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Tuesday Tech Trends with Tara: Twitter

I know I said this blog would be about emerging trends, and having recently celebrated its 5th birthday Twitter is hardly new anymore, but I often get questions about Twitter.  Well, really.  Its one question asked again and again:

You use Twitter?

To the uninitiated, Twitter looks like a shorter version of the Facebook or Google+ status bar with none of the additional features of those platforms.  It also has a bit of a reputation for being a tool of the self-centered who think others care about what they ate for lunch or how Kim Kardashian would, “just die for those shoes!”  So, why would you – sane person with things to do and people to see – be interested in Twitter?

For a lot of reasons including conversations with friends/family/co-workers, getting quick answers, keeping up on the news, scoring deals from your favorite brands, even finding a job.  But the thing that sets Twitter apart from other blogging and social networking sites is that it allows you to get informed on a variety of narratives and get a sense of people’s reactions to those stories in the time it takes you to walk from the train to your office.

For example, I organized the people and organizations I follow into several lists.  By clicking on my Librarian list I can scroll through those tweets and see what some of the major thinkers and contributors in my field are talking about.  Sometimes I find a link to a great blog post or article, other times I might come across a job announcement to forward onto a friend.  Often I observe a great twitter conversation between two well-known digital trends librarians and if I choose, I can jump in and participate in those discussions myself.  Twitter has become an important professional tool for me.  It helps me stay up to date on emerging trends and make connections to librarians at other institutions.  The same can be said for most, if not all, industries and fields.  Check to see if the movers and shakers in your field (or future occupation) have Twitter feeds and learn from their collective voice.

I also have lists for Technology, News, Friends, and Entertainment.  By organizing the Twitter feeds I follow I can easily get the type of information I’m after.  I also love seeing how different people and organizations tweet about the same issue.  I can easily see different points of view on the ebooks narrative depending on whether I’m looking at my Librarian list (copyright issues, subscriptions, circulation) or my Tech list (latest trends, biggest competitors). But sometimes its hard to know who in particular to follow on Twitter.  This is where hashtags # become incredibly handy.

Hashtags allow you to search for tweets on a certain topic rather than by the person who tweets them.  You’ve heard how social media is playing a role in recent political and social events around the world.  It was amazing to watch the Egyptian revolution through real time tweets coming from people in the midst of the action.  Go to Twitter and search for #libya to get up to date information from journalists and regular citizens from this current event.  Or maybe you’re interested in the latest #GMO debates or #Zombies or the upcoming #Olympics.  Hashtags help organize the millions of tweets coming daily into meaningful categories.

Isn’t Twitter a microblogging platform? Shouldn’t we be tweeting up a storm ourselves?  If you want to, then absolutely. Do I tweet?  Yes.  Sometimes. When I read something interesting to pass on, want to get people’s opinion on an issue, or just want to share and talk with my friends.  But with only 30 some followers I’m no @andersoncooper or @theeconomist.  And that’s okay.  I recognize that for me, as the average person, Twitter’s power is not in giving me a voice (though it does), its in letting me observe and learn from the collective voices of millions of tweeters – professionals and average Joes alike.

Since Twitter has been around for a while there are a lot of great How-To guides out there.  I won’t duplicate efforts when mine who no doubt fall short.  If this post has piqued your interest even just a little, I encourage you to go over to www.twitter.com and sign up for a free account.  Then check out one of my favorite Twitter guides from Mashable at http://mashable.com/guidebook/twitter/.

Below you’ll find some examples of news organizations I follow on Twitter.  Just search for them or any of your favorite publications, authors, political figures, athletes or celebrities, click on the green Follow button and get connected to the information stream that is Twitter!

@BBCNews: The latest stories, features and updates from BBC News.
@AJELive: Coverage of live & breaking news events from Al Jazeera.
@mashable: Digital, social media, business, tech, entertainment and mobile news from Mashable.com, the top resource for web culture.
@Gizmodo: Technologies that change the way we live, work, love, play, think and feel.
@nprmusic: The best stories, breaking news and live concert alerts from NPR Music.
@contemporarylib: Me. 🙂  Tara Radniecki. Librarian at Loyola University Chicago.

One Response to Tuesday Tech Trends with Tara: Twitter

  1. Kimberly Medema on August 25, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Good points! A lot of bands I follow announce tour dates, special pre-order bundles, presale passwords, etc on Twitter before their official websites break the news. For time-sensitive issues like “secret Twitter-followers-only presale in 30 min,” it’s a big deal!

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