If you’re following more than fifty people on twitter, watching everything in a single stream of activity on twitter.com is probably tiring and frustrating.
The constant rush of messages can feel overwhelming, and it’s hard to make sense of what’s most important. If you follow accounts covering different topics, the diverse tweets can blend together into a confusing and unhelpful sludge.
Fortunately this situation can be improved. I’d like to share three tips that have helped me:
1) Lists help organise different voices and interests
The accounts you’re following probably fall into different categories, congregating around your different areas of interest. Organise them into lists for each of your interests.
So for my personal account I have online learning, charity digital, tech and gaming. When I check twitter, I can look at each of these lists, rather than having to navigate a torrent of disordered voices in my home feed.
It’s also much easier to see how active certain communities are, and who the prominent voices are, than just looking at your home feed.
2) Searches can be very useful, and you can do a lot more than just hashtags.
I follow a few hashtags using twitter searches (#mooc, #moocmooc, #cs50x, #cslondon12, #NFPtweetup and #oxengage are the main ones.) Here’s an example search for #mooc.
Searching for keywords rather than just hashtags can be a great way to come across relevant messages you otherwise wouldn’t see.
At Deafness Research UK I have a list of the most important accounts in hearing research, but there are always new voices to discover. So I have a search set up for: deafness OR hearing OR tinnitus OR ear AND research OR science OR breakthrough. The OR and AND are logical operators. In this case they mean that the content of the message needs to include at least one of: deafness, hearing, tinnitus or ear, and to also include at least one of research, science or breakthrough.
Of course, you can’t be perfect with these more prospective searches, and you’ll see a lot of irrelevant posts, but it’s a useful exercise nonetheless. In the above example, the tweets from aromatixteam, Science_Alerts and EquiisSavant seem to be worth a closer look.
3) A dedicated tool is more useful than twitter.com
Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are your main choices. I’ve used both, and settled on Hootsuite. They have very similar features, so mine was probably an aesthetic decision as much as anything else. (That and the fact that you used to have to install Tweetdeck, I think) I find Hootsuite’s light blue more appealing than Tweetdeck’s darker palette.
Being able to see multiple lists and streams (for example a search) at once is massively helpful. Here’s my home hootsuite dashboard (in 2 parts):
The ability to schedule up messages in advance can be helpful too, although you probably don’t want to overdo this:
What if someone likes what you have to say and wants to chat about it right there and then?
What would the fallout be if something unforeseen happens? A catastrophic accident, or a change to a planned event that makes your preparations incorrect or inappropriate?
4) Find out what works for you on twitter and what doesn’t.
Twitter isn’t the right medium for everything. Don’t be afraid to focus in on the best stuff and ditch the rest.
I don’t like sifting through noisy news sources on twitter. It takes much longer to filter through Mashable on twitter than it does to skim through all their posts and find the 5% or so I’m interested in if I’m using an RSS feed.
Similarly, there’s loads of news that I’m not interested in. And I don’t have time to watch breaking news on twitter, or to read in-depth analysis while at work.
So I follow these areas through RSS feeds, which get attention over breakfast, at lunch, and in the evening.
To be a good digital communicator is to be a lifelong learner.
The digital landscape keeps changing. Google alters its search algorithm; new services and platforms are released; user devices and expectations evolve; web standards develop; a new version of HTML or CSS is released; the legislative context shifts as the EU’s cookie laws are implemented. This means that our practices – and our instincts – need to be forever questioned and improved.
The toolkit of digital competencies isn’t a static box of best practice to absorb once and for all. Certainly there are some good foundations to acquire – an inquisitive, analytical mind; instincts for storytelling and visual design; a conceptual understanding of how the internet and websites work; an enjoyment of play, discovery and exploration; a logical approach; knowledge of HTML, CSS and any of the other web languages.
But the core digital competencies are inquisitiveness and an enthusiasm to engage in discourse with other people trying to understand and shape the digital landscape. A restlessness and a desire to figure out how things can be done – or could be done – better. A desire to understand what works and what doesn’t – particularly when evidence is hard to come by, and an open evangelism to share the results.
I find that making sense of the world around me by producing openly shared media is the best way for me to learn. Publicly sharing my thoughts as I try to work through them helps me formulate them more clearly. Working like this is a vulnerable position to be in; and sharing living work-in-progress rather than thoughts that are ‘finished’ means that I won’t always be ‘right’. Rather, I hope to be stimulating and encouraging.
In my posts here, I hope, by learning aloud, and in conversation with others, to help develop our knowledge of digital communications.
Two dangers encountered by blog clubs: being stifled by a controlling comms department, or being swamped by too much content. Could you plot a course between these extremes? The abundance of content created at vInspired’s blog club encouraged @b33god to focus in on key messages:
vInspired now plan content through weekly catchups.
These share key themes and incorporate all channels (not just digital!):
#nfptweetup If it ain’t on the content planner it ain’t happening – wise words from @b33god.
A discussion of internal social networks: I think they have a lot of promise. I worry about them becoming too formal and sterile, and wonder the extent to which they can carve out a social space that doesn’t threaten existing power structures within an organisation.
(But I don’t have anyway near enough experience to judge on this!)
@martinlugton We tested Yammer out with a few members of staff. Was good – but reluctance to roll out it seems #24octsm
What about charities whose supporters don’t want to be public?
There was a good question in the facebook Q and A about charities whose supporters may not want to publicly identify themselves – eg the Herpes Virus Association. I’m not sure that facebook will ever work well for such a charity, as it’s a platform that works because it combines voyeurism with exhibitionism and sells the results to marketers
Very good question on charities whose beneficiaries don’t want to publicly be identified. Facebook isn’t at all set up for this #24octsm
Content sharing and paid content sharing My own experience of charity digital communications hasn’t yet involved a paid facebook budget. But I do think that if you focus on producing good, shareable content, you can achieve an awful lot.Interesting anecdote from Joe Freeman on his experience of promoted and organic posts.
By the end of the morning I still hadn’t come any closer to figuring this out. What does a signifier of quality information provision – that largely consists of robust processes to produce static content – have to say about social media, which is fast-moving and more flowing in nature? I might have got the wrong end of the stick a little bit in challenging us to think about this (as Joe pointed out, the event was “designed for members and potential members of The Information Standard and PIF to hear about the latest developments in social media, learn how to get the most out of different social media platforms, and share experiences and learnings with other like-minded organisations.”) But I really do think that it’s an important question, and one that an event on social media presented by the Information Standard ought to engage with. A few other people seemed to have similar questions, so we decided to meet up at lunch:
@LAnekwe@HelgaVonF let’s meet up for lunch to think about what the info standard means in the digital space. Everyone welcome! #24octsm
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to get very far with our chat! I did learn about some of the administrative challenges that the Information Standard faces. If the social space is indeed different, let’s see what practices will allow us to apply the Information Standard principles in this space. I think the UK Cochrane Centre made a good contribution:
#24octsm social media rule – transparency, transparency, transparency. Same for evidence based medicine & all committed to improving health
I asked for their thoughts on how to deliver quality information online. They have staff members with credentials, but what do you do if you can’t rely on this to ensure quality? I got a helpful suggestion that a telephone information line might be a good model, as it is about real-time conversation:
I think I now have a better idea of what the Information Standard means to me as a Digital Communications Manager of a charity that produces a lot of information for patients. I’m going to look at appendix 17 of the Information Standard, and at the Helplines Standard (or whatever it’s called right now), and think further about what I should do to make sure that as Deafness Research UK moves towards the Information Standard our social media is able to provide as good a quality of patient information as any other part of our organisation.