Six reasons to tweet
Twitter is a social media site - but it also offers significant benefits in the professional setting. It can be used as a tool to help you achieve everyday tasks. LGC outlines some of the benefits.
1. Find and filter news and information
Like ‘social bookmarking’ sites, Twitter can be used as a tool to find interesting and trusted information.
You choose who to ‘follow’, perhaps on the basis that you know or admire them or their employer, or that you share a similar interest. Many of the people you follow will share links to websites and articles that they find interesting – in effect a recommendation.
This offers something that a Google search doesn’t: you find information and inspiration without you having to search for it, and it provides an element of quality control. It also offers a way of filtering the vast quantity of information on the internet.
Twitter is particularly good for following breaking news. Most news organisations and many bloggers have a Twitter account and tweet headlines and story links. Some also tweet about stories they are still researching. You can quickly follow news by following the accounts of the news organisations you are interested in and by reading news tweets from the people you follow.
You can also reach beyond your ‘network’. Using Twitter’s search box will serve up any tweet on your chosen topic, regardless of whether you follow the tweeter or not. If you are looking for information about a breaking story or a dynamic piece of information such as a sports result, often typing a search term into Twitter’s search box will yield information quicker than other methods.
2. Making connections
Twitter can be used to stay in touch with people you already know. But it is also a powerful way of quickly connecting with people with whom you share an interest but you may not otherwise meet.
You will quickly come into contact with new people because any existing contacts who you follow on Twitter are likely to ‘retweet’ things said by the people they follow (jargon for re-posting a tweet made by another Twitter user, signified by the letters “RT” or an arrow symbol). If you find such tweets interesting you may choose to follow that third party too.
On Fridays Twitter users explicitly recommend other users by sending a tweet containing the phrase #FF (short for ‘follow Friday’) and the person’s Twitter username.
But you can also proactively find new contacts by searching Twitter for a topic that interests you and following people who are saying interesting things about that topic. For example, people tweeting about local government often append their tweets with the ‘hashtag’: #localgov. Searching for this phrase offers a quick connection to people sharing this interest.
3. Seeking views and discussing issues
By watching tweets made by the people you follow and searching for topics that interest you, you can quickly hear the accompanying mood music. For example, searching for #BBCqt will provide a live log of Twitter audience reaction to the issues being discussed on Question Time, including the panellists’ views and performance. This method can also be used to gain an insight into views on local issues or local government news.
Twitter is interactive, so it can be used to solicit information. This can range from short questions generating a specific answer, such as “how do I sort alphabetically in Excel” to more complex questions that invite debate and discussion.
Any questions tweeted might reach far beyond the original user’s network, as their followers retweet the post to their own followers.
Twitter can be used to discover or seek views both from local people or peers across local government.
4. Distilling key themes
Twitter is commonly used to share key points from conferences, events and documents. For example, many local government tweeters commented on the content of the Open Public Service white paper, noting the important themes, points for discussion and omissions. LGC regularly tweets live during speeches and events, including a summary of David Cameron’s address from the LGA Conference this year or the budget announcement.
Such tweets may well be of interest to the tweeter’s network, but is also likely to benefit the tweeter too. After posting, the tweeter can look back through their own profile to string together their notes on the topic.
Most major local government events are now broadcast live on Twitter by delegates.
5. Broadcasting your news and generating traffic
Twitter is often used to share news, views or links to the poster’s own website. Council Twitter accounts regularly share local news, events and information, but personal accounts can also be used in this way and are often particularly powerful because followers read such promotion as a personal recommendation or endorsement. This can be used to spread information or to generate interesting and traffic to a blog or other site.
Twitter can also be used to broadcast to a specific audience, including the media industry. Many journalists have twitter accounts and Twitter is becoming a commonplace news gathering tool. Twitter confers several benefits. In particular, it also allows users to see what interests a specific journalist and potentially form a rapport. Stories and view first aired on Twitter frequently make it into the national media and some journalists turn to Twitter in search of expert commentators.
6. Communicating quickly
Because Twitter is fast moving, with people all over the world tweeting every moment of the day, responses tend to be made quickly. This makes it an ideal tool for seeking instant feedback or discussion.
Although Twitter is primarily a mass communication too, its direct message function allows users to send a private message to anyone who follows them. Default account settings are configures to alert Twitter users by email when they receive a direct message. This means that in effect a direct message can be used as an alternative to an email or text message. Using a Twitter direct message may cut through the noise of an otherwise busy inbox.
Direct messages are also useful for continuing a discussion that might not directly interest the rest of your followers.
Twitter is as useful and interesting as the people you follow. There are several ways to find people and organisations to follow. Below are some suggestions.
Twitter users are able to group other twitter accounts into custom ‘lists’. Lists show the account names of people listed and their tweets. You can view any publically available lists: you will be able to see the tweets but they will not appear in your timeline. Alternatively you can follow the list, in which case the tweets will appear in your timeline.
www.twitter.com/LGCplus/Chiefs - council chief executives (those who tweet privately are not included)
www.twitter.com/TweetyHall/councils - list of all UK local authority twitter accounts
www.twitter.com/TweetyHall/councillors – UK councillors (all parties)
www.twitter.com/LGIU/comms-socmed-people - council social media staff
www.twitter.com/LGIU/thinktanks - a range of think tanks
Many of local government’s groups and associations are on twitter. These include:
Twitter user recommend people they think will be of interest to their followers every Friday using the hashtag #FF. A quick search for the #ff and #localgov hashtags will show the people who have recently been recommended.
LGC news is tweeted by deputy editor Robin Latchem via the @LGCplus account. The rest of the team also tweet. You can follow them at:@emmamaier | @dandrillsma | @jamesillman | @ruthkeeling | @ajrhayman