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Twitter: What is the Purpose of this Social Media Tool?

Twitter gives us unlimited access to another spatial realm-for the time being- in the spirit of our exponentially rapid development of and engagement with social media. I think Twitter can be the best thing that’s happened to the Geomatics community in Canada. (An example of this is that I first encountered Jon Murphy and GoGeomatics on Twitter.) If you recognize this, you too can use it to your advantage. Being intelligent has nothing to do with being an effective Tweeter. You have to learn to be smart in your ability to identify what works and what becomes “digital garbage”. It also requires a certain amount of time and commitment, but it can be rewarding.

The only way I can share my experience with the Twitterverse is to tell the story of how I got involved, how I evolved, and what I have deduced along the way. This information may or may not be of any use to you or your organization because it is not based in data. It is merely inferential understandings based on my background and perspective-or what I have “constructed” so far on this learning journey. I am always open to suggestions, corrections, or new information.

I was teaching a class of Intermediate/Secondary preservice teachers at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University in Social Studies Methods. As the integration of technology is a very big part of the teaching/learning environment there is a large focus on the effects of social media. One of the students was heavily into Twitter and we started a casual conversation about it with the result being the creation of my first account – a personal one based on interests. It was rudimentary at best. After figuring out how it worked, the class would have a little session each day to analyze – who we would follow, and who would follow us back. This was mainly in the local sphere, but it was where I cut my ‘Tweeth’.  At that time we deduced it was a condensed version of Facebook which had become mainly about “ego-casting”.

After much reflection and a steep learning curve, I gradually saw the ultimate potential of using Twitter, and after much experimentation, grew to be the administrator of Canadian Geographic Education Twitter account, @CanGeoEdu. I also closed my original experimental account and opened a new personal account, but I would like to share related observations from all three because they provided equally valuable insights as to what to do and what not to do.

Initially, I would like to share how I envision Twitter. I see interaction based on three levels of engagement:

Level 1:  Just Another way to text but others can snoop. (Lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy). Very little thinking.

Sample tweet: @joe “Where are you?’ Reply: @tom I’m at the rink….And so it goes. Very, very low interest from followers unless @tom’s wife @matilda is wondering where the heck her husband is and she’s got three kids to put to bed.

Conclusion: Who cares unless you’re spying on someone? I.e. A concise version of Facebook, but we’re all learning something!

Level 2:   Advertising or promotion or “Spreading the News”. This is valuable to the media, companies, and organizations to disseminate information about products, meetings, stories, publications. Has added value if linked to a pic or a website. Personally, I don’t give these much attention unless it’s from a Twbiggie: e.g. GuardianUK or NatGeo (again, all based on interest). I don’t want to see the lunch you ordered or your Lamborghini. Can be very valuable if used judiciously. Nothing works better to have someone “unfollow” you than to be tweeting too much of the same thing so that you’re all over their Twitterfeed. Unfortunately used by a lot of self-promoters with big egos. And spammers.

Conclusion: Excellent marketing tool but you’d better have a good website to back it up. If you’re posting a pic or company logo, make it awesomely unforgettable so people will remember. Twitter is very fast. You don’t get Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, it’s more like fifteen nanoseconds.

Level 3:  Networking and affecting change. It is at this level that I believe the true value of Twitter lies. There is also a system for effectiveness. It is where you contact those of like minds, goals, interests, and intelligence for sharing of ideas to enhance your own agenda. It’s truly about being part of an online virtual community. Always linked to a website. Always has the real company/person’s picture/name. Nobody likes ‘ovals’ or pics of your cat. If you’re going to be serious, put a simple, clean, eye-catching logo or a picture of yourself on your profile (I love GoGeomatics logo). Depending on who you are targeting, keep your profile professional. (Colleagues and prospective clients/collaborators really are not interested that you’re a Leafs fan or you play the vuvuzela). I have also concluded that there is little interest in locked accounts.

Next time I will write about ‘Following’ and ‘Followers’.

Bottom line for now: Twitter is wide-open. If you don’t want to participate totally or smartly, it’s not for you.



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