Twitter: Le triple filtree

I've been discussing the merits of Twitter as a professional social network recently in conversation with colleagues. One of the regular objections to using Twitter professionally is that there is too great a noise-to-signal ratio. In other words, people are reluctant to get too deeply involved with Twitter because they think they will be swamped with people talking about what they had for breakfast, how their cat was sick on their auntie Bessie, or other niff naff and trivia. Professionals don't have a lot of spare time, and want to maximise the time they do have. I don't blame them. But they should also realise that Twitter can actually save them time if used in an appropriate manner.

I admit that whilst some people do natter on about irrelevant or self indulgent stuff, I tell them that there is also a lot of good content being tweeted daily on Twitter and also an occasional nugget of gold - a link for example to a must-see resource. The answer to effective Twitter use, I point out to them, is the manner in which you use it. The potential is there for it to be used as a very powerful Personal Learning Network (PLN) if it is employed appropriately. PLNs can help professionals by providing solutions to all kinds of problems. Follow the right people, and you will always have food for thought. Ask the right questions of the right people, and you will get very useful answers, pretty damn quick. The answer to finding your own powerful PLN in Twitter is simple: It's all about filtering, and Twitter can be filtered on three levels at least.

Firstly, see Twitter as a fast moving stream. You can choose when to dip your toes in the water and when to let the stream flow past. You don't have to be online all the time, and you don't have to have Twitter on all the time. Use it when you need to, to learn, discover, share, connect and communicate.

Secondly, filter by choosing to follow the right people. There are at least three ways to choose the people you should most likely follow. 1) Go on the recommendations of people you trust. If they have been on Twitter for a while, they will know the ropes and they will know the dopes. Ask for their advice, or simply trust them and follow the people they recommend in their Twitter lists. 2) Choose to follow people on the basis of their content - look at their profiles and the Tweets they post, and you'll soon see whether or not it will be worth your while following them. 3) Don't forget that you can also discover people to follow on Twitter through serendipity. This may be because someone else you follow has retweeted them or simply because you spot them online. If they look interesting, follow them - you have nothing to lose - and you can always unfollow later if it all gets a little too tedious.

Thirdly, you can filter your Twitter stream by using keywords to search for specific content. You can also be very specific by following hastags for say, events such as conferences, or breaking news stories. Keeping an eye on trending topics can also be useful occasionally, especially if you want to lock into something that is breaking news. These three levels of filtering should enable you to enjoy Twitter as a useful PLN, without you being swamped with spurious content. Third party tools such as Tweetdeck can also compartmentalise content and make it manageable. You can choose what each of your columns contains, including your own mentions or DMs (Direct, private messages to you from friends). Happy Twittering!

Image source by Sarah Gallagher


Creative Commons Licence Twitter: Le triple filtree by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

mvallance1234 said…
You-- or more correctly, your student - introduced me to Twitter at ALT-C Manchester (2 years ago?). I only use it sparingly BUT it is a terrific communication tool. In 2 classes of 80 students, a colleague and I had teams of design and programming students working on projects. Twitter was used by students to update their progress, share their work in progress, and comment on all projects for the 15 weeks. At conferences Twitter is a great way of finding out what is happening in an instant. During the recent tragic events here in Japan, locals affected could communicate what was actually happening via Twitter as the phone networks were inundated thus phone messages were delayed up to 2 hours. This was much more informative - and scary- than the filtered information via the TV news networks. Twitter is also humourous. I followed Robbie Savage (football player) for a while but too often the associated tweets were rubbish; it was easy to unfollow. Thanks for introducing me to Twitter, Steve...and student.
Steven Verjans said…
Steve,
A fourth way of filtering that I use quite often is through tools such as Paper.li, or Twittertimes. They provide me with an overview of what my network of followees has deemed important on the previous day. Stuff that is retweeted a lot gets added to this daily Tweetpaper. Very useful, indeed, if on certain days you don't have time or opportunity to dip your toe in the stream ;-)
Jo said…
Great tips, all things I tell people when I'm given the "but everyone talks about what they had to eat on Twitter".

Another way I like to filter my stream is by using private Twitter lists of favourite tweeters - those whose tweets I don't want to miss. That way if I don't have as much time I can just check in with the list, but if I have more time I can go to my full list. I find this works well for me and have a similar system with my RSS feeds too (a folder of favourite feeds I don't want to miss).
Jo said…
Great tips, all things I tell people when I'm given the "but everyone talks about what they had to eat on Twitter".

Another way I like to filter my stream is by using private Twitter lists of favourite tweeters - those whose tweets I don't want to miss. That way if I don't have as much time I can just check in with the list, but if I have more time I can go to my full list. I find this works well for me and have a similar system with my RSS feeds too (a folder of favourite feeds I don't want to miss).
Brian Kelly said…
I use Twitter lists and an app (Smartr) as a means of providing filtered access to the content of links which have been tweeted. For further details see my post on Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper! at http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/who-needs-murdoch-ive-got-smartr-my-own-personalised-daily-newspaper/
Emma said…
Following on from Jo's comment:
"Great tips, all things I tell people when I'm given the "but everyone talks about what they had to eat on Twitter". "

I do seem to recall a study (c. over a year ago ???) about the types of comment that were actually on Twitter. And breakfast didn't feature, much, if I recall correctly!

Can't find the study now, needless to say.

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