Have you ever declared:
"I Don't Tweet", or "I Don't Text", or "I don't use Facebook"?
We've all had friends and family say those words to us.
Today I want to perform an intervention. You simply can't say "I Don't" to any of these things and expect to remain relevant, or informed.
Twitter is the new oxygen of information. Let me explain.
Radio isn't about a kind of content - it's just a pipe that brings sound to your radio. It can be Classical Music, or News Radio, or Howard Stern. But you don't say - I don't use 'audio' or I don't consume content that comes from a satellite.
The pipe doesn't matter.
So, with Twitter here's a quick primer.
First of all, it's both a transmission system and a two way communication network. But you don't need to "Tweet" (i.e.: broadcast) in order to read Twitter.
Broadcasting on Twitter is not required, in fact I suspect the large majority of users of Twitter don't tweet.
Second, Twitter has no barrier to entry - so YOU must be selective as to who you follow, or you'll quickly be overwhelmed with 140 character bursts of information that are meaningless to you, or worse - annoying.
But, like radio, if you tune in to a station that is broadcasting some programming you don't like... you don't throw away the radio receiver. You change the channel. Twitter is the same thing. Unfollow people whose tweets don't add value to you.
The most important thing to know is that the Twitter site, or the Twitter application isn't by any means the best way to explore or manage the flood of data that comes from the fire hose of data that comes from Twitter. Instead, try using a Twitter client like HootSuite (my fav) or Tweetdeck to 'tune in' key words you want to follow, or folks you know (or are interested in).
The other thing you can use are Twitter aggregators and formatters like Paper.li or Flipboard (for iPad) to turn the narrow and fast moving stream of Twitter into a format you can read when, and how you want. Think of these services like TiVo for the Twitter stream. They capture and help you read Twitter like your personal newspaper.
I find when people say they don't use Twitter, it means they've gone to twitter.com - looked at the public stream (without a proper 'tuner' to filter out what doesn't interest them and tune in what does) and just found it too noisy.
Perhaps most importantly, you can find you have an important voice on Twitter without saying much at all. Here's a trick about Twitter - you don't need to 'tweet' to join the conversation of the two-way Twitter world. The trick is what is known as "Re-Tweet" - to find a post or link or bit of news and share it with the folks that follow you.
So - try these three simple steps.
1. Sign up for Twitter. Make your twitter 'handle' something that helps people know who you are. So, if you're a veterinarian, try and get the name @AnimalDoc or @PetMedDude (they're both taken btw).
2. Download a Twitter reader like Hootsuite. Sign up with your Twitter name - and add it to your phone, computer, laptop.
3. On Hootsuite set up a few 'Streams' searching for things you care about like: NorthShore Animal League, or Veterinarians.
Now you're ready to explore. If you find someone in your field who seems to be interesting, click in HootSuite to 'follow' them. You're adding a voice to your personal 'newspaper'. You can always un-folllow them later.
Now, if you find a link, or a thought, or a comment that you think is interesting, simply ReTweet it (RT). Now you're filtering the web for others.
Welcome to the world of content curation, where your knowledge and passion helps others just because you can recommend what interests you.
Try it - you'll feel like less of a curmudgeon. Promise.
Steve Rosenbaum is founder and CEO of Magnify.net, and the Author of the recently released McGrawHill Business book "Curation Nation" (March / 2011). Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Steve Rosenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/magnify
Read all Steve's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Steve Rosenbaum - The Media Memo.
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