Twitterfeed with constant and mostly, inane posts.

Key here: Ask yourself, “Is my time valuable? What am I contributing that is of value? What am I getting back that is of value?”

Second example of being disappointed: Prominent geospatialists who you know have a lot of information to share but don’t really know how to share it.

I have now “followed” and been “followed” for two years. My biggest discovery is that no matter how much valuable information we put out there to K12 educators (superintendents, school districts, and teachers), very little has generated engagement. On the other hand, our biggest response has been from the geotechnical world, (thank you, geotechnical) which is very encouraging. I will recommend the best so far of those to you in another post. (A whole other discussion.)

Conclusion: Don’t be a fan. If you’re not getting anything from this follow, drop it. It’s all about time and timing.

And serendipitously this just in on Twitter!


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