How to Twitter Part 1 is the first of a three post series on how I understand and use Twitter. Twitter is a powerful social networking tool that allows users to spread information quickly and widely in succinct, 140 character conversations. It is an important tool to master and one I misunderstood until recently.
This first post will focus on myths and realities about how to use Twitter. The second will open a discussion on why historians (especially independent historians) should use Twitter. The third post will discuss how you can get started with Twitter.
I began using Twitter about eighteen months ago after I heard other historians talk about how they used it at the AHA 2012 THATCamp. I loved the idea of using Twitter to meet and converse with other historians. However within a few days of creating my account, I became overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information on Twitter and within a few weeks I stopped using it. The source of my frustration: I did not really understand how to use Twitter.
Recently, I attended a workshop on how to Twitter. For three hours, Lauren MacLeod (@bostonbookgirl) walked me and other writers through Twitter and dispelled the misconceptions we had formed about using it
Myth #1: You have to Follow and Keep Up with Every Twitter Conversation
Reality: Twitter is an information blitz. You cannot keep up with every conversation. The best you can do is check in periodically and add your two cents.
Myth #2: Using Twitter Takes Up Too Much Time
Reality: Using Twitter takes only the amount of time you let it. You can Twitter in as little as 10 to 20 minutes per day. I spread out my daily 10-20 minutes to check Twitter at 2 or 3 different times.
Myth #3: Twitter is Disorganized and Hard to Use
Reality: Twitter Lists organize Twitter conversations into user-friendly categories. You can set up lists around hashtags, such as #twitterstorians, or customize them by topic. I have lists organized around friends and family, historians, writers, archives, presses and publishing, digital humanities, Boston news and events, Boston sports, and product news. When I check-in I simply click on my lists and scroll down to peruse what people are tweeting about.
Incidentally, I use Twitter apps such as Janetter on my Mac and Tweetcaster on my iDevices. I have found them easier to use than Twitter as I prefer to follow Twitter using lists; in my opinion their list browsing functionality is better and easier to use.
Myth #4: Twitter is Only for Work OR Personal Use
Reality: You can use Twitter for both. Recent studies have shown that the social media works best when you tweet a mixture of work and personal news. Your followers like to know who you are by learning about your other interests and activities.
With that said, your Twitter profile and tweets are highly Googleable. Therefore, you should decide how you want to represent yourself on Twitter before you tweet. What is your primary purpose for being on Twitter? Professional networking? Or, personal pleasure? Most of your tweets should concern your primary purpose.
My primary purpose on Twitter is professional. With that said, I am also a Boston sports fan and I use Twitter to converse with other fans. I tweet history by day and sports by night.
A Happy Twitter Ending
Now that I understand how to use Twitter I am having a lot of fun with it. The historians, writers, and publishers I have met and follow are very nice and helpful; they always draw my attention to articles, blog posts, books, events, and facts that I might have missed. They are also generous with their time. @OUPAcademic recommended sources on early American diplomacy after I asked if they had similar titles to [amazon_link id="0199640351" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Remaking the British Atlantic[/amazon_link] by P.J. Marshall. And, several historians responded when I queried about peace talks between the United States and Great Britain prior to 1782.
What Do You Think?
I would love to know more about how you use Twitter and about the great hashtags and people you follow. Please leave a comment if you have suggestions or send me a tweet @lizcovart.